I just delivered a presentation at the first ever TEDx Mongkok event here in Hongkong's hectic Mongkok region. The theme of the event was 'Chaos' and we had a great lineup of speakers around that topic.
TEDX MONGKOK CHAOS
Just to show how chaotic it was as an event, it wasn't even held in Mongkok but in nearby Tsim Sha Tsui. Perhaps the most memorable element of the chaos was the presentation by Dr Kay Ottik, of University of Leningrad in Russia, on Organizational Dynamics Embrace Chaos. Her lecture was interrupted by a heckler, a fellow Russian expert who accused Dr Ottik of plagiarism of a third Russian expert on the topic, and Dr Ottik handled the hecling by pointing out that because the heckler follows her around the world, he must be in love with her. She had the whole audience read outloud some obscure reserch paper synopsis, and then her presentation itself was interrupted by spontaneous dancing from the audience by dozens of dancers.
It was a hoax, a fake presentation! A fantastic way to help give a break to the event in the afternoon session after lunch. Professor Kay Ottik doesn't exist (I found a total of 6 Google entries for that name, and supposedly this University of Leningrad professor has had broad exposure to the industry). The University of Leningrad explicitly doesn't exist as such, and has never existed, but there was a "Communist University of Leningrad". The city of Leningrad of the Soviet Union has years ago changed its name back to the original St Petersburg and yes, there is of course a St Petersburg University. But yes, absolutely great fake presentation and she was that good, she even had me totally fooled, her slides and talk seemed very topical and relevant, etc. She was in reality Australian/Hong Kong improvisational actress Kay Ross whose day job is around marketing. What a fantastic performance! Truly fantastic and what an unbelievable way to help bring chaos to our event at TEDx Mongkok Chaos. I will post a link to the full presentation when it is up. Congratulations Kay and the full improv team. Bravo!
I also want to mention the most astonishing presentation by any teenagers I have ever seen. TEDx Mongkok invited youth contributions by 16 year olds from Hong Kong schools, to join in a short 4 minute session. Over 50 submissions were made and only one was the winner, and it was incredible. Two 16 year old boys, Andrew McBain and Vincent Wang did a suberb 'performance' more even than a speech (with choreography etc) about education for a modern age, entitled 'Us bad educate; are problem'. You HAVE to see it and bear in mind, these are not professional stage performers with a decade of experience, they are teenager boys. I will post the link here as soon as I get it.
So yes, it was my honor to be part of the first ever TEDx by the TEDx Mongkok team. Thank you so much, Now, what was my presentation? Well, being the most-published author in mobile with 12 books already on that topic, and doing my first TED related event, naturally my topic was... not mobile. Isn't that chaos as well? It was the first full presentation I have ever given on the topic of the 8th mass medium - Augmented Reality (AR). Yes, I have of course included AR in my presentations for many years now, but always only a side story, perhaps a couple of slides at best. Today was the first full presentation I did just focused on AR. I will of course post the video as soon as TEDx get it up, but here is a blog version of what I think of AR as the 8th mass medium, roughly in line with the presentation, and adding some links, stats, and some more examples.
I'd also like to credit the source of my opening joke. I told a variation of the joke I believe was first told on Twitter by George Bray Twittering as @georgebray, a 20 year videogaming industry veteran, whose hilarious Tweet more than a year ago was: "Your mobile phone has more computing power than all of NASA in 1969. NASA launched a man to the moon. We launch a bird into pigs." I expanded that a bit and brought some personal angles to it, but the root of my opening joke is this tweet from 22 March 2011. When we have the full video, you'll see my version.
THE 8TH MASS MEDIA CHANNEL
So, lets start with the real content of the TEDx Talk. I was the person first arguing in any book that mobile was a unique mass medium and was not just a copy of the internet; that a mobile phone was more than just a pocket computer. That was ten years ago. I then kept exploring early data services, apps and content on mobile from messaging to music to gaming to news to advertising to payments to telematics to mGovernment and mLearning and mHealtcare etc. Along the way the media part kept growing, so I released a book in 2008 purely about how media content thrives (and makes money, and differs from the internet and legacy media) on mobile. News, games, music, internet, search, social media, advertising etc. Mobile as the 7th of the Mass Media was a global betseller and many say it is still my best book today, and that it is very valid today, with totally relevant modern topical case studies, theories and lessons. In the book I explained the 7 Mass Media taxonomy which is familiar to regular readers of this blog obviously, as:
1st mass media: Print (500 years old) including books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, billboards etc
2nd mass media: Recordings (from 1890s) such as music records, videogames, videotapes and DVDs etc
3rd mass media: Cinema (from 1910s)
4th mass media: Radio (from 1920s)
5th mass media: Television (from 1950s)
6th mass media: Internet (from 1991)
7th mass media: Mobile (from 1998)
(and now 8th mass media (from 2009))
The 7 Mass Media taxonomy has been very useful in exploring the differences and similarities in the media space. So for example cinema and television were both 'multimedia' moving pictures media. Many thought TV would kill cinema, it didn't. All current cinema content is also repurposed for television. But some early cinema content died after TV came along. Cinema used to have for example 'newsreels' ie the video news of the world, before we had nightly TV news at home. So in the 1930s and 1940s it was quite common to go to the movies to see the news shown before the main feature. These newsreels carried video coverage of major news events like the Olympics, or the Hindenburg zeppelin disaster, and of course the second world war.
