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December 2009
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Augmented Hype. Augmented Reality.

I suspect that, for some at least, Augmented Reality may already be riding the peak of inflated expectations on the Hype Cycle and about to ski down the black run of cynicism towards the trough of disillusionment. But as usual, it is the examples that look genuinely fun or useful that offer a glimpse of how things might actually be. And so here are four short videos which I've come across recently which show some interesting applications of the technology.

First up, this augmentation of a building that got some recent twitter link-love. Interestingly, the people behind the N-Building in Tachikawa, Japan, who have designed the facade of the building as a giant QR code, did so as an alternative to the signs or billboards that typically adorn commercial building facades and which they feel undermine the identity of a structure. Reading the QR code with your smartphone gives you information about the shops therein, but using an additional app their vision is that the facade disappears completely to allows you to see shop information, offers, promotions, and even people inside who want to be seen, and their online comments:

"In this manner we envision a cityscape unhindered by ubiquitous signage and also an improvement to the quality and accuracy of the information itself...Our goal is to provide an incentive to visit the space and a virtual connection to space without necessarily being present"

N Building from Alexander Reeder on Vimeo.

And of-course the more useful the data, the more interesting it becomes to layer onto real things. Smartphones are already complex sensors that enable all kinds of data streams that we make limited use of. This video from Pachube (HT), the 'Internet of Things' web service that stores and shares realtime sensor, energy and environment data from devices, buildings and other inanimate objects around the world, hints at how a visualisation of sensor data could be used for, say, monitoring real-time carbon footprint or inspecting buildings or streets (or even cities surely) full of environment data. augmented reality demo from Pachube on Vimeo.

So it's kind of interesting when a big brand like Nike gets involved early on with an idea like this. Nike True City is an iPhone app that "makes the hidden visible" by providing a guide to the lesser known attractions of six European cities via what they call 'Nike Insiders':- "local tastemakers who pride themselves on being at the forefront of things happenings in their cities". It's not just another digital guidebook, more "a powerful combination of premium, geo-tagged content, the latest iPhone technologies, and social media integration—updated in real-time by real people".

Nike True City Full Trailer - Offical HD from NikeSportswear on Vimeo.

RFID technology takes this to another level. In its 'Mobile Web Meets Internet Of Things' series, RWW talks about a technology standard called Near Field Communication that enables wireless communication and exchange of data between devices over a short distance meaning that if, as rumoured, RFID is set to be a part of the next generation iPhone 4G, it can turn the phone into an RFID tag, as well as an RFID reader. As the former, the phone becomes an identity and a payment device (the future of the credit card is not as a credit card), and as the latter it enables the phone to interact with real-world RFID-enabled objects. This prototype, featured in the RWW piece and from a Norwegian research group, turns the iPhone into a media player that responds to interaction with objects:

iPhone RFID: object-based media from timo on Vimeo.

As I seem to be saying a lot lately - interesting times.

Only Dead Fish


Image courtesy

So. I have some big news about me. After 14 years (yes, count 'em) at IPC Media, I have decided to leave and start up my own business. This has been no small decision for me. IPC is a great business with some great brands and some great people. But the desire to do my own thing has been burning away inside of me for sometime, so I've decided to do something about it. I've been at the centre of defining and implementing digital strategy for one of the biggest media owners in the UK for a number of years now, but there are so many interesting people out there doing so many interesting things. The opportunity to work with new people, finding new solutions to new problems, is too good to miss.

So I shall be consulting in the areas about which I am truly passionate:- digital content strategy, digital commercial strategy, and social technologies. Many of the areas, in fact, that I have written about at length here. More on all that to follow. But its important to say that I truly believe that you cannot optimise one, without a good understanding of the others. And I believe that everything we do has to be focused on effectiveness and results. 

