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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.
But, I nitpick -- the power and potential of this new technology will overwhelm some uninspiring early-stage names, and just imagine the thousands of creative applications that will arise when this technology is placed in the hands of teenagers and young professionals whose mobile devices are indispensable extensions of themselves and the ways in which they experience and engage with the world around them.

And it's precisely that huge potential across entertainment, marketing, education, product evaluation, merchandising, training, and much more that make it so important for strategic CIOs to seize the initiative in getting to know seemingly wacky new stuff like "augmented reality" and exploring how their companies can exploit its novelty and its capabilities.

Indeed, I think augmented reality can serve as a perfect example of the new ways in which CIOs must continue to get out in front of technology trends and innovations, looking way beyond IT infrastructure and toward new gizmos and applications and technologies that offer unprecedented ways for your companies to interact with customers, engage with them, appeal to them, showcase your value propositions to them, and encourage them to work with you to exploit those new tools to their fullest.

Here are some examples of how a handful of companies are doing just that, from a recent column in Advertising Age by Garrick Schmitt of Razorfish:

  • Lego: "Simply hold up the Lego box to an in-store kiosk with a web cam and watch a rendering of the toy assemble itself."
  • Topps sports trading cards: "At Toppstown fans get the full 3-D experience, can make the tiny players bat and pitch, plus explore stats and game info."
  • Toyota: "Toyota employed the technology to show off its new small car, Toyota IQ, which allows consumers to interact with the car and discover its agility and interior space."
  • "Enkin wants to 'reinvent navigation,' by combining GPS, orientation sensors, 3-D graphics, live video, and several web services into something wholly new."

And then there's the IBM mobile app for Wimbledon mentioned above. Here's how a subsequent Ad Age article described what the Seer Android Beta can do: "For example, pointing the phone's camera lens towards a court will bring up information and scores about the match being played on that court, as well as information about forthcoming matches. Point the phone at a cafe and a menu and an update on the length of the queue for strawberries and cream appears."

You'll also find some interesting background and perspectives on augmented reality at a site called MobiThinking.com.

We all know that right now you're battling with budgets, doing more with less, fighting to keep your team together, and trying to enhance the strategic business value you and your team offer to your organization and your customers. In such a context, you might think that you don't have time to diddle around with some unproven and still-kinda-squishy technology that has a goofy name.

But I would say that augmented reality and its potential provide precisely the right type of opportunity for you to reassert or enhance your role as a visionary business technology leader, for you to inspire your team and rekindle within it a sense of excitement and exploration and fun, and for you to steal the march on your competitors by helping rewrite the rules of how your industry plays the game.

Forget the name. Focus on the potential. And go out and augment your company's competitive reality.

GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].