Plus other takeaways from an AR meetup
During the winter I’ve been head down working on book two of the high-tech thriller trilogy I’m writing (stay tuned for an announcement in March), so I haven’t been venturing out as much. But last night I attended AWE Nite SF, the largest augmented reality meetup in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nearly 400 people (including smartie techie friends Shel Israel and Nicole Lazzaro) jammed the Microsoft Reactor offices in SoMa for free pizza, beer and three demos from top-tier AR startups.
I won’t blog the entire event (does anyone do that anymore in the age of Twitter and Instagram?), but there were some notable takeaways worth sharing. I’ll start with how to download your own pet dinosaur to your iPhone or Android phone. Start by having your phone read this QR code (these days you don’t need a QR reader, it’s embedded in your phone’s Camera). Moments later you’ll have a little purple dino hopping around on your desk, kitchen table, or wherever you’d like to position it.
Your dino comes courtesy of 8th Wall (tagline: instant augmented reality for any website). Lead software engineer Dat Chu demoed the product, which the cstartup describes as the first AR solution of its kind for mobile web browsers.
And that was the theme of the evening: AR Web — augmented reality for the Web. It’s evolved into more than a idea or a few one-off demos. It looks like it’s becoming a trend, and one that brands need to start paying attention to, though it’s still a year or two away from maturation.
Do you prefer superheroes to dinosaurs? Check out the lithe Spider-Man character from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Just scan the QR code to the right and you’ll download the action hero to your phone. He’ll position himself on any object (like my mouse, above), desktop, next to your spouse or significant other or — why not? — right on your lap.
Danny Parks, senior director of technology, gave a short demo on behalf of Trigger AR, The Mixed Reality Agency. They put together the Spider-Man download for Sony Pictures in less than four weeks. Some of their other clients include the NFL, NBA, MLS, PGA, Adidas, Nike and Reebok.
“We’ve gotten to the point where it’s not so hard to have Web AR on your website,” Parks said. “No app download required.”
That bodes well for visually oriented sites. I asked Parks to give a business use case of how a travel site like Expedia, Priceline or Trip Advisor might use Web AR in a couple of years. He didn’t miss a beat in replying: “If you’re Priceline and you’ve got a resort in Cabo that you want to advertise, instead of embedding a Google Street View you can pop a model of that beach on the user’s desk. He can look at it from different angles and see the wind surfing facility and the price for different rooms and book right there.”
— Danny Parks, Trigger AR
The Web is everywhere, Parks pointed out, and there’s a new movement afoot to get all modern Web browsers to adopt the new AR standards so that everyone can have easy access to AR-capable websites that can do the magic-like tricks we saw demoed here tonight.
Tricia Katz, evangelist, developer relations, for Magic Leap also demoed via Skype so attendees could hear the latest about the most hyped AR/VR startup in history. A long line formed out of the demo room so folks could get a chance to check out their latest headset, the Magic Leap One mixed reality headset (pictured below).
One final interesting factoid. Organizer/emcee Tom Emrich spotted this Twitter poll from Jesse Damiani, editor at large at VRScout, about terminology in the evolving space and got these results from 370 people who responded:
- 48% are fine with sticking with AR/VR
- 36% XR (for mixed reality)
- 16% Other
JD Lasica is a startup founder, thriller author and journalist with a special interest in VR, AR and AI. Follow him on Twitter at