1/1 Interview with Ken Blakeslee on Augmented Reality, the AR Summit, and Killing Mobile Phones!

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There are many awesome aspects of being a media sponsor for an event, but access to people I wouldn’t normally have access to, does top my list. Enter Ken Blakeslee, one of Europe’s leading experts on Mobile Services and Applications, and Chairman of the Augmented Reality Summit, an all day conference on all things AR, June 13, 2012 in London. 

The AR Summit is now in it’s second year, Last year Nigel did attend the launch and made a few videos that you can see here. But what a difference a year makes!  Augmented Reality has gone from being this unattainable technology to something you can use right now if you downloaded an app. Google introduced AR Glasses and people are talking about and experiencing AR vs referencing Minority Report. This fantastic futuristic world, always just so slightly out of our reach – is here. How exciting – and what an exciting time to be involved in such technologies!

If you follow PMC, you know we have been all in on AR (NFC too) for many years now, and just waiting for it to take a place in the marketing world. I do believe that time is swiftly approaching, and its people like Ken, and events like the AR Summit that will be leading the charge. Nigel will be attending again for us and this year his video skills have improved, I promise! He will let us know about the conference, and we will of course pass along all the info we are provided to share. 

A quick thanks to Ken for his time, and to Claire and Richard at the AR Summit for working with us for the past two years, and hopefully many more to follow! Enjoy this interview… and VIVA AR!

DC: Who is Ken Blakeslee and what does he do?

KB: I am Chairman of WebMobility Ventures, which is, is focused on Discovery, Advisory and Investment in Innovations in the emerging Services Convergence areas of Personal Mobility.

DC: In the simplest terms, what is augmented reality, and why as a marketer should I care about it?

KB: Augmented Reality is simply a new user experience and interface for the information and content that we bring into our lives or that comes to our attention inside the reality of our daily personal and business affairs. AR is for the same five senses that we experience reality through, so a few technology challenges but as such, a boon for creative marketing. 

DC: What is the connection between AR and Print?

The appearance of AR applied to print on flat pieces of paper heralds the move to full rich media experiences and interactivity. This is evidence that a new level of engagement is being sought, but also means paper can no longer be the principal medium for personal and timely infotainment. 

DC: Aurasma is getting a lot of buzz in the US lately. It has essentially brought AR to the masses through a user-friendly interface and the ability to share digital tags, what they call auras, through social media. Why aren’t more companies and big brands utilizing the technology?

KB: Aurasma is a platform for AR experiences and innovative in that it allows consumer users to ‘augment’ everyday scenes, images and objects around them with a simple to use, mobile device resident application. It is however but one of many such platforms being used by leading edge digital agencies across Europe to create numerous awareness and advertising projects for most of the big brands.  It’s early days, but many successful campaigns have produced both ROI for the brand and engagement and interactivity with consumers. I think Europe is leading the charge at the moment. The AR Summit event features a good cross section view of the AR enabled ecosystem including the leading technology platform and marketing agencies.

DC: You have said, “AR is about lifestyle.” What do you mean by that?

KB: AR has been around from a technology standpoint for a long time. I have been intrigued and tracking it for at least 15 years in the military and industrial areas and watched numerous technology stymied attempts at bringing AR into the personal space. A person’s reality is in fact the lifestyle he or she inhabits on a daily basis. AR has the potential to enrich lifestyle, but only if it is personal and natural. These are the challenges that AR faces in order to come into our lives. Technology is a challenge, but not the gatekeeper anymore.

DC: How did the AR Summit come about, and how are you involved with it?

KB: Claire Taylor approached me last year to advise and assist in creating a new kind of event on this interesting new topic area. I was initially skeptical, mostly because the topic was being taken up by many others, but in too traditional way (IMHO), so I pitched in along with a few other notables to help create the first AR Summit last year. It was a huge success and kicked off the topic well. A lot has happened in AR terms in the last 12 months, and this year’s programme hopefully captures both the current journey and forward direction of Augmented Reality. 