Similarly we can see that radio and recordings were such a similar area, where both offered music for example, both were sound-based mass media and again, when radio was introduced, many thought it would kill the recordings industry. Or we can see that while they offer very different content, television and radio are 'cousins' in mass media, both being 'broadcast' media so their distribution method and to a large degree also their revenue model is the same, very distinct from say print and cinema.. and so forth.
Now I explained why AR is not just a media content format for mobile, the 7th mass medium, it is its own full mass media channel, with multiple delivery platforms beyond just mobile phones, and that it has emerged now, in 2012, as a legitimate 'mass' medium, with legitimate 'mass media' size audiences in many countries, not just a niche tech nerdy digital toy.. And obviously, I didn't invent AR, nor was I the first to argue that AR should be considered the 8th mass medium. That was Raimo van der Klein of MoMo Amsterdam who is now the CEO of Layar of the Netherlands. So of course I credited Raimo for discovering the 8th mass medium.
Raimo kindly wrote the foreword to my 10th book, The Insider's Guide to Mobile - which has one chapter about Augmented Reality. This is the free book, we made as a gift to my readers, after they had so kindly made me a 9-time bestselling author in the previous ten years. You can download the 350 page free eBook that is an unrestriced pdf file. Pick up yours at Lulu.com Tomi Ahonen book Insider's Guide to Mobile and please forward it to your friends if you like it.
EARLY AUGMENTED REALITY
So lets see what AR was like. The technology came from the military, jet fighter pilots have AR based helmets and goggles where a fighter pilot will see 'circles' around the different fighter planes in the sky, as they fly in 3D space at Mach 2 speeds whirling around each other and firing long-range missiles at each other. You don't want to accidentially shoot down a plane from your own side, not when fighter planes cost 30 million dollars a piece and your air force might only have 50 fighter planes in total haha.. So the technology had evolved to identify enemy planes and mark them with red circles in the helmet, and your friendly forces with blue circles, so you always see who is on your side and who is the enemy. Very valuable tech useful in modern war.
Now, the technology emerged onto the civilian side in 2009. The first campaign of AR use in advertising was a Ford campaign from Europe to promote a new Ford Ka automobile. The AR campaign was mostly a gimmick, only few phones were capable of being used for this, required several steps by the consumers, but yes, you could go to an empty street, where a virtual Ford Ka was 'parked' and this invisible car would become visible through only your mobile phone screen. Cool, but perhaps nerdy campaign. But it was the start.
The first big step towards AR moving to a valid mass market platform came with the launch of Layar in the Netherlands, the world's first AR Browser. Yes we have web browsers like Google Chrome (congratulations by the way, we have just heard this week that Chrome has passed Internet Exploder as the most used web browser in the world) and Firefox etc. Now we have the world's first browser to explore AR and yes, its called Layar. Layar launched in 2009.
In my talk I showed a short clip from the original 2009 video from Layar. If you the reader of this blog do not know what is AR, please take the two minutes to see this video, this is a perfect simple guide to show you what is basic AR, what was already possible in 2009 in Amsterdam Netherlands, on Android smartphones. How AR might help a tourist in Amsterdam navigate maps, find a cash machine/ATM, find an apartment for sale, find a restaurant or bar, etc. Please see the video and then lets look at where AR has evolved since.
Link to original Layar 2009 video about basic AR services already launched in Amsterdam
Ok. What else did we see coming? The platform Layar created enabled thousands of 'layers' to be created superimposed over reality. We can do yes, the 'radar' to find things in the city as we walk around lost or as tourists, but there is so much more, we can now do.
SOME AR EXAMPLES ON SMARTPHONES TODAY
The smartphone platforms soon evolved to enable AR on other smartphones beyond just Androids. And with the Layar platform ever more clever ideas emerged. Plus there are AR solutions that also are made independently as smartphone apps. Some of my favorites include:
The Lynx campaign (AXE) deodorant from the UK. This is an actual magazine ad. Lynx/AXE is a youth deodorant targeting teenager boys. So they will of course be very interested in seeing the sexy girl. But the print magazine has only the white spots and you can't see the full girl. Take out your smartphone and see the sexy girl in full. The ad is made interactive, this is cool, sexy, and helps drive Lynx/AXE sales.
