Because sometimes the weekends are about more than just going to the pub and watching sport (who knew?), I recently visited the Tate Modern and the exhibition, Media Networks. It showcases artists’ responses to the evolution of mass media and technology over the past 100 years.
A variety of techniques and media were presented – from posters and paintings, to physical structures of technology. These included early 20th century art reflecting the excitement generated by industrial/technological revolution, the role that art has played in advertising, to the relationship between art, consumerism and our fascination with celebrity.
An expert on modern art I am not, however there were a number of pieces in the collection that evoked questions about our interpretations of art and imagery, which resonated directly with my own work experience.
Babel, (not to be confused with the prestigious PR agency of the same name), is a large installation of radios by artist Cildo Meirles (see image). Each radio is tuned into a different station at a low volume, creating a buzz of incomprehensible music and chatter. The sculpture is meant to be a representation of the biblical Tower of Babel, which, as the story goes, was tall enough to reach heaven, offending God and causing him to make the tower’s builders speak in different languages.
To me, Babel is a reflection on the overwhelming amount of competing opinion across the media, which often makes it difficult to gain clarity. Media outlets often take a different perspective on the news, and left and right-wing media today are renowned for their conflicting interpretation of politics and current affairs. Many of us will naturally tune in to the publications that resonate with our own beliefs, which perhaps prevents us from gaining a well-rounded and informed view on a particular news issue. At Babel, our team reads every major UK national newspaper, as well as a broad spread across other markets that our clients operate in, in order to gain balanced views on the news of the world. This enables us to weigh up the evidence of a news story or industry issue and come to our own, informed conclusions.
Photographs and other forms of imagery, such as video, are often considered the most accurate and least biased form of media available, not tainted by a particular view point. One of the rooms explores how different techniques in art affect how we respond to what we are viewing. It included a number of photographs and paintings focussed on the death of Gadaffi, produced and edited using varying artistic techniques. Some pieces focussed purely on images of Gadaffi himself, painting a rather sad image of his death. Others saw him surrounded by cops and rebel fighters, using darker colours, evoking a more villainous image of the dictator.
It is important that imagery in the media remains unblemished by artistic licence, in order to provide a true representation to the viewer. However, artistic techniques for film and photography – whether zooming, cropping or using different colours – can greatly impact our view of an event. Images of Trump’s inauguration, for example, are said to have been cropped to remove empty space and make the audience look larger. The exhibition was a reminder of the need to constantly question the imagery that we are presented with by the media to gain a clear sense of the source’s reliability and objectives.
Of course, somebody else’s views of what the exhibition was trying to convey could be very different to mine – but that’s my point entirely.
In June 2016, CTIA partnered with the GSMA with the objective of bringing more diversity to the US’s largest telecoms trade show. And so, ‘GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas’ – otherwise known as MWC Americas – debuted in September last year, replacing CTIA’s annual Super Mobility event.
We are now under six weeks away from the second MWC Americas, which takes place from 7th to 9th September. The location has moved from the United States’ home of technology, San Francisco, to Los Angeles, ‘the entertainment capital of the world’, so says the GSMA. LA’s profile as a tech hub has been bolstered in recent years by a number of successful start-ups choosing to set up shop there, including Tinder, SpaceX and Scopey. MWC Americas will only help to enhance the city’s reputation as a breeding ground for tech start-ups and a dynamic new home for established businesses.
MWC Americas is shifting its focus this year to the ‘intersection of mobile with content, entertainment and media,’ which resonates with the show’s new location. This is unsurprising given the current level of M&A activity among telecoms and media companies. AT&T and Time Warner’s agreed merger and Comcast’s proposed bid to take over Sky suggest we’re heading towards a new era in which mobile devices dominate video content consumption. MWC Americas is the perfect platform for discussion around what this new and exciting future will look like.
The slogan for this year’s event is ‘Imagine a better future’, which indicates a focus on innovations of tomorrow as well as those that are benefiting us today. Contrary to what its name suggests, MWC Americas is not strictly a wireless ‘mobile’ technology event, and instead aims to demonstrate the impact of mobile on business, industry and the personal lives of consumers.
Over 1,000 companies and 200 speakers from around the globe will showcase how connected technology is impacting a huge range of sectors such as automotive, healthcare, transport and logistics. We’ll see new innovations and use cases for 5G technology, as the industry gears up to the commercialisation of the new radio standard. We can also expect to hear about new developments in artificial intelligence, the IoT, edge computing, smart cities and connected vehicles, among others.
MWC Americas’ broad scope is indicative of the size of the mobile ecosystem. This situation does, however, create a double edge sword for companies operating in the space. With such a broad range of companies speaking and exhibiting, each must ensure its messages are clear, interesting, unique, and targeted, cutting through the noise of others at the show and reaching relevant influencers.
