Consumer Virtual Reality – State of the Market report

The Consumer Virtual Reality sector is gaining momentum and 2014 will be the year we see the first devices made available to the public. Of course, VR is a technology that has been around for a little while but more within the enterprise and military sectors. With gaming companies looking for the next competitive edge and other newer companies raising funding to open up the consumer market, expect a lot of activity in the Consumer Virtual Reality Device sector this year.

And it’s not just the devices (hardware) that will enter the market. An emerging ecosystem of supporting companies – game developers, body/motion tracking start-ups and last but not least players will be diving into the consumer VR space.

We’re been hard at work for a while now gathering our thoughts and insight into consumer VR and our new report: Consumer Virtual Reality – the State of the Market is now available to order.

The report is aimed at C-level execs, marketers and IP owners looking to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the consumer virtual reality market and lays-out the key fundamentals of the space.

The report contains the following sections: Continue reading “Consumer Virtual Reality – State of the Market report” »

Seeing through Google Goggles

In December 2oo9 Google announced Google Goggles, an Android app that allowed visual search from a smartphone. In essence this tied together geo-location and ‘light’ image recognition to identify landmarks (for example) or alternatively read a barcode. As Google usually does, Google Goggles was marked as a ‘Labs’ product meaning work in progress. Here’s a video explaining this launch relating to the app expansion over to the iPhone.

…And people got very excited, primarily due to the reference to this app being Google’s first foray into Augmented Reality. Putting two and two together, analysts and commentators were keen to point that that this was a natural move for Google because this type of app or device would allow the layering of local, geo-fed data into a real-time view.

More recently (last week in fact) Google ramped up the Goggle PR machine. CEO Larry Page wore the next evolution of the smartphone app, namely a pair of glasses during his speech at the annual Google Zeitgeist event in London. This new wearable version of Goggle is code-named Project Glasses and comes with GPS and a camera. And here’s a video of that.

And then Google went a step further and pushed out a video of Project Glasses recording video.  Which of course is making people slightly more excited.


This post isn’t an exploration of the application of AR. Instead, it’s an exploration into what Google could actually be planning longer term with a Google Goggles type application. And rest assured it’s not about delivering contextual advertising. It’s about Life-Logging.

Let’s start by taking a look at the Metaverse Roadmap to see how Life-Logging (and AR) fit into the ‘bigger picture’. Here at KZero towers you know we’re all about virtual worlds but we’re also all about how virtual worlds fit into a longer term and wider architecture. The Metaverse Roadmap framework does a brilliant job at presenting this picture.

Virtual worlds, as shown in the diagram are ‘Intimate Simulations’, meaning you experience a virtual world usually on your own in a private setting (i.e. via a lap/desk top) and what you experience is a Simulated (i.e. created) environment. And hey, 1.7bn cumulative registered accounts ain’t bad so clearly people love spending time in virtual worlds.

Mirror worlds are the sisters to virtual worlds and whilst still being Simulations, they are External as opposed to Intimate, meaning they reflect (or mirror) the real-world – they’re based on real-world places. Tourism and time-travel are two interesting uses for mirror worlds.

Let’s get more to the point.

Augmented Reality fits into the Metaverse Roadmap as being the polar opposite to virtual worlds. The experience is External as opposed to Intimate. Meaning you use AR away from the ‘desktop’ and on the streets, so to speak. And rather than being a simulated environment, the experience is one of Augmentation, i.e. data (information) is added to (augmented) into your field of view. Pretty cool and of course set to be a multi-billion Dollar industry pretty soon.

And leaves us with Lifelogging. This is the sector that to date has garnered virtually zero coverage. This is the segment which I believe is THE long term play for Google, with Google Goggles, or Project Glasses, or whatever you want to call it, being front and centre of the strategy. Continue reading “Seeing through Google Goggles” »

Augmented Reality Brand Tracking

Here’s an update to our presentation showing the use of augmented reality by brands and companies.

Google StreetView and advertising in virtual worlds: Spark 100 Podcast

Screen shot 2010-01-23 at 06.53.08Here’s a Spark 100 podcast from CBC Radio in Toronto.

