Augmented Reality Finds a Partner in The Music Industry

MK-AZ169_advert_DV_20091028151855There are plenty of situations where a graphical overlay of helpful information might be useful, but augmented reality is still struggling to find potential consumer applications beyond iPhone novelty.

Now an emerging augmented reality company might have found a friend in need – the sagging CD music industry.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at how an old dog might be learning some new tricks.

The CD Industry: Remastered and Resurrected?

Pixels and Policy recently wrote about how augmented reality may be suffering from the peak of inflated expectations, gaining momentum even as companies struggle to find an area where augmented reality could effectively function. Now the augmented reality company Total Immersion is moving forward with plans to bring augmented technology to the old field of music albums.

Total Immersion will make use of augmented reality's interplay with webcams to create an interactive, eye-popping experience right on the back of the album. At least, that's the plan. From Total Immersion's announcement:

When held in front of a home webcam, the artwork shows 3-D images of
the band chatting to the viewer before giving an impromptu performance
of the hit new single ‘I Need You’, all within the palm of their hand.

Consumers can turn the sleeve artwork around to view the band from
alternative angles. The band members move as fluidly as they would if
they were physically standing on the piece of paper being held.

Total Immersion hopes that bringing user involvement into the album buying process will lead to increased sales and future contracts. There is some potential for in-store webcam systems similar to the kiosks that allow potential buyers to sample music from the album, but this is also a more capital-intensive investment than the kiosks.

Whether or not the album actually sells, Total Immersion makes the argument that consumers are increasingly tech-savvy and demand more than a bland passive listening experience. As we've shown in the past, the rise of virtual worlds and user-centric environments is making the passive consumer a thing of the past, and companies that offer products with no frills or opportunities for user interaction are finding consumer markets increasingly uninterested in boring products.

Building the Business of Augmented Reality

Building a successful business plan on the back of augmented reality might be tricky. BusinessWeek and other mainstream news outlets are already reporting that the promises made by augmented reality hype masters may be more than the technology can actually deliver. Companies like Total Immersion may see a field without heavy competition, but there are few major consumer augmented reality companies for good reason.

On the micro level, small developers have created innovative iPhone applications that make use of augmented reality filters, but no one has been bold enough to try a large-scale consumer product rollout. As BusinessWeek notes, dozens of products feature "augmented reality" features regardless of whether they actually use augmented technology.

Establishing standards could be step one in clearing the field for a widespread consumer move to augmented goods:

Marketers will advertise even the slightest of augments as "augmented
reality," leaving consumers confused and bewildered. Consumers and
purveyors of augmented reality devices and applications might benefit
from input from an organization such as Underwriters Laboratories,
which tests products for safety and compliance with standards.

Launching a new industry is never easy, and there will be plenty of corporate failures as new standards and best practices emerge. We turn it over to the readers: When will augmented reality make its wide-scale debut?

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