Augmented reality ads to dominate the skyline and your eyeline

A new UK start-up, Lightvert, has created a new augmented reality technology that will produce huge, skyscraper-sized ads visible only to the individual viewers’ eye. The technology, called ECHO, will allow ads up to 200m high and aims to not only disrupt the Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) market but capitalise on the vast amounts of space currently unusable for traditional ads.

ECHO works using a narrow strip of reflective material, fixed to the side of a building, and a high-speed light scanner. Once the material is affixed, the scanner projects light off the reflector and towards the intended viewer. In the company’s own words, “this creates large-scale images that are ‘captured’ for a brief moment in the viewer’s eye through a ‘persistence of vision’ effect”.

While only visible for a moment, the idea is that the tech will cause such an impact that the viewer is compelled to stop. And because of course you can, it will be possible for you to capture the experience with your phone and share it to social media.

“Traditional billboards and large scale LED screens in built-up environments are expensive and it is increasingly challenging to leverage new real estate in crowded urban spaces such as New York’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus. ECHO provides a new way for brands to rise above the noise of street level advertising and engage with audiences on an unprecedented scale,” explained Daniel Siden, CEO of Lightvert.

“Using the persistence of vision effect, ECHO hardware has virtually no physical footprint. It introduces new audience behaviour and is a powerful opportunity for advertisers and property owners, which could dramatically change the game in terms of capital costs and planning permissions for premium outdoor media.”

So if the colossal, unavoidable ads of Blade Runner were your favourite part of that film, you’re in for a treat. The level of corporate immersion on offer will soon – if the company’s concept art is anything to go by – have Nike ads shooting out of the Eiffel Tower and Daft Punk promotion projecting from the Shard.

Technically, this is an impressive piece of tech and there’s an obvious appeal to advertisers. However, from a consumer viewpoint, there is something deeply unsettling about having an advert shot directly into your eye from whatever monument you happen to be strolling past at that moment.

The whole concept goes someway towards advancing the near-future necessity of real-world ad block. Whether it be through some sort of filter on glasses or another wearable, the more advertising advances in this direction, the more it becomes necessary for us to have some kind of prevention. Which may well be sold to us by the same company.

Images courtesy of Lightvert

Funded to date by Innovate UK and a small group of seed funders, ECHO has completed the proof-of-concept and is now ready to develop a commercial-scale solution.  Lightvert is completing a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube in order to finalise the development of the technology and bring ECHO to market.

Next year let’s all celebrate an augmented reality Christmas

It’s that time of year again. Christmas has come around and it’s time to deck the halls with all those decorations that have been gathering dust in the attic for the last year. Gordian tangles of fairy lights, baubles that may or may not have become cracked in the transition from tree to box and the motherlode of tree decorations of mysterious origin.

But before you get all wrapped up and frustrated in one of the more gloriously troublesome of Christmas traditions, let’s instead take a moment to look forward to how we may be making things festive in the future. In all likelihood, it will look fairly different and rather more virtual.

Augmented reality tech, if it can capture the same hype as virtual reality, is sure to steamroll the market in the next few years. Though Google Glass fell rather flat, the tech is coming along to overlay our reality with all the various aspects of the digital world. It seems to make perfect sense then that our future celebrations may not rely on physical aspects.

While we may be currently tied down by bulky headsets (even Microsoft’s untethered HoloLens seems pretty big to have on for long periods) Google Glass proved at least in concept that this won’t always be the case. Being bold, we might even say that you’ll have a svelte set of augmented reality glasses perched on your nose in just ten years.

Once a part of everyday life such devices will render precariously standing on a ladder to get those lights on your roof just right a thing of the past. Instead we imagine a more advanced form of geotagging, where you can design the way your house looks by pinning its location.

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To anyone strolling by without their glasses, it will look perfectly ordinary. But to those with an augmented reality device, the tech will respond to the location and display the exterior of the home just as lit up as you choose. From the simplest string of lights to the most elaborate of displays you can imagine, and all without having to lift a finger.

Once past the giant flashing Santa and assorted reindeer, your visitors will also get the chance  to embrace a more updated version of a long-standing tradition before crossing the threshold. Beneath the holographic mistletoe, they’ll have the chance to instantly capture and share the moment across social media.

Inside, the decorating continues. With smart enough GPS and what we assume to be some kind of design app, we imagine you simply telling the app that your house consists of X rooms and exteriors, and each of them can be decorated to suit refined tastes or fit out Santa’s Grotto.

This is fairly unlikely to come for free, but the in-app purchase of a fancier setup than the basic free package provided seems a fairly good deal for the loft space cleared up. Think of it kind of like The Sims, where if you want expanded options for decorating and designing your house you have to buy the expansion pack.

Of course, there are potential issues. If you thought your relatives could be judgemental before, wait until they see that you didn’t shell out for the Winter Wonderland package. You just know that Aunt Janice is going to be inquiring into your finances, tutting away at the lights of just one colour.

The problems only continue if you take into account that there may be older relatives who aren’t using an AR device. As far as they’re concerned, you just didn’t bother to decorate and are lacking in Christmas spirit. Bah humbug.

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We here at Factor have a couple of suggestions to clear these obstacles and smooth the way to your ideal festivities. As far as Aunt Janice is concerned, while you may not appreciate dressing and undressing your very own Winter Wonderland, if it keeps her off your back it may be that you can have physical decorations as well as digital ones.

More difficult is the issue of those who won’t or can’t adopt the augmented reality tech. While small hologram projectors would give them the same impression, it would rather defeat the purpose of everyone else bringing along their Google Glass, Hololens or whatever it is Magic Leap is working on.

One solution is to simply guilt them into getting on board by gifting them a set of the glasses. Those wishing for a less morally ambiguous resolution however, may prefer to think a little further forward to a Christmas hosted inside a smart home. Recognising each of your guests, your house may be able to personalise displays to suit each of their festive preferences.

Of course, there’s something to be said for pulling out the presents from under a real tree and feeling the irritation against your skin of real tinsel. There’s also something to be said for never having to sweep up pine needles again or work out just how you fit all the decorations in that one box.

However you choose to celebrate in the years to come, whether it be through a virtual lens or stacking up just as many lights as you possibly can on the outside of your house, Factor wishes you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.