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Google Glass is the latest augmented reality (AR) technology which has caused a stir in the mobile advertising and marketing sector. Over the past few years augmented reality (AR) has become an integral part of several companies’ advertising and marketing strategies, fulfilling consumer demands for more creative, innovative and interactive methods of engagement. Increasing levels of investment in AR technologies are forecasted over the next few years, with a significant proportion of this investment likely to be for the purpose of advertising and marketing. According to a study by Hidden LTD, currently, almost 20% of AR applications are for the purpose of ‘bringing to life’ online campaigns and an additional 10% of AR applications are aimed at enhancing point of sale material.
The unveiling of plans for Google’s latest venture, Google Glass, has caused a recent resurgence in interest surrounding the possibilities of augmented reality in advertising and marketing strategies. Despite Google releasing statements that ‘there are no plans for advertising on this device’ and that they are more interested in making the hardware available, there have been high levels of speculation surrounding their advertising and marketing. As Greg Stuart, CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association commented, Google Glass could impact marketing in unprecedented ways.
The technology has the potential to revolutionize SOLOMO (Social, local, mobile) marketing. It is predicated that Google Glass will facilitate instantaneous access to information about local businesses when moving through an area. Social features such as Foursquare check-in and the potential for apps similar to the ‘Find Friends Nearby’ app, could allow intensified social interaction and social marketing surrounding local businesses. Google Glass could also facilitate more subtle, social, video marketing, with the potential for consumers to use the device’s video functionality to record short social videos of purchases, experiences and places, which could be shared online instantly. Finally, it is predicted that the technology could also enable increased targeted advertising and marketing, with the potential for tracking of website visits and search data; this could allow different people to interact with different types of promotions or adverts in the same virtual/physical space at the same time. However, it must be noted that there is still high levels of uncertainty as to how much information users will be willing to provide (See here for some of the latest on the Google Glass privacy debate), how wide spread the use of Google Glass will be and the exact form this new technology will take.
Despite uncertainties regarding the Google Glass, it is clear that augmented reality, in general, is beginning to take off as an important tool for generating increased brand engagement. Recently AR has been used in campaigns across a variety of sectors. Notable examples include: Net-A-Porter’s interactive store front, Airwalks’ invisible pop-up store, Mabellines ShowColor nail varnish app, Absolute Vodka’s AbsolutTruths Campaign, the National Geographic AR Installations (one of which is shown in the image below) and, Frauennotruf Munchen’s (A German Charity) domestic abuse AR campaign (see here for examples of more AR campaigns). It is evident that AR technologies are offering new and unique consumer-brand interactions, radically altering the way in which the physical and digital worlds interface. As Christina Austin, in an article for Business Insider, commented ‘AR campaigns resonate with consumers in a way that most other ad platforms fall short’. For this reason we can expect to see AR increasingly becoming an integral part of many companies advertising and marketing strategies, leading ‘us into a new era of active and reactive brand communication and experience’ (Mashable.com).
Millions of people sleep at night completely unaware that personalised search has steadily been revolutionising the way they see the web and, as with most Google led initiatives, there’s essentially nothing we can do about it…or is there?
Imagine the internet as a vast department store filled with everything you could possibly think of and many things you’d rather not. Google’s place in this department store is the plucky store attendant; tell them what you’re looking for and they’ll gladly guide you to the relevant bits of the store. In the carefree days before personalised search, Google would guide everyone searching for ‘shoes’ to the same shop filled with only the most relevant items, presumably shoes. Now this store attendant takes us to our own bespoke storefront filled with shoes in exactly my size and taste; some utopian retail fantasy where the bricks and mortar are data culled from my past shopping excursions and those of my friends. It’s a favourable analogy: this notion of personalisation has been the death of the retail high street. In the online world where everything is freely available in shiny web 2.0 style, the consumer and search user expects, nay demands, to get exactly what they want.