I’m discussing (towards the end) the recent Google StreetView patent relating to ad overlays and the implications of real/virtual world advertising.

Augmented Reality brand tracking presentation

Following on from our first post tracking brands using AR, this is an on-going presentation we’ll update each month. We’ve got 2009 pretty much covered and activity is now broken down by major sector, with the Automobile, Apparel, Media/Entertainment and Food/Drink categories broken-out specifically. Here’s the presentation.

AR + VW = Latest Adidas campaign

As our augmented reality brand tracking shows, Adidas has been an early adoper of marker-based initiatives. There first foray into this field was early 2008 with a simple shoe rendering app, shown below (bottom of the article). This was followed-up with their ‘Every team needs a spark’ campaign earlier this year (video also below).

adidas-augmented-realityThis time around they’ve juiced up the creativity a little and laid out a virtual world, activated by a marker on the sneaker tongues of a new line of shoes launched this February.

From Wired:

“The foundation of augmented reality lies in adding a layer to the real world,” says Chris Barbour, head of digital marketing for Adidas Originals. “That’s what we have done. We have taken a real world item and added a fantastic virtual world on top of that”

All users have to do is go to the Adidas site and hold up their sneaker, which has a code embedded in its tongue, in front of their computer webcam. A virtual world then pops out in front of them and they can navigate it using their sneaker as a controller.

“We are not trying to mimic a real-world look, we have a more stylized, pop-up book creative approach,” says Barbour. “The neighborhood is displayed on a two dimensional computer screen, but you can use your shoe to control the angle and depth of view and zoom in and out, giving a 3-D sense of perspective.” Continue reading “AR + VW = Latest Adidas campaign” »

Automobiles and Augmented Reality. Too fast too curious?

Car makers have led the way in terms of adopting new marketing channels. First came virtual worlds (with both official and unofficial cars mainly in Second Life) and now it’s the turn of augmented reality and some have been doing it for a little while. Here’s a video round-up to complement the Brand Tracking.

Continue reading “Automobiles and Augmented Reality. Too fast too curious?” »

Tracking brands in Augmented Reality

Back in the day (well, 2007), we used to track brands entering Second Life (and a few other worlds) on a timeline basis vs the SL registered user base. You can see some few, for the Retail, Technology, Media, Automobile and Tourism sectors.

Since those ‘heady days’ we’ve seen companies shift over to a wide range of other virtual worlds and we now track VW brand marketing in this presentation. Continuing this theme, we’ve just released a similar chart, this time monitoring brands dipping their toes into augmented reality. Efforts to date are obviously all marker-based.

And, whilst those in the know are all waiting for markerless AR, it’s interesting to see how brands (and their agencies) attempt to place their products and services into this new platform. Comparing these efforts to the largely ineffective campaigns in Second Life highlights a key creative difference. The vast majority of brand efforts in SL made the key mistake of attempting to think spatially (because it’s inside a virtual w0rld) rather than concentrate on values (both brand and product). This resulted in over 150 brands thinking they had to have a company HQ – a building built.

Even given the limitations of marker-based AR, it’s encouraging to see a little more creativity being used in these early marketing attempts. The graph below shows when brands first launched their campaigns, compared against a Google Trends line for the search term ‘Augmented Reality‘.

ar brand tracking.001

Automobile brands once again (as they did with SL marketing) appear to be leading the pack in terms of adopting AR into their marketing arsenals, followed by media/entertainment companies and then food and drink.

This last category always struggled with virtual world marketing – not surprisingly because they are two things avatars do not need, in a basic sense.

As we move into 2010, expect the buzz around AR (and the search volumes) to grow rapidly, with brands not far behind. We’ll be breaking this chart out by sector in the new year.

KZero services:


Business Planning


Product Development

More marker-based AR: UE(AR)FA Champions League


KZero services:


Business Planning


Product Development

At the Dawn of the Augmented Reality Industry

Via Wired.

Bruce Sterling delivers a passionate (non-powerpoint) presentation explaining what makes him excited about Augmented Reality. I’m inclined to agree.

Video: Bruce Sterling’s Keynote – At the Dawn of the Augmented Reality Industry from Maarten Lens-FitzGerald on Vimeo.

