There are so many ideas bouncing around in the world of AR right now. New and innovative directions for the technology - like a fresh take on business networking from Surreal Studios through to the joys of plonking AR furniture in your living room using the IKEA Place app.
But is there anything in the pipeline that’s going to make things really scale up for this nascent medium?
Something that’s going to really blow the doors off.
Well, a half-decent bet would be that once the all-consuming world of celebrity gets properly plugged in and switched on to the commercial potential, that’s when things will really start to skyrocket.
It won’t be long before celebs (and their agents) realise there is a lot of money to be made from licencing their image rights with little more effort than a signature on a (very lucrative) contract.
Digital human technology driven by AI will take care of everything else.
The future will be filled with AI driven celebrity clones in a seamless blend of the digital and the real world.
Let me paint an AR picture...
Imagine a vision of the future where you can pluck any celebrity off the digital shelf and have them appear in front of you in the real world - either on your phone or via your smart glasses.
That celeb then is your virtual AR host in a city - leading you around their favourite bars, shops and places of interest - a trot round a shopping mall punctuated by coffees at Starbucks.
All of this will (of course) be fuelled by an overarching commercial imperative. Realtime geolocation data will mean your digital companion will be able to prompt visits to the restaurant across the way for a discount in the next 20 minute window or to direct you to see a certain band play live later tonight (having scanned your Spotify library to of course to make sure the suggestion are on point.)
Effectively your digital celebrity guide can ping you around the city all day - like a game of pinball from one purchase opportunity to the next. And you’ll love it because you're a fan of the AR celeb and the itinerary will be tailored specifically to your tastes. It will also learn and adapt from your likes and dislikes along the way.
How many teen girls would be interested in having, say, a digital Kim Kardashian lead them round their “Perfect Los Angeles Day.”
Maybe your holiday on Expedia, Ebookers or AirBnB will come with the option to add a virtual AR host to accompany you to your destination and give you a guided tour.
And what about Kim herself?
Well she doesn’t even have to lift a manicured figure as her perfect avatar will be entirely generated by digital human technology from visionary companies like Cubic Motion and AI will drive her personality and interaction with her 1-2-1 audience. The technology from companies like the UK-based Synthesia can now even mimic individual voices with great accuracy (and also translate into multiple languages)
So, signing an image rights release form for a few million quid and then a % of commercial transactions driven by her avatar will seem like a no-brainer. Assuming there is a tight rein on making sure the digital double stays “on brand” and doesn’t do anything that might be at odds with the real thing. (Yea - we’re on the cusp of entering into real ‘Ashley O/Black Mirror’ territory here.).
Multiply that AR host example by all the cities in the world and all the celebrities you can think of and the commercial potential is absolutely huge! AR travel companions are just one example of how things could take off. There are countless others - from celebrity avatars keeping you on your toes at the gym to helping a classroom of kids learn a foreign language. Maybe your kid would benefit from a few training sessions from an AR Ronaldo or Messi?
Of course, the beauty of this digital fantasy world is that although it plugs into our reality it will also have the ability to take us places that we can’t ever create in the real world. Imagine a tour of Graceland by a virtual Elvis, pointing out all his favourite bits of his Memphis home. And maybe he’ll even lead you a few blocks down the road after your visit to the local ‘In and Out’ Burger to scoff down a patty and bun. A commission ker’ching for the Presley Estate, even if the King himself is spinning in his grave.
The potential is undeniably huge even though there are more than a few pitfalls too in terms of celebs potentially tarnishing their ‘personal brand’ with off-brand.
Perhaps it will take the arrival of decent AR glasses (Facebook's 'Orion' collaboration with Ray-Ban perhaps?) and the widespread penetration of 5G to really light the blue touch paper - but it’s on the way and a whole new dimension to our relationship with celebrities and how they embed themselves into our leisure time is fast approaching.
Ok. Where to next, Kim? Discounted breakfast two blocks from here, you say?