But the façade of user control is a thinly veiled one. The problem with the covert landing of personalised web over the past few years is just this – it’s entirely justifiable from a user experience point of view. Hate them as you will, but the Panda and Penguin updates did actually provide better results for the casual searcher; this has always been Google’s prerogative despite the indignant gnatter of the SEO’s keyboard. This new UX incentive seems a little twisted though. Clearly everyone likes what they like so there is considerable justification in throwing up related items again and again in search results. But we may also like things we don’t know we like and more importantly, things Google doesn’t know we like. Perhaps I don’t want the same Italian restaurant in my area, but even after the food poisoning subsides the search history remains. I want to holiday somewhere new this year, far away from all my friends and everything they like and generally everyone else on the web, will Google let me? What if I want to boldly go where my search history has never taken me before?
Internet searchers have responded to the increasing relevancy of Google’s search results by making it their shop attendant of choice (alas poor Jeeves, I knew ye not), but personalised search have moved away from this key metric. The notion seems to be that by showing us results we’ve responded to before before, Google is second guessing our future preferences, presumably to make the choice easier, quicker or remove it altogether. But my search history is a terrible approximation of who I am and what I want and thus what is relevant to me. What if I’m on a public computer, my friend’s browser, his Gmail account, what if I mistyped those saucy search terms and never want Google suggesting them at work again? The illusion is that I have already chosen these results through my past search activity, that I am in control here – the reality is that Google’s algorithms are in control.
So is personalised search better in any sense? The pedantic answer is that it depends what you mean by ‘search’; Google, after all, would be the first to concede that not all searches and searchers are the same. Whether any of this bothers you or not will probably depend on whether you’re the semi-mythical user who always knows exactly what they want, or, more likely, if you’re just conducting a basic informational search. But to fall in the other camp you don’t even have to construct leftist arguments about equality and freedom of online information to all, you just have to posses that very human characteristic of mutability.
One site that seems to recognise this is Match.com. Their occasional suggestions of people who don’t fit your ‘type’ recognise the fascist half-truth that the people probably don’t know what’s good for them. ‘I am not just what I search’; a new kind of social rallying-cry against the algorithmic oppressors. Don’t shout it from the streets, rage against the search engine my friends. Turn off personalised search now and rediscover the joy of finding what you weren’t looking for.
As seems to happen every time a new year rolls around, the media focus has now shifted from the recaps, summaries and top-ten lists of 2012 into predictions, forecasts and a crystal ball gazing free-for-all for 2013. A quick glance at the prognostications of those with their ear to the ground of the digital marketing terrain reveals all manner of cheery optimism for this year’s prospects. To give you a sense of the exciting things to come, we’ve put together this round up of the leading experts’ views of the field.
As always in the digital realm the key players (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are discussed avidly with a certain degree of fear combined with sycophantic praise. Rob Eleveld writes for Forbes, ‘we predict that Google is making a move towards charging for the data it collects and stores, and we might see this happen as early as next year.’ However, this daunting prospect is offset by his predictions that, not only will the number of digital marketing agencies double in 2013, but the marketing budgets of companies will expand to keep up with the growing digital demand.
Add to this the outlook of Lara O’Reilly at MarketingWeek, who reports on findings by the research company Forrester that digital budgets will grow to account for 20% (£31bn) of worldwide marketing budgets. Based on last year’s trend of 13% growth in the UK alone, it is reasonable to expect 2013 to be a year of marketing breakthroughs for companies on the digital front. If 2012 was all about ‘big data’ then 2013 appears to be time for some ‘big spending.’
With numerous other trends and developments to keep up with, 2013 promises at the very least to be a year of new opportunities to engage in interesting ways with more targeted audiences. Whether any of these experts can accurately predict the future of digital marketing is uncertain, but it is clear that whatever new surprises 2013 brings, the areas of search, social and other facets of digital media can no longer be ignored by competitive businesses.
It is widely agreed that increasing demand for Android mobiles is largely behind the huge growth being experienced by the smartphone market this year. ABI research has forecast that 45% of the smartphone market will belong to the little green robot by 2016, while Gartner put the figure at 49.2% by the end of 2012. According to their prediction, Apple’s iOS will languish in second place with a comparitively paltry 18.9%.
The press have recently been quick to seize on Android ownership outpacing iOS, with 28 per cent of smartphone users using phones based on Google’s OS versus 26 per cent for Apple’s.