Street-based and markerless

It’s a demo designed to visualise how markerless AR overlays meaningful information into personal surroundings, created by Timo Arnall.

Map/Territory from timo on Vimeo.

Levelhead – Spacial Memory Game (AR demo)

Kinda like Rubik’s Cube 2.0. This is ‘Levelhead‘, created by Julian Oliver.

levelHead v1.0, 3 cube speed-run (spoiler!) from Julian Oliver on Vimeo.

Linking Socnets with facial recognition

This is a great example of first stage AR by Swedish company TAT (these guys might need to change their name for the UK market), utilising already-existing socnet data (our business our personal lives managed online), with facial regcognition. The result – a great demo for AR. This is one of the great things about AR – it’s visual and easily understood. Kinda makes you wonder why people are getting so excited about markers….

Food for Thought: AR demo hits the shelves

Here’s a simple yet effective demo relating to obtaining information about food products when you’re shopping. Called Foodtracer, it’s a final year MA project by Guiseppe Constanza from Central St. Martins college. Nice work Guiseppe!

Related: Dynamic Contextualisation

FoodTracer from gusepo on Vimeo.

FoodTracer demo from gusepo on Vimeo.

New movies and avatar interaction

There’s a couple of new movies on the scene with interesting concepts relating to avatars. The first is Gamer, based on a futuristic game show allowing people to control others. The second is Surrogates, where humans live in isolation and remotely control robot versions of themselves. It’s not a rosey view of the future but nevertheless both are interesting takes on avatar and human interaction. Here’s the trailers:

Proving the Point (Cloud mapping with Earthmine)

An interesting video of ‘Stereo’ image capture and point-cloud mapping from Earthmine. Looking it this another way, it’s an alternative solution for Mirror Worlds.

Mobile AR GPS system

The type of demo shown in the video below from Occipital is a great early example of augmented reality without markers. Kinda makes you start to think that hardware will become less and less important in the not so distant future.

USPS AR box ap

OK, it’s marker-based but the concept works. This is a shipping box sizer app for USPS.

(Cheesy one-liner about thinking inside the box).

We are ARtobots

Well, actually Autobots. This is a nice tactical app from Total Immersion using facial recognition to augment Optimus Prime onto your head. It doesn’t work with cats – we tried it. The video is below and the link to try it yourself is here.

Mobile is Dead (and it has to be brought back to life)

Robert Rice tells it how it is for augmented reality – his presentation from Mobile Monday in Amsterdam.

Augmented Reality video round-up

Star Trek


Markerless Feature Tracking


Avatar control

When augmented reality and virtual worlds collide…

…this happens

World Builder from Bruce Branit on Vimeo.

Props to Bruce Branit

Toyota levels-up (from VW’s) to AR

I like Toyota. They’ve done Second Life and also battled in WoW. Now it’s augmented reality.

AR video round-up

A nice collection of videos from Microsoft showing their views on the future of technology in 2019, which is basically centred around augmented reality (but you ain’t getting this with markers ;) ).

General overview


Continue reading “AR video round-up” »

More AR videos

Desktop Fireworks from Saqoosha on Vimeo.

Augmented reality video round-up

Minority Report and little green monsters: Augmented reality video update


Via Offworld


Augmented reality video round-up

Frosties with added calcium and adverts

The hair is inside the hat Continue reading “Augmented reality video round-up” »

Mobile devices: the red herring or the diamond in the rough?

Using mobile devices to access virtual worlds pops up every now and again on the radar. For example companies like Vollee and Sun have developed applications allowing Second Life on a phone. That’s all well and good but….

I’m just not sold on this idea and just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. On a very simple basis the screen size of a mobile phone is too small to effectively serve up a virtual world. Then you have the issue of control and UI – standard device keys are unable to offer equivalent controls. Thirdly bandwidth – there’s not enough. So, combine these three factors and I don’t think it works.

Continue reading “Mobile devices: the red herring or the diamond in the rough?” »

Superstruct – alternative reality forecasting

Created by the Institute for the Future (such a cool name), Superstruct is a MMO-type alternative reality forecasting game. The real and virtual worlds are tied together, meshed together by a narrative and sequence of events. Orders and instructions are given online but players have to execute them in the real world.