Then lets go to something less frivolous and more practical. Another very early AR solution was from Idea in Germany, where they provided the AR based 'furniture virtual trial' for your home. Take items from the Ikea catalog and have the sofa or table or bookcase image on your cameraphone, then move your cameraphone to point at the place in your room, to position the sofa to see if it fits, do you like the colors, does it fit with your other furnishings like your curtains, carpets etc. I have created a mock-up of what this would look like:
Note, in the above picture, the background is the real home with no sofa, the cameraphone view has the Ikea sofa that you can then position to your room, to do a virtual trial, before buying the actual sofa and having it delivered to your home.
I have been often talking about some of the AR innovations as a kind of magical binoculars. You know, regular binoculars make the view bigger, when you look for some birds or boats or airplanes far away. AR can be like a magical binoculars, not making things bigger, but showing something that doesn't exist anymore, or hasn't been built yet, or showing action where there is none etc.
So yes, we have for example the Berlin Wall AR version. You can travel to Berlin today, and the Berlin Wall doesn't exist anymore. But you can walk along the path where the Berlin Wall used to stand, and see it through an AR solution. Better even than the original wall, we can now go to both sides of the wall and see it from either side. What did the Berlin Wall look like to communist East Germany side, where they saw just the rooftops of West Berlin (and the barbed wire and machine guns etc that were used to shoot Germans who tried to climb the wall to escape East Germany to the West). And you can walk to the West German side, and see the graffiti etc that was on the wall from the West Germany view.
There are many other such uses, for example the World Trade Center twin towers of Manhattan of course don't exist anymore but they have been recreated as an AR version. You can take a picture of yourself with the World Trade Center towers even as they don't exist anymore.
Its not just stationary things and still items like a building. There are historical battlefields of the USA Civil War, that have been animated based on real actors who perform the re-enactments of the major battles. Some of those are now available as AR views. So imagine going to Gettysburg and standing on the actual battlefield as the Confederate soliders in grey uniforms get ready to fight with the Union troops in blue uniforms. You can stand on the open peaceful historical field, and looking through the smartphone, you can see the two armies as they do battle. Its like stepping into the middle of a movie as it is happening..
And this keeps evolving. We just learned earlier in May, that british TV personality James May of Top Gear has gone to some UK museums, and now offers the James May tour of the museum, as an AR tour guide. You have James May walking with you in the museum and he tells you his version of what he thinks is of interest in the museum's exhibits. We had dynosaurs just attacking London a few weeks ago, celebrating the 100 year anniversary of Universal. Life size Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaurs were rampaging all across Oxford street, only visible via smartphone AR views. There are all sorts of AR games and solutions and fun. Magical views to reality. Seeing the past, seeing the future, seeing what never even existed (dynosaurs never walked in London)
COMBINING VR AND AR
So then the really exciting parts come from digital convergence of course. What if we add virtual reality (VR) to augmented reality. We see this for example in the Japanese invention of the iButterfly. The iButterfly has since flown also here to Hong Kong and to Germany etc. The iButterfly is a large virtual reality 'game' covering huge area such as a city, even a country. In it there are, like in the real world, lots of butterflies. The iButterflies are regionally specific so in different parts of town, you'll have different colors. And to hunt them for your collection - you need a smartphone with the iButterfly AR app. Every time you capture one of the iButterflies, you get a coupon, such as here in Hong Kong to Pacific Coffee. Sounds like a gimmick? Not so fast. Here in Hong Kong we've had 300,000 users download the app and they've caught 10 million iButterflies in less than a year. How relevant is that? We have 7 million people in Hong Kong, so 4% of the total Hong Kong population has already used iButterfly - in just a year. And not all have smartphones. Across Hong Kong smartphone users its 7%. That is getting to be very serious mass market size, for a brand new mass media. To put it in context, globally only 6% of us buy a daily newspaper!
And then lets go back to Japan. What is happening in the AR and VR space there? Japan's latest craze is 'Balloon Fishing'. How can I explain it? Imagine a game of fishing, where they create a virtual lake that covers all of Japan. But you can't fish just anywhere. For you to be able to fish, you have to have an Augmented Reality 'portal' to access the virtual lake. Now your smartphone is not enough, you also need liquid. So you have to find some real world liquid, like in a cup of tea, or a bowl of soup, or a glass of water. Now you can start fishing. This is bizarre, whimsical, fun and addictive. I really can't do it justice, please go take a look at the video of Balloon Fishing.