Android’s predicted gains come as a loss to the majority of other brands, with Apple’s iOS, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS, Nokia’s seemingly doomed Symbian, and other mobile platforms all losing market share to Google. The only other company predicted to gain share next year is Microsoft – likely helped by its recent partnership with Nokia. Gartner expect Nokia’s decision in February to move from Symbian to Microsoft’s Windows Phone to boost Windows Phone market share to 11% next year and 20% in 2015.
However this does not mean that Apple’s bottom line will suffer. The analysts predict that even with 20% of the market, the iPhone will net Apple more money than Google gets from Android. Piper Jaffray estimates that Google will make $1.35 billion in revenue from Android in 2012, whereas Apple made $1.5 billion in revenue from iPhone in just the first quarter of this year.
But all is not well with Android. News emerged this week that the popular music streaming website Grooveshark’s app was removed over the weekend from Google’s Android Market amid cries of copyright infringement from the Recording Industry Association of America.
Grooveshark are shocked by the snub as the company claims it does abide by DMCA regulation. “Google notified us on Saturday that it had removed our app from the Market,” Grooveshark’s Ben Westermann-Clark told Wired in an interview, “but frankly, we’re baffled by this. We’re always compliant with DMCA regulations to make sure that we operate within the law and respect the wishes of content owners.” Grooveshark also reminded Google that Android is an app ecosystem, and the company issued this statement:
“Unlike Apple’s iPhone ecosystem, Android is an open platform, and Google is traditionally a supporter of DMCA-compliant services — indeed, Google itself relies on the DMCA for the very same protection that Grooveshark does.”
Unlike Apple, Android has no vetting process for the apps that are submitted to the market. However, Google has removed apps from the market and even remotely deleted them from customers’ phones when it has adjuged apps to have been malicious or misrepresented themselves.
Google is hitting back at accusations that Android is not so open after all. Google’s Andy Rubin blogs that Android is as open as ever, despite accusations. Writing on the Android Developers blog, Rubin says “recently, there’s been a lot of misinformation in the press about Android and Google’s role in supporting the ecosystem. I’m writing in the spirit of transparency and in an attempt to set the record straight”.
He insists that since the launch of the first Android device, in 2008, Google has been “committed to fostering the development of an open platform for the mobile industry and beyond”. The implication, of course, is that this openness is in contrast to the approach of rivals such as Apple. The competition is heating up, and this can only be good for the consumer. May the best operating system win.
Who can forget Apple’s notorious ‘Get a Mac’ ad campaign? ‘PC’, dressed conservatively in a suit and tie, portrayed as uptight and boring next to a causally dressed ‘Mac’ with a laidback attitude. Having successfully convinced consumers that their products are ‘cool’, Apple have made a fortune by appealing to a demographic of young, style-conscious individuals willing to pay a premium for good design.
But could a backlash against the popular brand be imminent? Recently, three events have occurred that threaten to cause waves throughout the cult of Apple enthusiasts:
Steve Jobs is often credited with Apple’s surge in popularity after his return to the company in 1996. His supporters consider him a charismatic visionary, and the dramatic dip in the value of Apple shares after he announced his leave reveals the extent to which people believe he is key to the success of Apple.
However, the share value has somewhat recovered and recent surveys suggest most Apple customers would remain loyal in spite of the departure of Jobs. Perhaps the fact that he has left twice before and returned both times suggests he will be back. (Indeed, his personal appearance at the unveiling of the iPad 2 in San Francisco last week was a ’surprise’.) Regardless, his health has certainly caused concern among Apple’s investors.
The service caused controversy among publishers due to the 30% commission taken from subscriptions purchased in Apple’s App Store. Coupled with the restriction that media companies may not offer cheaper deals elsewhere, the publishing industry, who until recently hoped Apple could be their saviour, now seem to perceive them as an avaricious threat.
This is not the first time the company’s high prices and inflexible attitude have come under scrutiny. While their products are undeniably high-end and elegant, some critics are sceptical that Apple products warrant such an expensive price tag and believe consumers are simply paying for the brand. Also, many software developers have been irritated by the strict regulations that cause some apps to be blocked from the App Store.
For a long time Apple was seen as the fashionable underdog, but in the same way that bands that become ‘too popular’ are sometimes abandoned by their original advocates, there have been signs for a while now that Apple’s mainstream success could be alienating the very people it targets.
