Media Hype Could Permanently Damage Augmented Reality

6a00d8341bf7f753ef01157203c76e970b-800wi The media appears quite smitten with augmented reality technology, the webcam-based tool that allows graphical, interactive overlays to be placed over most objects sporting a special bar code.

The problem is, excessive media hype could end up damaging augmented reality's much-needed development, turning a possibly great future product into a barely useful current one.

Let's look at why augmented reality is a promising technology almost certain to underwhelm, especially after the hype treatment heaped on its promise by the mainstream medi


The Peak of Inflated Expectation

From The Independent's overly-excited article:

"Terminator vision" is no longer just in the realm of science fiction films. It's called augmented reality and it is on its way to a smartphone near you.


Complete Terminator vision would require bionic contact lenses … but from this month, anyone with an iPhone will be able to peer at the world…and see layered on their phone screen extra information about the physical things in front of them.

The target of The Independent's grade school crush is Layar, an iPhone application that uses GPS technology to place a handy overlay over buildings and streets when viewed through the iPhone's built-in camera. These overlays can point out historical information about a building, traffic information about an intersection, or whether you're going to be murdered.

The Independent is hardly the first mainstream news organization to hop on the augmented-reality-as-chic-tool bandwagon. We've covered instances of everyone from tech development firms to Starbucks and Esquire singing the praises of the still clunky technology.

The problem is, all of this hype could end up hurting augmented reality's development. Instead of refining and optimizing augmented reality, developers may rush out subpar, buggy products to meet spiking public interest in the complicated technology. That would be a shame, as augmented reality could be a truly revoltionary technology.

A Great Technology, But Not a Game Changer

We've been skeptical of augmented reality's ability to create an entirely new information economy, a claim put forth by Andreas Constantinou of Vision Mobile.

Much more likely is the possibility that augmented reality will find a niche in areas where precise instructions are required, which happens to be its current use in the European space program.

Far from just providing the height of a building, augmented reality could soon piggyback on increasing technology to make car windshields into accident-avoiding machines or highlight areas of cities with higher-than-average crime rates over a two-day span.

The iPhone could provide the initial immersion that moves augmented reality from curiosity to consumer essential. But that won't happen if consumers are left expecting "Terminator Vision," as one news outlet reported. The idea of augmented reality contact lenses is still in the hypothetical future – it won't be a launch feature.

Consumers would be wise to be wary of unnecessary media hype, and media outlets would do well to restrain the irrational exuberance that more often than not leads to a poor reception for an otherwise exceptional technology. Let's hope this isn't a replay of the boom-and-bust hype related to virtual worlds, or it may set augmented reality back years.

6 thoughts on “Media Hype Could Permanently Damage Augmented Reality”

  1. I totally agree. I think the excitation about AR would better cool down a bit, as we know the industry will not be able to provide affordable “real” AR for the masses before at least 2 years. Still, it will be cumbersome and expensive (you will need at least a stronger smartphone in the range of 400-500€ + see-thru video glasses with tracking and camera options – another 350-500€ and finally more advanced AR software with near-field image recognition + a common open standard for AR content).
    If the media hype continues this way, it will damage AR the same way it had damaged VR 15 years ago. It will give a wrong image to VCs, …
    Medias should stop with talking about future AR and would better stick and explain what is AR today.

  2. Not had the same attention, but a few years ago, people were constantly recommending and pitching Lenticulars technology and 3D Holograms as the next big thing.
    If the influence of the Internet had been in full-force – we’re talking about 6 years ago – would it of been the equivalent of the AR content speculation now in full flow?
    Or even Magic Eye technology, which yielded a whole slew of books, posters and small commercial ventures.
    I just cannot help thinking, that these ideas are *used up* mainly as they’re over pitched to clients. Everyone has access to the same *new technology* at an increased rate, which ultimately detracts from the uniqueness and WOW factor. I can assure you, every client has to endure a daily ‘creative ideas’ pitch, or the same demos/you tube clips and the same ‘wouldn’t it be cool if your XXXX brand did an AR campaign’. It just becomes old very quickly. It’s usage is also quite narrow, not in terms of the potential, because that is HUGE. The problem is the brands allowing or having enough content to make it be really good.
    Where is does work well, is when it’s embed into the store itself. As in the objects react to the shop fittings. Thats neat. This is what the Apple team are doing currently with the Disney Store makeovers. I always wanted to design a supermarket AR checkout, when you pile your food onto the conveyor belt, the back is an LCD screen. As the items make their leisurely way down to the Doe-Eyed-Check-Out-Person, the objects when passing the LCD screen, would act like a kinda magic window: interacting and releasing interesting and informative and entertaining little stories on each food item as it passed by… just me then 🙂
    Justin