Amdocs is among the clients Babel is representing at MWC Americas year. Amdocs is already sowing seeds ahead of the event, demonstrating that it can be a vital partner for CSPs and media companies as they converge and look to develop new video content offerings. Only this week it announced that Vubiquity, an Amdocs company, has been selected by Verizon to provide the processing and packaging of the operator’s video on-demand and Pay Per View portfolio. Relevant customer wins such as this, supplemented by a strong thought leadership campaign, can place a company on the radar of those that matter, before, during and after major events.
This is the perfect time for other companies to take a similar approach and develop communications strategies that will give them a head start on their competitors, which are also vying for share of voice. At Babel, we have a huge amount of experience in all things mobile, events like MWC Americas are our bread and butter, and we’re always ready to help companies develop new narratives by providing PR services that ensures exposure to the right audiences.
The telecoms event season is upon us again. More telecoms you say? It’s barely been 11 weeks since Mobile World Congress! Yet May and June will see a number of key telecoms events such as International Telecoms Week, Digital Transformation World and 5G World.
For many telecoms companies, smaller events, which deliver a focussed agenda, can offer a more suitable environment for doing business, compared to the huge scope of events like MWC and CES. At larger shows, the voices of some companies can get drowned out by major announcements from handset manufacturers, operators and OTT players. In comparison, a niche set of exhibitors, keynotes and networking sessions can suit companies that want to demonstrate their value to a specific audience within the industry.
ITW took place this week, with the global wholesale telecoms industry gathering in Chicago to discuss the impact of the IoT on carrier networks. Many carriers are still trying to understand how they can support the IoT from the front- and back-end of their networks; businesses meanwhile are looking for ways to monetise big data generated by the IoT.
BICS, a global provider of wholesale carrier services and a long-term Babel client, announced at the show that eight more operators had signed up to a code of conduct to combat fraud in the industry, adding to 10 that have already agreed to it. The code includes a commitment to share information regarding fraudulent traffic flows with peers; a great sign of the industry collaborating for the good of the whole.
TM Forum Live has this year aptly changed its name to Digital Transformation World, and is taking place next week in Nice, France. The event now reflects the sweeping changes within telecoms as operators move to more open and flexible architectures. Whilst historically catering for companies that have their roots in core OSS and BSS, the event now incorporates those specialising in artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain, NFV and 5G.
Amdocs, a company pioneering the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), will be at the show, voicing its opinions on a range of issues from cloud and NFV to digital transformation and AI. Amdocs will be hosting a breakfast briefing to discuss how an initiative focussed on how AI can empower business assurance. Breakfast briefings such as this are a great way of engaging with key influencers – customers, partners, the media and analysts – outside of show hours.
Finally, as we move into June, Informa’s 5G World will open in London. The event, formerly LTE World, aims to tackle the migration from LTE to 5G, focussing on how networks, standards and use cases are evolving as we approach the commercialisation of the communications standard.
5G is the most disruptive technology in telecoms right now. Subsequently, there’s large number of stakeholders in the telecoms industry – including operators, tech vendors and government bodies – that are jumping on the bandwagon and trying to claim a leadership position in the technology.
Babel is working with both VIAVI and NETSCOUT, which are attending 5G World next month. Over the past could of years, we have helped define their 5G messages, developing compelling arguments on how their solutions and services fit into the 5G ecosystem, and building strong narratives on how the technology will evolve.
Of course, a similar approach has been taken with all of our clients attending events throughout year. We have worked closely with them to develop nuanced messages for the audiences attending the shows, and often hear how PR opportunities surrounding events have helped drive leads. Whilst not every event has the scope of MWC, they nevertheless all require laser-focussed messages in order to break through to prospective and retained customers, as well as the media and analysts.
By developing news stories, articles and securing inclusion in features, we are ensuring that clients and their messaging are synonymous with key industry trends and technologies. Other businesses must take the same initiative or risk being left in the wake of other, more organised and proactive companies, before the conversation moves on to the next big industry issue.
Science fiction films tend to paint a pretty bleak picture of how the introduction of robots will result in apocalyptic scenarios, with robots taking over. Whilst it’s hard to speculate what robots could do in decades to come, for the foreseeable future it’s safe to say that if a robot utters the words “I’ll be back”, it’ll more likely be in relation to its work in a business’ ‘back’ office, rather than a robot Armageddon.
I’m referring specifically here to the introduction of a technology called Robotics Process Automation (RPA), which involves the use of software bots to automate back and front-end business tasks. RPA uses deep learning technology to generate algorithms that teach software how to follow rules-based human tasks. In other words, it can do repetitive drop-and-drag tasks in the office that humans don’t enjoy doing and is more efficient for a robot to do.