Suicides at Foxconn, underage factory workers, and n-hexane poisoning at Wintek. Media coverage of working conditions at Apple’s Chinese manufacturers has not been favourable. This could be particularly damaging if the left-leaning, socially-aware stereotype of Apple users is to be believed (which, in all fairness, many people believe it shouldn’t). It must not be overlooked that these manufacturers also supply a range of other high-profile tech firms, but perhaps because of these preconceptions, it is Apple that has been the focus of media attention – and it may be that their reputation suffers the most.
With Microsoft embracing the modification of its Xbox Kinect by amateur software developers and Google’s ‘One Pass’ system offering publishers a cheaper and more flexible alternative to Apple’s subscription service, Apple’s rivals are welcoming the opportunity to associate themselves with openness and creativity. By continuing to use their dominant market position to exercise such a high level of control, Apple risks damaging its liberal reputation. The question is: will their transformation into corporate superpower create a backlash from their core customers, making them a victim of their own success?
“Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words” – Shailesh Nalawadi, Product Manager for Google Goggles.
Google’s new Goggles project allows users to gain access to information about an item or location simply by pointing their phone at it. So the phone can connect to reviews of a restaurant, the history of a landmark, or price comparisons for a book – all without any text having been inputted.
The technology works in conjunction with a mobile phone camera; the user takes a photograph of an object and the application scans it, comparing elements of that digital image against its database of images. When it finds a match, Google tells the user the name of what they’re looking at, and provides a list of results linking through to the relevant web pages and news stories.
The results can then be saved as a history, allowing the user to refer back to these links of interest. As the results are programmed to be relevant and are adjusted to each object: if the user takes a photo of an artwork, the results include the artist’s biography; whereas for a landmark, the phone provides historical background information.
Google Goggles also uses optical character recognition to identify text, allowing items such as business cards to be snapped and scanned to make phone calls and to add as a contact in your phone directory. Some results don’t even require a photo to be taken due to integration of GPS, augmented reality and digital compass technology. Simply pointing the phone at a location (a business or shop for example) allows the app to place a button with the company name at the bottom of the screen. This can then be touched to load information from a web search.
Google Goggles demonstrates the potential for computer vision technology, but it is not at its full strength yet (hence it is being released by Google Labs). At the moment users will be able to lookup things like CD, DVD and book covers, wines, barcodes, businesses, artworks, logos and landmarks with great success but other objects will not work so well. Cars, animals and food are still in need of development to be photographically understood. Despite the immaturity of the technology, Google states that Goggles can recognise tens of millions of objects and places.
Google also claims that the technology has the potential for face recognition. So in theory a mobile phone could provide personal information on anyone in its viewfinder. Clearly this raises some pretty major privacy issues – and there are currently no plans to release this feature of Goggles. As Vic Gundotra, Google’s Vice-President of Engineering, has said, “We still want to work on the issues of user opt-in and control. We have the technology to do the underlying face recognition, but we decided to delay that until safeguards are in place.”
With this new technology comes exciting prospects for education. Visual search allows for a more interactive and creative form of learning; education can be taken outside the classroom without the need to carry text books for reference. And the fact that these searches can be stored in a history allows for retaining and referring back to this knowledge later.
For example, a class could visit an art gallery on a school trip and simply take photos of the exhibits without having to make a note of the artist. This allows for a liberated experience not tied to pens and paper. Web links generated by these photos would allow a student to purchase a(n e-)book about the artist before they have even left the gallery.
This mobile learning style could engender a sense of adventure and exploration while still linking learners to reference material. Classes could strolls around a new city, capturing images to discover the history of buildings and landmarks. Google Labs state in their accompanying video that they envisage Google Goggles being able to discover the species of plant from a leaf. An added bonus to this visual search ensures that the students need not worry about spelling mistakes and the phrasing of searches in order to gain the results that they require.
Neither the technology behind the application nor the concept is entirely new. Quick Response (QR) codes are two-dimensional barcodes which link to online content when the user takes a photo of one on their camera phone. A simple piece of software enables the phone read the URL encoded within the QR code, and the user is taken directly to that site in the mobile browser.