  3. Nice idea Justin!
    I think by now most people seem to have a quite skewed understanding to what augmented reality, or mixed reality, actually is.
    I did notice lately many people are trying to claim ownership of the very meaning of this -overhyped- phrase without being aware of all the different technologies that come into play when technology convergence takes place – and it will.
    Those people should ask themselves the question:
    How can we use technology to improve our daily lives rather than subject the public to yet another marketing hype?
    I think it is important to look beyond the hype and rather discuss the big picture and the place we want technology to have in our daily lives. I see too many people suffering from information overload already as it is today.
    Technology should serve and not make people waste time. I don’t see how keeping people occupied with endless streams of yet more trivial information is going to help us get anywhere.
    I’d be much more interested in having a discussion about redefining human-machine interaction itself than being distracted by yet another marginal innovation; what is the optimal convergence going to be 2 years from now?
    Here are some video’s from Nokia Research Center that demonstrate 2 things:
    1st video: Gaze Tracking Eyewear
    2nd video: Immersive Avatars with Gesture detection
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGwvZWyLiBU&feature=player_embedded
    http://virtualnokia.ning.com/video/4369903:Video:176
    Both of these video’s demonstrate practical applications for use of mixed reality in everyday use; the current hype is based on marketing, marketing, marketing, and I agree it’s a bloody shame.

  4. I’m not too concerned about it. Especially if AR, as you suggest, is going to meet the fate of Virtual Worlds. At this moment Virtual Worlds are growing like gang-busters. Second Life’s user-base is three times larger than it was 2 years ago when it was at the peak of its media hype. And unlike most Social Media companies (like say, Twitter) Second Life is more than just profitable, it rakes in money (through a combination of premium accounts, and virtual land/goods sales).
    There is a skewed perception by people in the media (that, incidentally, includes yourselves) that as soon as the media stops talking about something, that it therefore no longer exists. Virtual Worlds are doing just fine right now. In fact, they have never seen so much growth and profitability.
    So if, on the Gartner Hype Cycle, AR is reaching its “Peak of Inflated Expectations” then it only proves Kurzweil’s theory of exponential growth, and the law of accelerated returns. As recently as 18 months ago most prognosticators on the subject of emerging technologies placed augmented reality on a >10 year horizon (in other words, beyond the projectable horizon line). Less than two years later it’s already hitting a peak of media hype. That tells me that its “Trough of Disillusionment” is going to be both shallow and brief.
    These cycles of technological growth from introduction, hype, disillusion, practical implementation to widespread acceptance and common use have been going on since the invention of the wheel. The only change is in the pace at which they move through each phase. The time it takes from introduction (Gartner’s “Technology Trigger”) until the time it is a productive piece of technology in common use just gets shorter and shorter.

  5. AR like any other source enticing marketers, advertising or concepts reaching to the masses at large needs to be kept in perspective – reality vs hype. There should be a time and place for all positive applications of the technology, with respect given to all such uses.

  6. ARs been pitched for over a decade. Store checkouts with AR and “tech” added bells and whistles almost 20 years now.
    Tech dosent sell a clients products, a customers desire to buy them does.
    Now that the web press/blog/ releases…NEW to decades old tech releases direct to marketers/agencies from tech makers, allows “anyone” to be a “tech consultant” for clients overnight, you get the “hype bubble” where a product manufacturer gets 500 calls a day to make a AR widget for their company. This of course makes the tech maker feel “powerful” aka LindenLab, but usally within 12 months that power is gone as very , very few show any ROI or good usage of the new tech, as implemented by those who “sold” it. Without any history of actaully producing marketing or sales solutions for their clients.
    This cycle has been going on at least for 25 years, as digital tech has been made “consumer” active.

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