The oncoming (augmented) reality: Augmented Activation Environments

The oncoming (augmented) reality: Augmented Activation Environments

Lots of marketers have been adopting augmented reality as a shiny bell-and-whistle of their integrated programs over recent years.  It’s being used everywhere from the impressive Walmart & Marvel in-store initiatives around Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man to IKEA catalogues and auto shows where the actual vehicle doesn’t even have to be there for people to explore it.

But this story from WIRED points to how one marketer – in this case, Motorola – points the way ahead on where AR can go, for both entertainment and for consumer activation, by creating virtual stories where a user can become immersed; in this case, in a whimsical woodland full of precocious animals that react to the user’s presence, as does the very “landscape.”

It’s a feature of their new Moto X phones, and certainly helps paint it as a leading-edge handset.  The more hard-nosed among us might say, “Maybe that’ll move a few units and give the brand a halo, but what’s the real benefit?”

Take a look downstream, to where entertainment and interactivity converge.  As WIRED points out, the Moto X experiment is about frying bigger fish:

Motorola is concocting what it hopes will be much more than an odd and expensive interactive cartoon. The company has set out to build a new platform that uses contemporary technology — powerful computation, smart sensors, vivid mobile displays — to reinvent the age-old practice of narrative itself.

Imagine one of these “narratives” as an augmented activation environment (or AAE – how’s that for a new buzzword?) that’s a (subtly or overtly) branded experience, with the qualities of a narrative, the branching or open-ended exploration options of a sandbox game or virtual environment, and the (simulated) tangible aspects of a live experiential event or product demo.

The sophistication of these simulations and of the wearables and gaming devices that bring them to us is only going to accelerate.  But the key here is going to be the true depth of the experience, leading to a level of emotional immersion that’s equal to the visual/sensory immersion these platforms deliver.

The best TV spots, print ads, live encounters, even sales promotions – they’ve all got a quality of connection to them: they amuse us, they’re unique, they embrace universal emotions, they connect and strike chords that go beyond the selling message.  Concocting AAEs where we are able to affect consumer behaviors, especially in a marketplace where they’ll be bombarded with bleeding-edge messaging from all sides, will have to rely on more than impressive tech specs: it’ll demand a new level of interactive marketing artistry like nothing we’ve seen before.

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