Augmented Reality Is The New Second Life

People have been comparing Twitter to Second Life, but I think "augmented reality" is a more accurate analogy, with most advertisers getting lured by the futuristic wow-factor, riding the hype cycle, and pretty much misunderstanding the potential of the medium. The thing has officially entered the collective industry consciousness, too, now that WSJ picked it up.

It doesn't mean that there aren't any brilliant executions -- I love this Coraline display, for example. But just like marketers three or four years ago would build a pretty deserted Second Life island, congratulate themselves on a job well done and send out a press release, today for many augmented reality means having users print something out, wave it in front of their webcam, and produce some kind of interactive 3D attachment:

Eminem's 3D Art Competition promoting the Relapse album in the UK.

Fun for the first couple of times, but then the law of diminishing marginal utility kicks in. Compare to the much more exciting (and less laborious for the user) Coraline work:

A couple of related things:

-- There's a very prolific aggregator of augmented reality news on Twitter, @augmentedadvert.

-- And a useful number from the WSJ piece: "Although the number of Americans who own a Webcam is increasing rapidly because most new laptops come with the device, only about 18% of the nation's 68.5 million broadband households had one as of April, according to Parks Associates, a research firm.


  1. There are plenty of silly and 'hey look at that' uses for AR, but there are also plenty of great uses as well, and I think that AR is much more useful and easy to understand than Second Life, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it stick around for longer.

    For example: Something like Ray-Ban's virtual mirror doesn't just provide a wow factor, it actually improves the online shopping experience, and makes people more comfortable with buying online:

  2. Great example, thank you. And you are right, AR has a brighter marketing future than SL.

  3. it's funny because for most people augmented reality is just waving a paper in front of a computer, and for at least a while that's what people are going to think of because of press coverage. personally i don't think the term augmented reality is going to stick because it's already been too attached to one specific type of execution. UVA in london have been creating experiences of augmented reality for a while but no one called it that. personally i feel it needs to be redefined because the current understanding would not even include your example from coraline.

  4. Could you share a link to UVA's work?

  5. Nice Information...
    Thank's For Sharing (^_^)..he..3x

  6. uva's work can be found here: - but I wouldn't call that an example of augmented reality. To me, it's a media installation. I didn't see all their work, but in order to be called augmented reality, for me there has to be an interweaving of the physical world around us and an added layer on top of it. A good example would be

    I don't think that AR need a redefinition - it's been around for some time know, and there is always a phase where the usage of term is not quite clear.

  7. I thought so too, and then I thought about the mobile uses for it. Agree, the laptop situation is less than ideal, but make AR portable and as an augmented marketing/entertainment/education device and you have something quite useful

  8. here's an older project UVA did using a mirror.

  9. nevermind that's the same link DCom had posted.

  10. I don't think comparing Augmented Reality to Second Life is an accurate comparison. You're comparing a piece of technology to a service. That would be like comparing AJAX to MySpace. I, for one, completely dismissed Second Life as soon as the hype started.

    AR, I think, is quite a different species altogether. If you think about it, all successful technological advances "augmented" some aspect of real life. The telephone augmented how we speak to one another. TV augmented our entertainment. The internet augmented how we gather information.

    The way I see it, the real promise of AR isn't the fact that it's a cool visual marketing piece, but that it's a whole new way of interacting with information, where technology breaks out from the screen and supplements real life.

    It's early stages yet, but I do believe we'll see some mind-blowing developments over the next year. Some might even have some marketing value.

  11. Good article! Yes, all of these technologies have the challenge of being overhyped out of existence. I was part of the virtual reality world in the early 90's & was writing about the future of advertising/marketing using VR & AR back then. VR, unfortunately on the consumer front, never lived up to its hype and just became "doom in a head mount" after a while. But, it'll come back in the future and I think it'll be AR that helps drive it. If you look at what MIT did with the 6th sense, you can see one potential future of AR. There's some video at if you haven't seen it. Of course, I think that our AudienceGames work is also a good example of an AR experience that worked and people really enjoyed. You can go to to see some video of those experiences as well.

    In the end, it will always come down to creating the right experience, one that will engage and give some value to people and we'll start seeing AR being used for much better purposes.

  12. @Dino: I'm not comparing technologies, I'm compare attitudes of marketers, which has remained the same.

  13. @Ilya: Well, in that case, I'm in complete agreement :)


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