Posts Tagged ‘augmented reality’

Companies connect with free mobile apps

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Enticing smartphone users with high-tech functions and original content, Japanese businesses have begun engaging customers by releasing custom mobile apps for free download. In the process, they’re managing to slip in a strong marketing messages into the pockets of loyal fans and potential customers.

Wego's app offers style tips from the store's staff

On Jan. 24, Doutor, a national chain of coffee shops. launched their Doutor AR app. Made to be used in conjunction with the free magazine It’s My Times, the app displays animation and text on the user’s smartphone via augmented-reality technology. Users simply hover their phone’s camera over special points on the magazine to view these extra features. The magazine, available only in Doutor shops, is designed to be read while customers relax with a cup of coffee. This app, available only until the end of February, is a clever way to attract more readers while also boosting brand profile. One of the attractions of downloading the app for readers of the magazine is the opportunity to watch and listen to a song performed by cover star Lisa Ono.

Another brand that is creatively engaging with smartphone app technology, is Wego. On Jan. 10 the second-hand clothes chain launched its own branded app, which offers free wallpaper, a GPS-aware store locator, staff blogs and photos of staff with information on how they coordinated their look. The app also seems to be yet another mutation of the charismatic shop assistant cult (shop assistants gaining near celebrity status).

Of course not everyone desires style tips from super trendy shop assistants. Dechau Pachinko parlor is targeting a slightly different user (predominantly male perhaps?) with its Dechau Girls Calendar 2012, a free Android app that utilizes the ever-popular beach babe. In case you didn’t know, the Dechau Girls, who have been touring pachinko parlors since 2007, cheer on players and hand out candies and hot towels. While they’re usually dressed in bright skintight outfits, this free calendar app gives fans a chance to see the girls relaxing at the beach in itsy bitsy bikinis.

The final app on our list also has a straightforward, unsophisticated appeal. Chiyoda, a company that owns over 1,100 shoe stores nationwide, has launched an app that provides users with discount coupons. Once users enter their personal info (date of birth, sex, location of the store they’re visiting), they can then receive coupons tailored to their needs. Nothing fancy — you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours — but for a country that’s obsessed with customer point cards and coupons, this is an app that’s bound to stick.

Get your virtual freak on this Halloween

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Don’t you hate it when you go to a Halloween party in a sweet costume and nobody else has even made an effort? Luckily there’s one party this year, at which you can be assured all guests will be dressed to kill, at least they will be in the virtual world. Bacardi Halloween Bat Night at Parco Shibuya is featuing a “digital costume attraction” to get folks in a spooky mood.

Using motion capture technology from Microsoft Kinect, the faces of party-goers will be digitally mapped in real time and then altered to sinister effect. The video above  is just a teaser of what will be on the menu. On the night a wider variety of costumes and scary faces will be available, courtesy of Rhizomatiks, a team that specializes in interactive digital installations and performances.

By being the first to unveil this technology to Japan, Bacardi will probably be able to create a good bit of buzz about the event. They’re also teasing potential party-goers by withholding information on how you can get a hold of tickets. To find out how to attend you have to like Bat Night on Facebook and keep checking for updates, a cunning way to keep their brand upmost in the minds of party-goers.

This much we do know: The event will take place at Parco SR-6 on Oct. 29 from 5 p.m., and DJs Kaori and Rocketman will perform. Entry will be limited to 60 people. Drinks are also, of course, limited to Bacardi cocktails. And as you know, virtual costumes will be provided at the venue.

‘Support angels’ are always there, thanks to AR and AKB48

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Ever get the feeling your computer support techs are playing around in their futuristic offices? No? Not even just a little? Hewlett Packard’s summer “Support Angels” campaign features TV commercials with members of all-girl pop group AKB48 enacting that fantasy.

Yes, there is an interactive experience, powered by augmented reality, embedded in this promotional fan. Pretty cool, no?

