Augmented Reality and the meaning of play

The promise of virtual and augmented reality has always been enormous.

Augmented reality is the blending of virtual reality and real life, as developers can create images within applications that blend in with contents in the real world.

With AR, users are able to interact with virtual contents in the real world, and are able to distinguish between the two. Go nowhere, and be transported anywhere. What a wonderful proposition to work from.

Virtual and Augmented Reality was very much a central conversation at Cannes last month so this blog post will take a closer look at it’s history and the most recent development, especially with the success of Pokemon Go launching this month that promise to be a worldwide hit.

Firstly to Cannes and the VR entries. The New York Times was a surprise big winner of the week, earning double Grand Prix for its virtual reality initiatives. The Times VR platform itself claimed the top prize in Mobile.

And in the Entertainment Lions, the New York Times took the Grand Prix for its VR experience “The Displaced,” which took viewers into the lives of refugee children pushed from their native countries.

Entertainment Lions Jury President Jae Goodman, CCO at CAA Marketing, said the idea “catapulted the Gray Lady 100 years forward.”

Two VR experiences, Lockheed Martin’s “Bus Ride to Mars,” out of McCann New York and Goodby Silverstein’s “Dreams of Dali,” for the Dali Museum also were early contenders for the Grand Prix in Cyber, but ultimately, neither took the top prize.

Virtual Reality as a concept has been around for almost 100 years. In the 1930s a story by science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum (Pygmalion’s Spectacles) contains the idea of a pair of goggles that let the wearer experience a fictional world through holographics, smell, taste and touch.

Virtual Reality

In hindsight the experience Weinbaum describes for those wearing the goggles are uncannily like the modern and emerging experience of virtual reality, making him a true visionary of the field.

Virtual Reality had become significantly popular during the 1990s. It became one of the best topics for movies and even for virtual reality games.

During the 1950s, an attempt by a cinematographer named Morton Heilig to stimulate the different senses became the idea of what we know today as Virtual Reality. This is the same person who made use of the machine called Sensorama.


Sensorama included moving chairs and odor meters while providing a visual treat to the audience.

At Dentsu there have been a number of virtual and augmented reality programs of work over the years but the most successful to date has been iButterfly a free mobile application available on both iOS and Android platforms produced in October 2010.

It combines Augmented Reality, Motion Sensors and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies to allow consumers to “see”, find and catch customized butterflies at specific locations through their smartphones.

Marketers can tap on the iButterfly application’s potential to customize promotional mechanics based on their campaign needs.

iButterfly coupons can be time-limited, location-based, or number-limited. Marketers can design tactics such as having consumers collect a series of different butterflies in order to collect prizes, or have butterflies available only in specific geographical areas.

ibutterfly_screenshot1The augmented-reality (AR) game attracted 21 million users and became one of the most successful mobile apps ever. It has been praised for promoting exercise, facilitating social interactions, sparking new interest in local landmarks, and more.

Dentsu took iButterfly to Hong Kong  in May 2011. It became an overnight hit with over 10 million butterflies caught and 350,000 users.

In Thailand, iButterfly captured 100,000 downloads in the first week. In the Philippines, the largest shopping enterprise, SM Malls, embraced iButterfly as its promotion vehicle. In Indonesia, Unilever and top music bands are major partners. This unprecedented marketing platform has won over 10 local and international awards for its commercial success and creativity since 2011, capturing the imagination of advertisers in the region.

In 2012 Dentsu Singapore’s launched iButterfly on 17 November 2012. Consumers could redeem products and vouchers from Cheers, Gatsby and Yoshinoya by catching virtual butterflies. Each customized virtual butterfly was designed with product offers ranging from iPhone covers to meal vouchers and potato chips as well as facial packs. Three iPad Minis were won by consumers who caught limited edition golden butterflies during the event.

Now this month Pokémon Go launches and I get the feeling this app will be even bigger although likely to be short lived as the game play is very repetitive.


Pokesmon Go is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices.

In the game, players use a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items.

So the learning here is imagine 10 years ago trying to envision the way we use cellphones today. It’s impossible. That’s the promise VR and AR has today. At its best it shouldn’t replace real life, just modify it, giving us access to so much just out of reach physically, economically.

If you can dream it, VR and AR can make it. It’s a medium for progress, not the progress itself. Enjoying thinking up the ideas.

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