Government // Mobile & Wireless
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6/22/2009
04:28 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Hey, CIOs -- Augment Your Strategic Reality With This Great New Technology

During this difficult economic time, augmented reality has the potential to help you enhance your role as a visionary business technology leader, inspire your team, and steal the march on your competitors.

OK, a little word-association game here: Below I'm going to describe a brilliant new technology that I think will launch some powerful applications, but first I'm going to share with you the name of this new techno-breakthrough. As soon as you read it, shout out what you think it means. Here it is:

"Augmented Reality."

C'mon, don't just make a funny face and grumble about what a dumb term it is -- what does it make you think of? Maybe controlled substances? Transcendental meditation? Or maybe the explanation you got from your teenage son about why he missed his midnight curfew Friday night?

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On the other hand, try this example that leaves out the name and instead focuses on its capabilities: This week at the Wimbledon tennis tournament, IBM is showcasing a mobile application that lets people point their mobile-phone cameras at various real things around the sprawling Wimbledon complex -- such as Court 2, or maybe a strawberries-and-cream stand -- and the mobile device will overlay additional multimedia information about that real object.

I think this new technology will gain rapid and widespread acceptance across multiple industries and trigger huge implications in how shoppers evaluate products, how children learn, how workers absorb training, and how marketers can enrich the experiences their products offer.

CIOs of the world, take note -- you need to have some of your smartest people get their hands on this and play around with it and come up with 25 brainstormed ideas for how it can help your company excite and delight your customers and prospects.

Some observers -- including a few of those I've linked to below for more background on this topic -- say that this powerful new technology with the goofy laboratory name will find only limited uptake for a few years, primarily among gamers and other geeky enthusiasts. I think that's nonsense -- sort of like saying Twitter will be limited only to those people who don't like writing messages of more than 140 characters.

No, the power behind this augmented-reality technology is that it will allow people in all walks of life to do more of what we have shown an almost-limitless capacity for wanting to do: understand and engage more deeply with those parts of the world that interest and appeal to us.

For example: You want to buy a house in a neighborhood you're not familiar with, but you don't want to go through the formal thing yet of talking to a real estate agent. So you drive through the area, see a house for sale, point your mobile-phone camera at it, and the yet-unbuilt app -- perhaps it'll come from some innovative real estate player such as Zillow -- gives you an immediate history about surveys, taxes, school districts, renovations, ownership history, utility bills, traffic volume on this and other local streets, zoning regulations, and much more.

As they say, imagine the possibilities. But hey, who dreamed up that dog of a term, "augmented reality"? Makes me think of the old joke about a certain world-renowned IT company from back when it created great products but disdained marketing: If HP had invented sushi, they would have called it cold, dead fish.

I think the sheer obtuseness of that term affected even IBM's thinking about the very cool mobile application it's rolling out this week at Wimbledon, because here's the name IBM came up with: the Seer Android Beta. Yes indeed, the Seer Android Beta. Well, at least it didn't go with the runner-up name, which reportedly was "the Mobile-Device Information-Overlay Application."

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