The narrative and essence of Superstruct is a series of superthreats to the world in 2019 – global viruses, energy crisis, food shortages, those types of threats.

The Q&A’s neatly sum-up what’s going down here (which is what they should be doing anyway)….

A: Superstruct is the worlds first massively multiplayer forecasting game. By playing the game, youll help us chronicle the world of 2019–and imagine how we might solve the problems we’ll face. Because this is about more than just envisioning the future. Its about making the future, inventing new ways to organize the human race and augment our collective human potential.

Q: Why should I play Superstruct?

A: Here are some of our favorite reasons: Because
youre curious about the future, because you want to make friends and
collaborators all over the planet, because you want to learn how to become a
future forecaster, and because you want to change the world.

Q: Who can play Superstruct?

Everyone! The more players, the better the collective forecast.

Q: How do I play Superstruct?

A: Superstruct is played on forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other familiar online spaces. We show you the world as it might look in 2019. You show us what its like to live there. Bring what you know and who you know, and well all figure out how to make 2019 a world we want to live in.

Q: Who is making Superstruct?

A: Superstruct is being developed by the Ten-Year Forecast team at the Institute for the Future, a not-for-profit think tank based in Palo Alto, California. Project leads include TYF director Kathi Vian, blogger and futurist Jamais Cascio, and game designer Jane McGonigal.

Q: When can I play Superstruct?

A: The game starts October 6, 2008, and it will last for six weeks. Top
Superstructure Honors will be given out by our celebrity game masters favorite
superstructures at the end of the game, on November 17.

Check it out.


The future of gaming – PS9

Hitting the shelves senses in 2020? Home might have launched by then as well ;)

AR in-car videogame

Not so good in the dark, butdefinitelyone for the kids on a long journey.


Can you see me now?

Augmented reality gaming hits the streets. For now they may be considered geeks, but they’re fit geeks. More info here.


Virtual pets on your real world desktop

Sony EyePet is a toy 2.0 application recently showcased at theLeipzig Game Conference in Germany. It’s scheduled for release towards the back-end of 2009. This is yet another example of simple AR technology (more here), this time for a younger audience. What I love about this is the simplicity of the interface – forget having to use a keyboard or mouse to engage – try your hands instead.

Thinking about these types of apps more holistically, there’s real power here in terms of bridging the adoption gap between early adopters and the early majority – as the technology gets more and more advanced, the actual uses/products/applications get simpler.

Hints of the (augmented reality) future: HP TV ads

Here’s a near complete set of the recent’ish ‘The Computer is Personal Again’ TV ads from HP. A glimpse into the potential of augmented reality.


Mark Burnett

JY Park


Jay Z

Continue reading “Hints of the (augmented reality) future: HP TV ads” »

Great (and simple) examples of Augmented Reality

In the bespoke K Zero report written for Virtual Worlds Management (for the LA and London Expo’s), we’re offering our thoughts on emerging technologies and applications in 2009. Although it’s highly unlikely to see early commericalised AR apps appearing next year, we’re now starting to see some great examples of how AR can be used and we expect early prototypes hitting the radar very shortly.

Over on the petitinvention blog, there’s exactly that – some great visuals of simple (I use that termcomparatively) AR in action. If you’re interested in AR, head over to the site, here. AR is actually quite a difficult subject to explain using words alone, and you know us, we like pictures.

HD Vision Glasses, now just $19.95

If only!

But hey, they’ve got a Euro style design. Which is nice.

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 paper 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.

Continue reading “Augmented reality and dynamic contextualisation” »

Geotagging the real-world

As seen on Google Maps…..augmented reality?

Virtual Worlds By The Numbers: Today and The Future: VW Expo 2008 (NYC)

For anyone who didn’t make the Virtual Worlds Expo event in NYC, here’s the K Zero presentation.

This presentation was part of the ‘Virtual Worlds By The Numbers: Today and The Future’ session, taking a ‘close look at the platforms currently available to marketers and content holders and goes into detail on demographics, user numbers and user behavior. Also the analysts polish their crystal balls and provide forecasts for the platforms and the industry going forward.’

