Claire Beale On Advertising: Faraway galaxy comes to street near you

You'll remember that scene in Star Wars when bun-headed Princess Leia appears in holographic form to tell Obi-Wan Kenobi that he's her only hope. Fantastical sci-fi, back in the Seventies. Not any more; today it's a reality, of a sort, and it's the latest hot thing in marketing. Welcome to the world of "augmented reality", or AR.

Now, I know that describing something as the latest hot thing in marketing will have cynics assuming this is just another bit of commercial candy floss, all hype and no stamina. History, dear cynics, is on your side (does anyone remember Second Life?). But AR will literally change your world. Think Minority Report meets Star Wars, but not in a galaxy far, far away. In your street, at the shops, certainly at work.

First, though, the basics. Really, this whole Augmented Reality thing is pretty straightforward as long as you try not to think about how it actually works. AR is a way of combining real-time images with computer-generated ones to create a new version of reality in full 3D. So you can sit in front of a webcam and watch yourself on your PC screen, playing with objects that only exist as computer graphics. And computer graphics can be projected out to appear in the real world, just like Princess Leia 30 years ago.

Lego is already at it. In some of its toy shops you can now pick up one of the special Lego boxes and hold it up to an interactive kiosk to see yourself holding a 3D animation of what the fully constructed toy will look like. Point of sale promos have never been sexier. But AR sits comfortably with advertising too.

I've written before in this column about the AR campaign created for BMW's Z4 by Dare. It's probably the best example yet of using AR to get consumers closer to brands. It's easy to take part: you print out a 3D pattern recognition symbol from the BMW website. Then, using your computer's webcam (which interprets the 3D symbol as an image of the car itself), you can create an AR that allows you to drive the car around your desk.

If all this AR activity seems a little playful when set against the harsh realities of recessionary marketing, with its focus on price and special offers, then don't underestimate the seductive power of allowing consumers to actually interact with ads and brands in a virtual-real world. It's a fantastic way to engage people and engagement is the first step to a sale. It is particularly potent for brands targeting a youth audience hooked on gaming, but its marketing potential goes much deeper than play appeal. Combining AR with GPS location technology on your mobile opens up a whole new highway of possibilities for marketers. Web-based interactive communications can be overlaid with real-world data and tailored to where you are in space and time.

Nokia is already working on applications that allow you to point your mobile phone camera at a building to see information about what's inside, overlaid on the image of the building itself, so AR can let you know when a store has special offers or sales and where to find the bargains.

The time will come, too, when you won't need a cumbersome screen to converge all this real and virtual information and imagery; it will be projected directly before our eyes by special visors or contact lenses, or even (don't imagine it's not a possibility) wired directly into our brains so that the web becomes to all intents and purposes a part of the real world as we experience it. Who needs RD2?

Best in Show: Evian (BETC Euro RSCG)

There's some pretty nifty computer work on display in Evian's timely new ad from the French agency BETC Euro RSCG, to rather eerie effect.

Remember the gorgeous Evian synchronised swimming babies? It was terrifically cute. Well, this time they've gone for roller-skating babes to persuade us to "live young". Cute, it ain't, but it is wonderfully mesmeric. Babies in nappies do skating stunts to a hip-hop beat and it's at once both hilarious and disturbing. The CGI isn't perfect but the ad is actually more weird and engaging for that. I defy you to not watch this campaign over and over and over.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice