Augmented reality and dynamic contextualisation

Sling that puppy out at a dinner party, i dare you.

Folks from the Departments of Advertising and Computer Science at Michigan State University have recently published a relating to augmented reality (learn about the METLAB). The paper titled ‘Increasing Sales in Supermarkets via Real-Time Information’ explains a leading-edge idea conceptualised by Wei Zhu, Charles Owen, Hairong Li and Joo-Hyun Lee, called the PromoPad.

Here’s an extract.

Augmented reality technologies as a new way of human computer interaction make possible real-time modification of our perception of reality without active user interference. This paper introduces the prototype of an augmented reality shopping assistant device, the PromoPad, based on a hand-held Tablet PC allowing see-through vision with augmentations. While this new interaction utilizing augmented reality that places products into contextual settings can enhance shopping experience and suggest complementary products, it also has challenges and issues to be used in a public environment such as a store setting. This paper discusses the design and implementation of the PromoPad, and addresses the issues and possible solutions. The concept of dynamic contextualization is further investigated in this setting with a list of possible context modifications and their relation to advertising and the psychology of consumer purchasing.

So, put simply, this is a handheld device designed to assist consumers when they’re shopping by creating virtual objects overlaid, beside or instead of real-world objects.

The basis for this device and proposition is the concept of Dynamic Contextualisaton. This is a concept which reacts and responds to the preferences of the user (the consumer in this instance) in real-time – displaying virtually the contextual information of most use/interest to that user.

The authors of this paper developed three primary criteria to determine the relevance of contextual information:

  1. Users location and orientation
  2. Shopping history and pattern
  3. Complementary product mixes

For readers in the UK, think of this as receiving your Tesco Club Card vouchers before you’ve bought a product – real-time incentives to purchase.

Dynamic contextualisation is where this gets really interesting and is an extension of product and virtual product contextualisation. This is defined as for example, visually serving up an virtual image of a plate of cooked spaghetti when the device is pointed at a box of spaghetti – a idea designed to create resonance and explain the consumption practice.

Even more powerful (particularly from a marketers perspective) is the concept of Diminishing Context, explained as follows by the paper:

Whereas augmenting context highlights the focal product by delivering augmented virtual objects to the consumer, diminishing context emphasizes the focal product by hiding the surrounding product items, most likely non-complementary products or competing brands.

Removing the competition gives more room to display information for the product that the retailer plans to introduce to the consumer or increase the sales volume at that period of time.

The table below gives some great examples of diminished context vs augmented.

There’s so many applications for both augmented and diminished contextualisation, not just in the supermarket but across a wide range of other real-world situations – i’ll be breaking some of these ideas out over some posts in the near future.