Meanwhile, in the real world, the company is launching a campaign for new new 24/7 support service in Japan that blurs the line between offline and online advertising. They’ve set up a big interactive display outside the east entrance of Shinjuku Station, a popular night-out meeting spot. A TV screen, the size of a small stage and ringed in neon, plays a slideshow of AKB48 members posing in headsets and the OL-of-the-distant-future costumes from the commercial. People hanging around the area are encouraged to interact digitally and physically: Tweets that are hashtagged “support angel” (#サポートエンジェル)  scroll instantly across the screen. And at smaller monitors nearby, people can win prizes by taking a quiz. (Electronics are the big prize, but everyone who plays will get at least a branded bottle of water.)

You can take the interactive experience home, too. On a recent hot night, they were giving out paper fans. The disks have a silhouette of a woman in a box on them. When you go to the website and aim the fan just so at your computer’s webcam, the silhouette activates an AR version of AKB48 member Yuko Oshima. You can interact with the image and use your webcam to take a photo side by side.

Can she help with your tech troubles? Nah. “It’s called ‘Support Angels’ because it’s like they’re always looking out for you,” said a young man staffing the display outside Shinjuku Station. “The support people aren’t really AKB48,” he clarified. But the AR gadget gives you something to play with while you’re waiting for a real tech to fix your computer.

App unlocks augmented reality embedded in images

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

What secrets is Noguchi is hiding?

What secrets is Noguchi is hiding?

Remember how the Terminator could just look at something, scan it with his laser eye and call up all its vital data? A new augmented reality app from PR giant Dentsu is bringing us a step closer to having this power on our iPhones. The app, called Scan it (スキャン イット) and available on the iTunes Stores Japan, uses the phone’s camera to scan and recognize images the way that phones up to now have scanned bar codes and QR codes. Pointing the camera at any image that’s been pre-programmed to be recognized – a photo in a magazine, the cover of a CD, or the label on food packaging — will direct the phone’s browser to the associated website or content.

Dentsu has been experimenting this year with several AR applications. This summer’s iButterfly is a location-based coupon generator that has users with smart phones chasing virtual CG butterflies superimposed over real environments to “catch” coupons or other information linked to the butterflies. A campaign tied to the international COP 10 Conference on Biological Diversity being held in Nagoya this month uses QR codes to bring little AR animals to life in the pages of newspapers, even using standard keitai – non-smart phones – from all three of Japan’s major mobile carriers.

Scan it seems to still be a work in progress. At launch, the only images it could recognize were the faces on ¥1,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 bills. In the Japan Pulse test labs, scanning the faces took us alternately to a YouTube  page of videos related to Japanese money and what appears to be a YouTube search on the phrase “5 pounds.” So, for the moment, the Terminator it is not. But the potential for more is definitely there. Instead of using a blotchy square of QR static on its laminated menu, a bar could print a photo of a frosty mug of beer as a mobile link to its website, for example.

But Dentsu is banking on advertisers adding scannable photos and other images onto wrappers and posters and at points of sale. Waving the phone’s camera over these images could produce a snippet of music, an animation or a link to a website where the user can get more information or take some kind of action. Preferably, one imagines, action linked to buying something.

Scan it works on iPhones running iOS 4. What would you like to be able to scan?

Taking social games to the next level

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Tonchidot's World Hero game allows you to hunt monsters in the real world with the aid of your cell phone

Tonchidot’s Sekai Yuusha (Global Hero)  allows you to hunt monsters in the real world with the aid of your cell phone

Social gaming is about to become very big in Japan: On July 29 Softbank announced that it was teaming up with American game maker Zynga in a bid to promote the format in Asia. Zynga Japan will be developing games similar to Farmville to appeal to the Asian market. They’ll be competing with locally made products that have already been coming out on the Japanese cell-phone market. These include games such as Naishoku, which re-creates the “fun” of manual labor with production-line tasks such as putting heads onto countless plastic frogs. If this trend takes off commuter trains could soon be filled with people relaxing after a hard day’s work by completing mindless tasks on their cell phones and posting the results to their network of friends.