The good news is that my ex-employer, IPC Media, will be my first client. So this is not an end, it is very much a beginning. This blog has long been, and will continue to be, an outlet for my thinking and a vehicle for interaction and discussion about the things I believe. But it was time to put my money (and my livelihood) where my mouth is. We live in changing and challenging times. But out of change and challenge comes opportunity. To quote Paul Arden: "Don't look for the next opportunity. The one you have in hand is the opportunity."

My door is open. My e-mail address is top right. If you're interested in working with me, I'd love to hear from you.

Post Of The Month - December '09 - The Winner


This months vote was once again a close run thing with some spirited voting going on for both John Willshire's 'Social Production' post and Adam Tinworth's 'Death of the News Package', but in the end it was the former that won through. So well done John. I seem to remember you won your section of The Battle Of Big Thinking with your thoughts on this subject, but I'm sure it's at least as good to have won the respect of your blogging peers and to be entered into the ThinkTank Hall of Fame ;-). Thanks again to everyone for taking part and don't forget to bookmark your good reads to nominate for next months vote.

Post Of The Month - December '09 - The Vote

Thanks for some great nominations this month. Tim - thanks for nominating Jim Stogdill's post - I'm going to carry it forward to next month's vote as it was posted in early Jan (so just missed being included in this one). And I've carried forward a nomination for Grant McCracken from last month for the same reason. OK, so our shortlist this month is:

Social Production ...John V Willshire

Our Real Problem: The Death of the News Package ...Adam Tinworth

No Rational Content ...Faris Yakob

Some eBook industry 'leaders' are starting to sound exactly like the music industry 5 years ago ... Gerd Leonhard

Slaves of the feed – This is not the realtime we’ve been looking for ...Thomas Petersen

What's Left Without The Tools ...Amber Naslund

Life On The List - Anil Dash

Chief Culture Officer - Grant McCracken

And you can vote below:

On Listening

I love this. I love it not only because it's a great idea, well executed, but because it's important. On Christmas Day, right around the time of the Queen's speech, teenage Britain delivered its own message to the nation. It was the culmination of The Teens Speech project from Barnardo's, that has seen teenagers up and down the country given the opportunity to speak out on a whole range of issues that were important to them. Teenagers with something to say: "Our aim was to provide a glimpse into the future of our country through the candid, outspoken and heartfelt views of its next generation".

I got in touch with Andy, the planner at POKE who had been working with Barnado's on it for months, to ask him a bit more about it. The idea, he said, is to get people really thinking about complex issues:

"We wanted to give adult Britain a genuine reason to think about young people's futures; their mixed opportunities and challenges. The Teens' Speech reminds us that we should all care about future generations being empowered and able to live happy and successful lives. What better moment to have that conversation than during an end-of-year national address?"

I'm reading a number of people talking about digital distraction and information overload right now. There are more than enough reasons for us to give scant focus and attention to what we read, watch and hear. It's not always easy to take the time and effort to really listen. And I mean unbiased, uncritical, unpredjudiced listening.

In this post about the project Andy points at a TED talk by John Francis. On his twenty seventh birthday, Francis decided not to speak for one day. And because it helped him listen more than he had ever listened before, one day stretched into one week. And because he started learning more than he had ever learned before, one week stretched into one year. And one year stretched into seventeen years.  He's the man who chose to listen for seventeen years. The act of listening, says Andy, is not (necessarily) about the person you’re listening to. It’s about you. Listening is something we think we do, but rarely do properly. As John Francis says:

"Most of my adult life I had not been listening fully. I only listened long enough to determine whether the speaker's ideas matched my own. If they didn't, I would stop listening, and my mind would race ahead to compose an argument against what I believed the speaker's idea or position to be."

The final film of The Teens Speech is 17 minutes long. There's a shorter video redux of film, featuring a poem by Kate Tempest and photographs submitted to MySpace by friends of the project, which has just been posted on the site. But I urge you to take 17 minutes out for the longer version. It's worth a proper listen.

The Teens Speech - Official Premiere

The Teens' Speech | MySpace Video