Google’s Project Tango is the most exciting and promising new technology announcement for a long time, and is likely to create completely new industries, let alone categories.
Basically it is a mobile phone that is aware of its surroundings just like a human being; scanning, modelling and comprehending the physical world around it in motion and in real time. It then provides an open platform for anyone to develop applications to utilise this awe-inspiring new layer of data.
It truly is a Promethean initiative to make technology previously available only to the likes of NASA available for the consumer market. The technology is not already merely proven, but tipped to be at the brink of being commercially feasible for mass utilisation in a very short timeframe.
The possible applications of this technology are vast and varied; from the noblest and truly worthwhile such as a pair of “virtual eyes” for the visually impaired, to exciting automisation and consumer-level robotics possibilities at the fingertips of budding innovators – without requiring a triple PhD for a change. This means affordable home robots and self-driving cars are not far behind – making it no small coincidence that Google has already bought pretty much every advanced robotics company out there.
However, provided I am writing this article for B&T and not The Scientific Journal, I’d like to focus on what it might mean for marketing, advertising and commerce. Not because I think us agency folk or our clients are any less gallant or ambitious, but because we will have the best chance to utilise this technology and partake in its advance when we find ways to apply it to what we do best.
For example, think of your mapping app not only showing you the way, but also overlaying real world information via the camera feed – right down to the accuracy of pinpointing levels of a building. Then imagine this applied to Amazon’s (rather prematurely announced) delivery drones, transforming their level of precision from barely finding a landing spot in your backyard to tapping at the window of your 35th floor office and delivering the package directly to you – even using facial recognition to confirm the delivery! Ok, maybe that still sounds a bit like hammy Luc Besson sci-fi, so let me tone it down a notch and talk about more direct applications by industry.
What would it mean for the retail industry if every consumer could easily scan their bodies and match it to clothing – not just by size but by truly the right fit for their unique body shape? (For the record if it means less Gok ads, I’m all for it) What would it mean for casual gaming or gamified engagement campaigns if we can deliver virtual characters occupying the same physical space as the user, interacting with them, the world around them and the storyline simultaneously and seamlessly? What would it mean for white goods manufacturers and retailers if consumers could just point their phone at the cavity in their kitchen and automatically see a shortlist of fridges or dishwashers that would fit nicely? What would it mean for grocery stores if their shopping app had the ability to virtually point an item out on the shelves to customers? – I sure would have appreciated this kind of feature when looking for the “patty pans” I was dispatched to purchase the other day. If you do not know what that is or where to find it, my answer to you is; exactly!
Activities such as geo-tagging can be blended into the real world or exact location, angle and direction of the phone when a photo or video is shot can be accurately recorded and recalled similar to expensive match-moving technology used in the movie industry. Indoor wayfinding for large buildings such as airports and shopping centres can at last become very visual and precise and all kinds of objects can be recognised just by pointing the phone at them to reveal in-situ the relevant information including contextual messages and advertising. The technology can even allow any product stock to be counted easily and automatically, and the list goes on. It’s also safe to assume it can and will be applied to other devices such as wearable technology such as Google Glass and heads up displays in cars, rendering their usage more seamless and immersive.
All this being said and done, what does this really mean for the Australian media, marketing, and advertising community, and especially to our clients who ultimately provide the funds for any innovation to be truly commercialised ? Once “Project Tango” phones are launched commercially, the initial applications will more than likely start with internal operational functions with controlled devices, and when the critical mass of market share is reached, consumer applications will follow.
This might sound like a long timeframe, but as Bill Gates once said; “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction”
In my humble opinion, there will be one or at most two “game-changer” applications for each industry which will crown new kings –or help reigning kings keep their thrones. The brands who start planning for this near future by truly and deeply integrating this new channel into their business will reap the benefits. Others will be trying to catch up down the line, scrambling to mimic these successful programs without the necessary underlying infrastructure in place as usual.
By the way, if the good folk at Google ATAP happen to be reading my humble article, I’d like to go on record once again that we will not be upset if one of those prototype phones turn up in the mail one day!
Deniz Nalbantoglu, managing director, Webling Interactive