Image-based searching isn’t completely new either. Prior attempts at the technology include Nokia’s Point and Find and Amazon’s image recognition search released in October. The most similar product on the market is an application called IQ Engines. But this has a much more commercial focus – connecting mobile users with reviews, prices and purchase links. It remains to be seen whether Google can bring the technology into the mainstream.
The real-time environment of the internet has evolved a concerning dichotomy for fact and fiction. When Michael Jackson died in June, word spread too fast for Google to cope, and the site began blocking any search for “Michael Jackson”. But the lust for up-to-the-minute news could not be kept at bay – word spread through tweets and other micro-blogs regardless. Real time reporting had the edge.
Or did it? On the very same day, Jeff Goldblum was also reported dead, provoking a similar unstoppable surge of rumours and gossip
Real-time internet may be powerful in keeping up-to-date with news, but it most certainly lacks reliability – Jeff Goldblum, as it turns out, is not dead after all. Therein lies the problem. In the explosion of information surrounding extremely recent events, how can we distinguish fact from fiction when we don’t know how the fuse was lit?
Real time is the talk of the internet search town at the moment. Twitter, the biggest contributor to real-time data, continues to grow in popularity and Twitter Search, the only real-time search engine with access to all tweets, is in a powerful position. But a wave of search engines which pull together data from across the web have sprung up recently. Sites like Collecta, OneRiot, and Scoopler broaden real-time search to include blogs, articles, photos, and videos as well as tweets. And in recent months the big players have shown that they want a piece of the action too: Google, Bing and Facebook have all taken steps to keep up with the real-time crowd.
But what exactly is real-time search and why is everyone so excited about it? Traditionally, search engines like Google have organised their results based on authority. Sites have authority if they have grown slowly and organically over time. Real-time search engines, on the other hand, sort their results by how recent they are. Through these search engines, users can access a river of the latest information on whatever topic they choose.
Increasingly people are turning to the web to find out what is happening right now – the recent protests in Iran are a perfect example (and a frequently mentioned one). But when you search for a term in a traditional search engine the results look very similar day after day. If a volcano is erupting, followers on the web do not want to read an old article about the properties of lava, however authoritative it may be. With the real-time web your results will be different every time, and often refresh before your eyes. So no out-of-date articles, and no need to wait for news; users have access to up-to-the-minute comments and images. They can find out what is happening at the heart of a demonstration or at the site of a volcanic eruption as the event is taking place.
The real-time web also tells you what topics everyone’s talking about. Most real-time search engines display trending topics, the most popular at that moment, and many can sort results by categories such as sport or entertainment. Want to know what your colleagues will be talking about at work tomorrow? A real-time search will probably tell you.
But a real-time search will probably also tell you all the information you didn’t want to know, or didn’t care about. Aside from rumours becoming gospel faster than you think possible, the current main disadvantage of real-time search engines is their inability to filter unwanted messages or irrelevant noise from results. The river just keeps on flowing regardless of what it has picked up along the way.
Collecta have openly stated they are currently paying no regard to relevancy in their results. Oneriot, however, have begun to experiment with reliability by introducing Pulserank, a toolbar which not only takes into account the freshness of the information, but also the authority of the website and person posting the information, alongside the velocity of the information passing around the whole web. The potential for the tool is huge, but although this seems like a reasonable approach, it may not catch something important as fast as simply watching the unadulterated stream.
Although far from fully effective, the Pulserank toolbar does pave the way for the necessary filters which real-time searching will require as the phenomenon grows. More users will undoubtedly lead to more spam and more noise being generated, increasing the need for an effective filter barrier. The challenge for real-time search engines is to combine recency, relevancy and reliability in their results without becoming elitist and losing the organic chatter of the online crowd.
Problems aside, the current animation surrounding the technology should lead to exciting developments. One such possibility being the use of real-time internet searching as an alert system – by signaling variations in the stream of mentions for a particular query, any abnormal rise in the quantity of chatter would trigger a notification. So the future of real-time search is bright, if hazy. Entrepreneur Edo Segal believes that old-school search will never vanish, but real-time news will create a society where we have an omnipresent sense of the moment.