Millions of people around the world are running around in circles, eyes glued to their phones as they try to capture small virtual monsters.
I am, of course, talking about Pokemon GO.
Since its release on July 5, the mobile game has grown to the point where it averages $2.5 million a day in revenue.
While this may seem irrelevant to you and your business, the success of the game has triggered several key technology trends that will change the worlds of mobile marketing, mobile service and mobile commerce as we know it.
The Smartphone as Augmented Reality Window
Pokemon GO introduced (and continues to introduce) a generation of mobile users to Augmented Reality (AR). Pokemon GO based its foundation on a game called Ingress, whose over seven million players have submitted 15 million locations. Pokemon GO replaced the team-based strategy of Ingress and simplified the game play.
As a result, many more millions of mobile users are learning how to track a virtual world and find creatures based on a combination of digitally augmented sight and haptic feel.
Using a smartphone as a lens to view a virtual world offers a different, more comfortable experience than the likes of Microsoft HoloLens or Magic Leap, because anything outside of the 4 inch smartphone screen is still reality. Users can thus selectively bring up reality as they choose through the lens of their cameras.
Ubiquitous Augmented Reality
Unlike virtual reality, which requires an immersive headset that covers up the world, augmented reality does not require users to completely shut out the real world.
What will happen when people become more comfortable using their smartphones as an augmented reality lens?
Take a look at TonchiDot's Sekai Camera, one of the most memorable startup pitches in recent memory. For those of you who don't remember its 2008 pitch, TonchiDot provided an app trough which users could tag the world. While an interesting capability at the time, it lacked the crowdsourced and curated tagging necessary to become ubiquitous.
But now, for the first time, we have a genuine augmented reality mega-hit in Pokemon GO. The data this app is collecting can support the next generation of augmented reality and offer guidance on the level of computing needed to support ubiquitous augmented tagging.
When we figure out the scale of computing needed to make AR readily available, it will only be a matter of time before we build augmented reality apps for a wide variety of objects that can be mapped to specific locations.
The Potential for Extremely Targeted Augmented Reality
Suddenly, comments and recommendations from Yelp, Foursquare and even Facebook can become available on an extremely contextualized basis.
Grocery and convenience stores could literally walk you towards any object in the entire store, perhaps with recorded suggestions of recipes or related products. The trick — as always — is convincing customers to opt-in to these new marketing experiences.
We've already seen signs of the coming future for augmented reality. Magic Leap raised $1.39 billion in funding and Microsoft Hololens has grabbed plenty of attention through the holograms and interactions that it supports.
But from a practical perspective, the smartphone looks like the more practical vehicle for AR in the near future. So look for future direction from augmented layer companies such as Blippar, which focuses its business efforts on marketing, and PTC Vuforia, which takes advantage of PTC's strengths in service and product development to provide augmented and guided products.
Augmented reality is emerging as an important business driver. Standalone vendors currently in the market can expect to see a massive benefit as the business world recognizes the potential financial benefits associated with effective augmented reality.
After all, $2.5 million per day is hard to ignore.
So, as you look around at all of the ridiculous children, teens, 20- and 30-somethings chasing around little monsters on their phone, look past the monsters and see a generation learning a new mobile user interface, creating a new computing and augmented reality infrastructure, and unlocking the potential of the smartphone as an augmented lens for the business world.
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