Friday, April 2, 2010

Join reality, by going cyber.

By Andy Maddux 
Throughout our short lives everyone experiences fads and trends. These affect our personal lives, but don’t think our careers are immune. The recent trend of augmented reality will be discussed through this paper. It’s not only important to stay current as public relations professionals, it’s expected.
Augmented reality is a term slowly popping up on radar screens of many industries, including public relations. PC Magazine defines augmented reality as, “A type of virtual reality that combines real and imagined images” (PC Mag, 2010). AR combines the web with reality, presenting a perfect marriage between audiences and the messages trying to reach them.  AR can be used only in a limited fashion currently, through phones and webcams. This technology will incorporate operating platforms, but will also create new ones (Sullivan, 2010). 
The idea of augmented reality has been around as early as the 1970s according to Andy Cameron, executive director of Fabrica, an interactive design studio. “AR has been around for ages, maybe going back as far as the 1970s and art installations that overlaid real spaces with something virtual.”  AR took a major attempt to implement some of its ideas in 2002, but the internet being in one with reality hadn’t taken place yet, resulting in failure (Arthur, 2010).
With faster internet speeds, and smart phones this has provided the mobile, responsive platforms AR requires. This has catapulted an idea from just being a conception to implementation in the public sector.  There are several applications out there today that imbed data  into reality, by marking tweets, the location of mass transits entrances, and prices of houses, all by through the lens of a smart phone (Chen,2009).  The next reason and more importantly why it’s an emerging trend in public relations can be described by one word, interactive.
Public relations professionals are always trying to reach their audience in any way possible, and augmented reality promises them just that.  Imagine you’re career focuses you on tourism, and your job is to inform visitors of the great attractions of the city. The traditional method provides pamphlets, commercials and brochures to reach your audience. Augmented reality however would allow the visitor to hold up his phone and have information be provided on all he sees. You would not only be able to improve the quality of the visit, you’d also be able to maintain up-to-date information, and steer the conversation. (Chen, 2010)
PR has realized the potential of this and has applied it in a few ways already. The fashion magazine Esquire implemented AR when you can see Robert Downey Jr. coming to life on its cover, when put in front of a webcam. Books are already being planned with AR elements bringing them to life. The PR professionals will be able to incorporate AR into traditional mediums of communication to help promote their client. The interactive element of AR to attract and inform passing individuals is an element that if harnessed correctly will catapult the importance of good public relations (Arthur, 2010).   
Augmented reality will continue to not only advance communication between human to human, but also human-machine. Imagine that if you purchase an item that requires setup, and instead of lengthy book of complicated terms. PR professionals can use this to explain new products to an interested customer base. They can explain the benefits of the product, and make sure it’s portrayed correctly and messages can be tailored to different audiences.
Integration, it’s something that is becoming important as the world’s economies become ever more dependent on each other. Augmented reality not only embraces this new idea, but takes it to new limits. Imagine visiting a foreign country, where everything is in a language unknown to you, but it doesn’t matter because you have AR by your side. It will no doubt be able to present information to the traveler, breaking one of the hardest barriers, the communication barrier. The idea of being able to go somewhere and to get the insight that the locals have to the attractions located there, will create a positive synergy throughout the planet. The simple fact is that everyone will be held more accountable for providing the services at the top notch they say they offer. (Sullivan, 2010)
With any new technology there is always a downslide and augment reality is no exception. The simple and obvious problem is that for this technology to be successful it is going to require lots of money for the technology to be implemented in new platforms. There are luckily current platforms like cell phones and computers that can handle AR to a degree, however to be successful lots more money is needed to be invested. (Educase, 2005) 
The conversation about augmented reality is relatively new in the professional world, which makes starting my own even more exciting. The fact of the matter is this is a very exciting trend that will affect the way we see the world and definitely change the way public relations is done. The way I created a conversation was by posting articles on my Facebook and Twitter. The biggest way I spread the word is by sharing my excitement with my friends and public relations colleagues.
I not only informed people about the upcoming trend of augmented reality, I showed a few of its applications in the real world. The tool called Layar is an augmented reality tool on my phone, which is a prototype using basic AR. When I showed how Layar can show you what business are in the area by just pointing in the direction with your phone.
 This is a very basic version of the AR it has lots of kinks still in the product. I've found that Layar seems to not work all the time, however I believe as the technology becomes more widely use so with the stability of the platform. I am actually trying to create my own augmented reality business card, with experimental technology. This would provide to be more of a novelty at this time, but a way to get notice never less.
What next? Well the industry is on the verge of expediential growth. The ability to be able to insert your cyber information and ideas into the real world, for everyone to see will create a seamless connection between both worlds.

Arthur, C. (2010, March 21). Augmented reality: it's like real life, but better. In The Observer . 
     Retrieved March 22, 2010, from 
Educause. (2005, September 21). 7 things you should know about Augmented Reality . In Educause . 
     Retrieved March 22, 2010, from 

Layar. (2010). Augmented Reality Browser: Layar. In Layar. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from

PC Magazine. (2010). Encyclopedia: Mixed Reality. In PC Magazine. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from,2542,t=augmented+reality&i=47102,00.asp 

Sullivan, M. (2010, March 14). SXSW: Augmented Reality and the Outer Web. In PC World. Retrieved
     March 22, 2010, from

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