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.

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