DC: Im really excited that you have added The Augmented Reality Awards to this year’s event. The platform is designed to recognize and reward those who are creating great AR strategies, new technologies & techniques pushing the industry forward. Without giving too much away, can you tell us about some of the submissions?

KB: The awards submissions received map well with the evolution of AR itself in moving from what has been a technology subject to a consumer brand driven proposition. Every aspect of AR from platforms, connectivity, content and even AR glasses that have the potential to augment the consumer experience have moved forward at a rapid pace in that last year. The Awards submission presented us judges with a good cross section of these advances. But also a difficult job in singling out only one in each category!

DC: Ok, one fun question – marry, shag, kill… Please pick one tech for each of those categories… QR, AR, NFC and tell us why.

KB: Marry – Yes, AR enhanced by the early technologies that trigger it (QR, NFC, etc.), but the next phase of this intimate and personal relationship will be triggered by a broader range of “sensors, sniffers, and peepers” to bring us the just-in-time info and mood driven desirables we yearn.

Kill – The mobile telephone. It needs to die and be resurrected in people’s minds as the modern day “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. It earned it’s place on our person, but has now become indispensable as a Personal Mobile Gateway to all the infotainment and socialising techniques we now find useful in our lives.

Shag – Sorry, shagging and technology just don’t mix for me. I will leave this one for others!

DC: Finally, although in many ways AR is an emerging technology, people like you will always be looking ahead. So with that being said, put on your Google Goggles and take us 10 years into the future of Augmented Reality. What do you hope it will look like?

KB: AR will disappear!

‘Pull’ AR will become ‘Push’ AR – in context and ‘just in time’.

AR will become natural and valuable to the realities of our information rich business and lifestyles but less overt to others and ourselves around us. 

But this doesn’t come without some challenges. Yes, Content is King, but Context is Queen and the Queen reins right now but is one major AR challenge for us moving forward.  It’s the Googles and Facebooks of the world who seem best positioned to merge with the AR technologies to make good on this promise. 

The fact that AR enablement is happening from the bare metal up is encouraging to me and says that investments in this area have a solid footing in terms of the pocket bound platforms we carry. With ARM and Qualcomm as prime AR Summit sponsors it’s clear that the chipmakers are leading the way to making AR possible. 

The long list (20+) of creative media sponsors for the AR Summit says that this year, and into the future, the technologies will be exploited to produce eye, ear (and nose?) pleasing experiences.

Info and content delivery to the five senses in a most intuitive and natural way has seemingly been an insurmountable challenge so far except in the audio area. But this past year has brought huge breakthroughs in the visual and touch/gesture technologies. Google and Oakley have raised the awareness of the role of AR Glasses and at the AR Summit we will have Paul Travers, CEO of Vuzix bringing us up to date on the solid advances in AR glasses for consumers and hopefully the roadmap to Nirvana in that area. Smell and taste? Well could they be far behind? I am certainly aware of scent generating technologies waiting in the wings and undergoing miniaturization. 

Scratch and Sniff, anyone?

Closing emphasis for the future of AR -Personal, Natural and Valuable Augmentation of Reality please…

Ken Blakeslee is one of Europe’s leading experts on Mobile Services and Applications with particular focus on the emerging new media content, applications and commerce methodologies, and the merging of these with the ubiquitous, personal access of mobile. Using his unique combination of business, industry and investment experience, he has built, nurtured and managed diverse teams to develop consumer and business oriented solutions, and brought these propositions to market. His experience in developing telecoms, IT and web commerce business strategies spans 25+ years. He is frequently a keynote speaker and chairperson at global industry events, authored numerous articles and is regularly quoted in the press. In 2004 Ken launched and produced “Cool and Connected” a Wearable Technology Fashion Show at 3GSM World Congress in Cannes.