Starbucks to Further Legitimize Augmented Reality (Digital Nirvana)

Next Tuesday (November 15), Starbucks will launch its first major augmented reality app, according to Mashable. You'll be able to view the app by pointing your iPhone or Adroid device at a Starbucks holiday cup or other object in its stores (such as a coffee bag) — 47 options in all.

What will you see? According to Mashable, you might see and interact with any of a variety of animations featuring characters  such as an ice skater, a squirrel, a boy and dog sledding and a fox.  I'm not sure why you would want to do that other than novelty, but I suppose there is a marketing purpose in it . . . right?

What's interesting to me is the highly visible nature of the technology. It's not a niche magazine or mobile game. It's part of a growing trend toward taking AR into the truly mainstream consumer world.

Yesterday, I reported on the growing data showing the exponential growth and adoption of QR codes. While AR is a different technology, it falls under the same broad umbrella of blending traditional media to create an interactive experience. Slowly but steadily, AR — like QR codes — is marching into the mainstream. For it to show up somewhere as ubiquitous as Starbucks is a pretty big deal, I think.

About 6 million AR apps were downloaded last year, according to ABI Research. While this is a small fraction of the overall app market, that number is projected to increase to 19 million downloads in 2011 and balloon to nearly a billion by 2016. The firm forecasts the mobile AR industry will see $3 billion in global revenue by 2016, up from $87 million this year and $21 million in 2010.

What does this mean for print? It means that print continues to become more deeply and complexly blended with digital and mobile media. While siloed print applications will still exist, the expectation is growing that print will be part of a larger, more complex cross-media / multi-channel world that requires understanding all of the components involved in that world — not just one or a few.

Nobody can stay on top of everything, but if you're moving into the marketing services provider role, you'd better have your experts on hand to call or bring into projects that may require mobile media, whether QR codes, AR, apps, text messaging, or anything else. If you don't, you'd better start vetting them now. You'll need 'em.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker on November 11th, 2011

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