Business Technology Optimization

Augmented Reality: The New URL?

“I was in the website business in the late 90s,” says Annie Weinberger, General Manager of Aurasma, on the phone from San Francisco, “and people were saying things like when do you think companies will have websites? And we’d say what, like mom and pop shops? And they’d say, well no, not them - just the big companies… and now we all have our own personal website.”

Weinberger is making parallels between the early days of the web and the growth potential in Augmented Reality:  “Think about when websites first came about, they were fairly static, now you’ve got them to do everything. [Augmented Reality] is where websites were back then. This is going to become how people search the world. Whether that is triggered off a location, an object, printed material, it is about being able to get information to interact with. That could be a brand, a company, your friends, [but in future you should] be able to do that just by linking your phone to anything around you. I think Augmented Reality is the new URL.”

This is a hard thing to get your head round in a lot of ways, although Aurasma, which is currently available on Apple iOS and Google Android, and allows people to log in and create their own experiences, is growing exponentially. A press release on 10th July shows that the platform has just crossed the 20,000 customer milestone and now has over 6 million users. The announcement boasts that Aurasma-powered apps currently include DreamWorks AR, GQ Live and Vanity Fair’s VF Extra!

“We find that the broader usage is in the US and the UK,” Weinberger tells me “there are more game-centric consumer plays in Asia, particularly China and Japan. But we’re not seeing companies, brands or publishers leveraged as much. [In those countries] it is more driven by individuals doing it for their friends, a party or a game.”

Augmented Reality is increasingly being used by marketers and advertisers, anyone can see the potential there, but it is difficult to imagine it ever making the transition to everyday life. Weinberger says “you fall into the trap of seeing Augmented Reality as being gimmicky,” she sees the name as being largely to blame. “Augmented Reality seems so unattainable. It is hard to get away from Minority Report.” However, she is also convinced that this is the “perfect storm.”

QR codes were the start, “because although these weren’t the best experience they really drove behaviour and paved the way for Augmented Reality.” Then having Google Glass come out “which is a blessing and a curse” [because these aren’t Augmented Reality but peaked people’s interest] and finally, having so many people really starting to use it; not only advertisers, but also educators: “[these] are going to really lead the way because they’re using AR in their classrooms and are going to train the next generation. Once those kids have gone through school and come out they’re not going to know any different. The timing will hit [once they start to leave school] in five years.”

Weinberger believes that in the future, instead of just seeing something you will be able to “point your phone it, aim your glasses at it and you won’t just get a static page but a truly interactive and socially integrated experience.” For Aurasma, the future is in continuously developing the technology and seeing where the market takes it. But Weinberger tells me she is part of a large network of CEOs who work in this space and they all have high hopes for the future.  “At present everyone is just staying afloat till then. It is hard to be in a start-up for ten years,” adding wryly that she is very grateful to have HP Autonomy behind her, including a massive team of developers.

Do you agree with the recent prediction [by Mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen] that there will be a billion AR users by 2020? I ask. “Yes, I think that’s a fair assessment,” she concludes.


Kathryn Cave is Editor at IDG Connect


Read an exclusive interview with Autonomy Boss Robert Youngjohns here.


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