A New Revolution in Augmented Reality?

Julia Demambro

I know that some of my mobile mates are already getting jaded with hearing me go on about augmented reality and its potential to create the same commercial impact for adult entertainment as the World Wide Web did back in the days. It’s well known in our saucy sector that adult consumers (and their above average ARPU) are becoming increasingly bored with what’s on offer. I’ve mentioned before how the industry is (worryingly) offering more and more extreme porn in an attempt to maintain audience interest to ensure those consumer dollars keep rolling in to an industry generating around $15 billion a year.

Cherry doesn’t support this, but it does highlight the need for a genuinely new erotic experience. What is surprising however and also potentially dangerous for the adult industry is that despite its amazing historical footprint in new media and technology, its uptake in mobile has been painfully slow. Many successful online adult services still have no in-house mobile solutions, despite seeing a staggering 30-50 percent of their traffic now coming from mobile devices! Shocking!

However, as a new technology, AR still faces numerous challenges in achieving mass-market adoption in both the adult and mainstream worlds.

I’ve been working in adult mobile entertainment for over 12 years now (is it really that long!? No wonder I’m going gray!) And much of Cherry’s success can be accredited to our unique understanding of how adult consumers wish to interact with erotica in a mobile environment.

Cherry’s renowned DER strategies (digital erotic retailing) are based on understanding the natural behavioral patterns of mobile/tablet users and then designing experiences inline with that behavior. As a result, our portfolio demonstrates an average of 30 percent better sales performance over the competition.

Subsequently, we’re approaching AR in the same way, because it’s this unique customer understanding that tells us AR is going to be one of the biggest things to happen to the adult consumer experience in a very long time!

Many of the AR pioneers agree with us! (Or at least those who can talk openly about it!) ;)

Michael Birkeland, from P33PR, a Finnish company that has just launched an animated adult AR App, would go as far as to say “the future of the adult industry lies in AR.” A bold statement echoed by Oliver Knowles from Bristol based Kudan. “New tech and porn normally go hand in hand”, and Kudan “expects to see an orgy (his words, not mine) of various solutions to cater for this high spend audience!”

Great to see I was on the right track then, but to elaborate the point, we asked Knowles to offer some examples.

He believes that print activation is a great place to start. Physical readership has moved to the online/mobile environment and from Cherry’s perspective, Knowles is bang on the money. AR print activation can basically (and cost effectively) turn old print into exciting, new dimensional digital experiences! In it’s simplest form, turning print photo shoots into seamless video experiences.

Knowles adds that AR is the the perfect means for users to plug themselves into their own personal fantasy world, whether that be immersing the user into a 360º video environment or placing their favorite porn stars into the home.

However, as a new technology, AR still faces numerous challenges in achieving mass-market adoption in both the adult and mainstream worlds.

Juniper Research predicts that by 2014, AR will already be worth $732 million. And with major brands like IKEA, Adidas, Toyota, McDonalds (to mention but a few) already offering AR experiences, the AR pioneers are educating brands for this potentially explosive market. However, as with all new media, it still faces the usual challenges of mass-market adoption and technology restrictions.

All AR requires a trigger to launch the AR experience and there are conflicting views regarding the best solution for this. Samuel Boury, CEO of French Ubleam, believes that global AR awareness would be greatly served by having some kind of instantly recognizable trigger, similar to QR codes.

Ubleam has already covered considerable ground in this area, with instantly recognizable, circular bleams you can personalize and incorporate into logos, advertising materials and content.

Giles Hirst of the AR creative agency, Seriously Fresh Media agrees. “A solution like Ubleam offers more creative potential than QR codes, with endless possibilities to incorporate these triggers into all kinds of content [to add another dimension], or marketing [to offer a more engaging way to sell services!]”. At the same time, it cleverly maintains that global recognition point like the QR codes.

Kudan’s Oliver Knowles doesn’t agree. “That’s the whole value of unique artwork as triggers, you don’t want to impose on the creative process and detract from a seamless and unique user experience.”

But with the huge media buzz currently surrounding Google Glass (both for erotic and mainstream concepts), is this where we should be focusing our efforts?

Not necessarily, according to Scott O’Brien of Explore Engage, Sydney, who points out that “Google Glass will be a mere stepping stone. Specifically designed AR eyewear is just more compelling, compared to having a dashboard near the eye as you do with Glass.”

Steve Dann of London’s Berwick Post agrees and although his company is already developing solutions for Google Glass, he believes the future will lie in much more cohesive solutions that would allow users to be an integrated part of the visual experience.

From an adult perspective, it’s clear to see why the industry is getting excited about the commercial benefits of having a ‘hands free’ solution to view and interact with erotic content, even if Google have banned the first adult Glass App from MiKandi.

It won’t matter because (successful) adult entertainment, by its very nature, is a clever blend of reality and fantasy. AR does just that: it seamlessly blends reality with fantasies! Get it right and users can’t get their credit cards out fast enough, whatever the required grading level.

So the future looks bright for both erotic and mainstream AR. Giles Hirst of Seriously Fresh rightly points out that the key now is to drive consumer adoption. “We need to ‘educate as well as stimulate’ by developing AR products with mass market appeal at their core, combined with smart, educative media campaigns.”

And it’s easy to see why, Andrew Hartland, COO at Kishino tells us, “Emerging technologies take time in their development until consumers view them as every day tools. Early deployment can sometimes have a reverse effect and dissuade consumers from taking the tech seriously.”

Lee McLaughlin from startup PrintAR’s approach to mass adoption is to offer a simplified template solution to create AR print advertising campaigns.

But at the end of day, getting everyone fully onboard will most likely come down to “finding agencies and brands who understand how to use AR correctly and have the balls to pay for it,” as Oliver Knowles so eloquently points out.