The area of AR is vastly expanding and ripe with innovation. We have AR in shopping, such as the Adidas T-shirt tester. We have AR in boating, as a low-cost 'virtual radar' to see where the other boats and ships are for example if there is a fog and you can't see - you don't want to have an accident with your boat and AR can help you see what other ships and boats are out there - and more importantly, in what direction they are moving. AR can help animate window displays in stores and magazines and catalogs in print. This is truly a magical creative opportunity and I could write about new AR ideas literally every day. But is it for real or is it only a tech nerdy geek thing?
So we go back to Layar. They just spoke at the big event in Amstedam where I gave a keynote two weeks ago. Layar reported that they have now been installed on 19 million phones and their active user base has passed 3 million people. If we say (this is my conjecture purely) that half of those are in the Netherlands, as Layar is a Dutch company and most of their active layers are in that country - that would be 1.5 million people. What is the population of the Netherlands? 16.6 million people. So if 1.5 million already use Layar, that is 9% of the Dutch population. Ten percent is roughly where the 'early adopter' market limit is seen and we 'cross the chasm' to go mass market. Across smartphone owners in the Netherlands its already 16% !!! So soon as the smartphone penetration approaches all phones in a few years, certainly the Layar user base in the Netherlands will pass one in six Dutch people. How big is that? Thats the scale of total personal computer penetration rate globally!!!! If you think the PC based internet is a 'real' mass market media haha, Google, YouTube, Facebook and all that - within Dutch smartphone users, the adoption rate is roughly the same, as global PC penetration rate. And this, in barely over two years from launch.
So I do want to point out, Layar has evolved a lot since 2009. They now are for example digitizing and adding AR to print magazines - thousands of Dutch print magazine pages have been turned interactive with Layar's solutions already (and they started this service only earlier this year). I got a copy of a special edition of the Dutch home decorations magazine vtwonen. They have just released a 'magalogue' - which combined a magazine with a catalog. So its a full printed magazine about home decoration which is also a catalog and on every page you have digital animations, AR links, more info, videos, pictures, different colors, info about the product such as what materials it is made of, etc; and yes, being a catalog, you can make instant purchases right as you sit at home and decide you like that lamp... Again, like so much in AR, this is difficult to explain well in writing, please go see the video of vtwonen and their Magalogue.
But yes. We have 4% of the people here in Hong Kong using AR in one year. We have 9% of the total Dutch population using AR in two years from launch. What does this mean for the industry? I compared the launch of AR (8th) mass media to the launch of mobile (7th) mass media and did a comparison. I estimate that very conservatively, globally at the end of 2011, there were 5 million AR users globally, in very round numbers. In reality it is more than 5 million but certainly not yet 10 million. But what is that in comparison to mobile? Mobile mass media launched in 1998 with the first downloadable ringing tone (from Finland). Mobile then saw the mobile internet launched in Japan in 1999. The first 5 million mobile media audience was achieved in two years.
I projected the same growth path of (7th mass media) mobile media to (8th mass media) AR media, and the pattern suggests will will pass 1 billion AR users by year 2020 !!! Yes, before this decade is done, we will see 1 billion users of AR. That is yes, folks, twice as big as global newspaper circulations are today. That is massive. Don't miss this opportunity! AR is a new mass medium and it will be huge in this decade.
Well, then in the second part of the TEDx Mongkok Chaos talk, I showed a few short simulations of what AR might be like here in Hong Kong. I went to Mongkok over the weekend, shot some videos, and created simple simulations to show what kind of tech I foresee as early AR media solutions. I think those are best seen from the video, so while we wait for the TEDx video to be uploaded, let me just summarize on a few videos for now, to add some other views.
The biggest company in this space is Layar, obviously. I urge you to go see their latest video, where execs like Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald, Claire Boonstra and Raimo van der Klein give their views of AR today and into the future, with illustrations of the power of AR today. So please see this, Layar's current video showing the power of AR and how Layar sees the AR future. Its must-see stuff.
And then to the future. What is someone like say.. Google thinking of AR? We just had the first major view by Google of AR and they have given their vision of AR beyond the smartphone, when AR moves to our eyeglasses. This is sci-fi stuff, that will become reality well before this decade is done. If you want to understand how different the second half of this decade is, from today, please go see this video about Google Glass (ie 'Google Goggles'). This is visionary stuff, yet the tech is within some years from commercial launch - we will have this on our faces well before the decade is done. See Google Glass.
Ok, that was what I spoke about at TEDx Mongkok Chaos. Now, if you want to see my short videos of the near future of AR, you have to see the video itself. See my video of TEDx Mongkok Chaos about Augmented Reality as the 8th Mass Media.