I’ve taken the standard virtual worlds graph and split it into four age groups. Shown first below is the ‘up to 10 year old’ group. Neopets has the largest number of registered accounts and is also the longest established world.

What could really shake up this segment is the pending launch of Lego Universe. The applications of this world are obvious and extremely engaging. What’s of interest here is the element of content creation that could be on offer to the residents of Lego universe. Very few (possible none) of the under 10′s virtual worlds allow third tier creation (first tier: avatar, second tier: objects, third tier: environment). Allowing kids to make buildings etc could be a killer app and something we haven’t seen much of. Whether or not they engage in this activity remains to be seen, but I’d suggest it will be extremely popular.


In terms of where the growth is coming from in this age group, I think it’s in the following areas:

  1. Toy brands and franchises: Real world toy brand owners creating virtual playgrounds for their assets. Just as almost every toy has a dedicated website at present, expect to see a similar trend emerge in the virtual space.
  2. ‘Spaces to play’: Linked to the first point, creating virtual spaces for kids to play (and learn) will be popular.
  3. Relationship building: Platforms such as Neopets prove the success of teaching kids to look after ‘things’. This early type of relationship building could be a trigger to mass adoption.
  4. Virtual to real : Revenue opportunities for taking assets created in virtual worlds and bring them alive in the real. Continue reading “Virtual Worlds By The Numbers: Today and The Future: VW Expo 2008 (NYC)” »

Virtual worlds 2010 – 2015 Part Two: Live Sports sector


Crystal (foot, base, tennis, etc) ball time, focusing first on how virtual worlds and the sports sector could be in the next five to seven years.

But first, a recap on the current state of play in terms of virtual worlds and sports. In this context, this is more about real world sports augmented into virtual environments than pure MMOG’s with their own game functionality.


The sports virtual world category can be classified as ‘vertical worlds‘ (terminology created by K Zero), referring to a metaverse created towards specific genres or interests. And there’s several of these worlds already in development. For football (soccer), we have Football Superstars which is currently in closed beta with a launch date expected over the summer. Another sports world is Shot Online tailored for golf and another called Empire of Sports (in open beta), loosely based around some olympic events. Furthermore, Whyville creators Numedeon recently announced the launch of SportsBLOX, ‘the first vertical interest virtual world catering to sports fans of all types’. Hot off the press is another world, this time skateboard-based called Tech Deck Live, launching this summer.


And let’s not forget the activity taken place inside Second Life related to sports. IBM has done some interesting work alongside their technology association with the tennis grandslams, most recently with the Australian open. Other sports have also been represented in Second Life, such as Major League Baseball, the America’s Cup and the NBA.


But this is now, so what about the future?



I think the sports sector in terms of future metaverse development falls into one of three categories, namely spectator interaction for live events, spectator interaction for past events and virtual sports participation.


1. Spectator interaction for live events Continue reading “Virtual worlds 2010 – 2015 Part Two: Live Sports sector” »

The Google virtual world game plan

The Google virtual world game plan. News stories of the last few days have been numerous reports about Google launching a virtual world. Here’s a few of those headlines:

Google Testing “My World” Second Life Rival?

‘Rumors of Google’s plans to create a virtual world that rivals that of Second Life have popped up once again over the weekend. The company could now be collaborating with Arizona State University to test the 3D social network, which may be tied into Google’s current applications of Google Earth and Google

Google’s Virtual World Could Be Business Answer To Second Life

‘Google’s venture could be competitive right out of the box. That’s because My World — the expected name for the venture — won’t be starting from scratch. It will likely be cobbled together from a bunch of technologies already in existence at the company, including Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google SketchUp for 3-D modeling.’

Rumor: Google Planning Second Life Rival?

‘A few teasers have led most to conclude this must be a Google project:a major internet company – yep, that sounds like Google. Questions asking if you have a Gmail account – hmm, I doubt MSFT or Yahoo would be asking that. Google already has Google earth and 3D modeling software.’

The backbone of most of the circulating stories is the piecing together of core Google applications – Google Earth, Google Maps and Sketch-up – three apps based around the presentation of referenced spacial data plus the ability to create 3D modeling. So, on this basis it would seem like a logical step. Continue reading “The Google virtual world game plan” »