But it’s not all drudgery on the social gaming front. Tonchidot, makers of augmented reality application Sekai Camera, have announced the upcoming release of a social augmented reality game that will have players not only communicating via the Web but also meeting up for drinks to discuss the game. Sekai Yuusha (World Hero) has been dubbed an ARPG, combining elements of Augmented Reality and Role Playing Games. Once players chose from a range of three possible character types – warrior, magician or monk – they can begin their quest by roaming the real world in search of monsters to battle and riddles to solve, collecting treasure and medals along the way.

The Sekai Camera app, which was released on the Japanese market last year with much excitement, allows users to interact with floating tags that have been placed virtually in real locations. The tags appear on the screen of your cell phone when you point your camera at them, presenting you with an augmented reality vision of the real world. Players of Sekai Camera games are not just exploring virtual space but are moving about in the real world. Monsters in Sekai Yuusha will have to be sought out in physical locations.

The social element to Sekai Yuusha will be directed through a dedicated Twitter communication tool with which players can exchange information about the game and decide to form alliances in order to do battle with monsters. There will also be 505 real locations around Japan where players can meet up and discuss their quests over a tankard of ale.

By taking the action out of the virtual into the actual world, the social element involved in AR games will far surpass anything other social game formats might offer. In my book this beats assembling plastic frogs or planting eggplants in virtual spaces any day.

QR code breaking out of the box

Friday, February 12th, 2010

The QR code is breaking out of its box both physically and virtually as an increasing number of innovative new formats and uses are coming onto the scene. Take creative agency Set Japan, who have dreamed up some groovy artwork that incorporates the code itself. Its recent Frisk mints video a QR code is constructed by hand out of the tiny round mints themselves, demonstrating how codes can be displayed in 3-D.

Tokyo got its first QR code building in Tachikawa last December. Large black-and-white blocks displayed  in the building’s windows form a large code that’s linked to a Web site. That’s cool in itself, but the creators of the N Building concept, Teradadesign and Qosmo, have also integrated augmented reality to add yet another layer of information. With a special iPhone app, users can watch real-time tweets written by people inside the building, view information about the stores inside and download discount coupons.

Continue reading about QR codes in Japan →

Augmented Reality taking it to another level

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The hype surrounding augmented reality (AR) technology is often dwarfed by coverage of 3D television,  but that may change once both are put into practice on a broad scale. AR could prove to change lives more profoundly, not only by locating subway stations or inviting Robert Downey Jr. into your cubicle, but also by providing information about anything or anyone at which you point your device.

The Sekai Camera iPhone app grabbed headlines in Japan last year, and several new Japanese applications may indicate what to expect in the coming decade. The Red Cross is using face-recognition software and anime hair to attract blood donors in Akihabara, and the pin@clip application is now being tested in Shibuya, allowing iPhone users to get real-time information on shopping and entertainment options in the buildings that users pass by.

Continue reading about augmented reality in Japan →

I want my Augmented Reality TV phone!

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Yesterday, after almost of year of cruel teasing and prodding, gadget hounds finally got an up-close look at the Sekai Camera, a highly anticipated Augmented Reality application for mobile phones, named iPhone and Android-based phones.

Tech-man-about-town Nobi Hayashi was one of the lucky ones to attend the event at Loewe, a Spanish fashion ship in Tokyo’s Ginza. As his video shows, Sekai Camera users view their surroundings through the iPhone screen, which displays “Air Tags” floating in an overlay of reality. Tapping a tag brings up relevant info about the onscreen object.  At Loewe, visitors were able to learn more about high-end products (and we can imagine, some folks might need a lot of persuading.)

Wedding the iPhone’s GPS and video capabilities, the app’s creators, Tonchidot Corporation, appear to be targeting retailers in search of a new gimmick, but the camera’s uses aren’t purely commercial. For instance, you could leave a personal review of a restaurant or consult the reviews of previous patrons.  People visiting a new city could look up historical information about buildings that interest them from the local tourist office. In fact, Tonchidot is already aligning itself with a very interesting iPhone-centric tourism project in Gifu Prefecture.

But wait! There’s more! Behold Air Tagging, features include Air Filters (to weed out visual clutter); Air Shouts (to users within a 300 meter radius), Air Pocket (for saving those tags) and even Air Voice (for an audio recording).

Continue about Sekai Camera →

RSS

Recent Posts