Home Is Playtime the Road to Bigtime for Augmented Reality?

Is Playtime the Road to Bigtime for Augmented Reality?

Science fiction author and Wired blogger Bruce Sterling passed along the interesting augmented reality video embedded below. It’s an iPhone app from the Japanese company Sazanami called Amazing3D that lets users augment still photographs with playful 3D objects which they can then interact with. While it’s not the most amazing example of augmented reality (actually it is pretty fun to play with), it did remind me that there have been several great kid-friendly AR applications developed recently. As augmented reality evolves and finds its most successful niche markets, toys, games and children could be some of the most efficient avenues to success.

The app, which is obviously geared toward a younger audience, reminded me of some interesting AR apps aimed at children (I wish I could remember them all). One that comes to mind is whistleBox’s “Do Crew” augmented cartoons – a series of video stories that include interactive AR games. The games aren’t merely “lean forward” experiences on the desktop, they actually get kids up on their feet moving around and being active (much like the Nintendo Wii, or Kinect on the Xbox).

Other great augmented reality examples have been aimed at younger markets as well, including LEGO’s in-store project. A kiosk equipped with a camera and a screen lets shoppers (read: kids) hold model sets up to the camera in order to see a 3D representation of the finished project live on their box. Additional projects have brought augmented reality to baseball cards and game cards – bringing athletes and mythic creatures to life.

While at Qualcomm’s Uplinq conference in San Diego earlier this summer, I met Andrew Cheeseman of Mattel who was on hand to demonstrate an augmented version of a classic game – Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Cheeseman told me that Mattel believes augmented reality is going to be a huge hit in the toy industry – and I agree. He also made the very good point that new technologies like AR help introduce fresh generations of kids to older games (like the aforementioned Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots).

So is playtime augmented reality’s ticket to bigtime? It’s likely that the younger demographics are certainly going to play a big role in the proliferation of the technology, but it probably won’t be the only successful sector. Hi-tech as already been making great use of the technology in automobile factories and in the military, and the healthcare industry could certainly be a terrific platform as well.

But never underestimate the power of needy kids when they set their sights on fun new toys. Just ask George Lucas how that’s going.

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