RPA is designed to create an environment where employees aren’t overwhelmed with admin tasks and can focus on decision making and creative tasks. Meanwhile, the software robots are able to perform tasks at a fraction of the time it would take a human, whilst being able to catch any errors and discrepancies.
This technology isn’t a scientific hypothesis, it’s already being used by major brands, such as Lloyds and BMW. According to research from Deloitte, after applying RPA to 14 core processes, a business process outsourcing provider achieved 30 percent cost savings per process, while improving service quality and accuracy.
The inner geek in me finds this technology pretty cool – and it’s not just the notion that I’ll no longer have to do any admin or reporting – it’s because it has the potential to streamline the way businesses operate, on a massive scale. Learning about the technology over the past month or so has got me thinking about how it could automate tasks in PR. Here’s a few examples of how it could streamline some of the every-day tasks in the comms world:
- Building coverage reports: developing coverage reports, which include details such as URL links, UVPM figures, images, message pull through and sentiment, is a timely task but a crucial necessity for enabling companies to track impactful mentions of their business. Building these reports could be streamlined with introduction of RPA, aggregating all of the necessary information for each piece of coverage in the blink of an eye.
- Developing targeted new business lists: building targeted new business pitch lists is a task that offers a high amount of reward when approached with the time it deserves. But time is a key factor here, something that many of us in PR have little of. RPA technology could automate the creation of targeted media lists, pulling together a list of prospective targets, for a specific event or technology, enabling us to focus on doing the outbound communications.
- Helping to create targeted media lists: a similar approach to the above could also be applied to creating media lists for announcements, issues jumps and other media relations activities. RPA could help identify journalists that have written about an issue in the past and automatically build a list of the journalists covering a topic (a task which we have to do every day but does take time).
- Accounting: as is the case in any business, accounting in the PR industry requires complete precision. PR agencies typically deal with a large volume of companies with varying budgets, so bookkeeping can be a challenge. It is important that comprehensive records of payment terms are stored and that invoices are paid efficiently to keep the books balanced. RPA could automate this accounting process, tracking when invoices are due and any discrepancies in payments.
Of course, the bread and butter of PR, such as client and media relations and content writing, will still be left in our very capable human hands. There are simply some things that robots could not do as well as us mere mortals.
Already working with companies in the RPA space, Babel is well positioned to understand the value of the technology for almost any vertical market. It’s an exciting space that we will be watching intently.
The title of ‘smartest city’ is hotly contended and much disputed. Digitalisation, energy-efficiency, cost-savings, connected infrastructure, as well as better public transport, services, and quality of life for residents: the smart city model promises a lot. It’s no wonder then, that this topic dominated much conversation – and a lot of hall space – at Mobile World Congress.
As reported by Babel’s Ian, the ‘smart cities’ category represented the third largest segment of exhibitors at this year’s show. This was topped only by the number of companies operating in IoT/M2M and cloud services.
First up, Cobham Wireless has been demonstrating how its intelligent digital distributed antenna system (idDAS) can be used to deliver high capacity coverage for smart cities. The solution can shift capacity to where it’s needed at a certain time of day, for instance in a metro during commuting hours, and in a stadium during the day for a sporting/music event. This model has been proven in Berlin and could offer a template for connecting other major cities.
Ericsson had a whole pavilion at MWC dedicated to its smart city play. The company sees NB-IoT and CAT-M as the underlying technologies for connecting cities, with transport and logistics in particular set to benefit from developments in smart infrastructure. Ericsson has already provided traffic management automation for the city of Dallas, and – along with the likes of Nokia and Huawei – will likely roll out similar projects in the years to come.
Moving from a multinational with roots in Sweden, to one just across the border in Finland; Nokia used MWC to showcase IoT for Smart Cities and Sensing as a Service. The latter provides real-time data analytics to operators and is powered by blockchain, with the aim of helping operators generate revenue from the data gathered from connected city infrastructure.
Operators, businesses, governments, service providers and more are already faced with huge volumes of data, and connecting more of our environment to the IoT will add significantly to this. It was interesting to see these challenges brought to light at the show – and to see Nokia offering a potential solution.
It’s not just the Nordic countries that are pioneering smart city technology. We also heard about an interesting partnership between two parties on opposite sides of the globe; British chip maker Arm Holdings, and government officials in Saudi Arabia. According to reports, the Cambridge-based company, which was acquired by Softbank in 2016, has been in talks regarding the use of its chips to enable and support infrastructure in Neom.
Never heard of Neom? Us neither! Announced only last year and due for completion in 2025, Neom takes the concept of smart city to the extreme. Connecting Saudi, Egypt and Jordan, the $500 billion megacity will be built on over 10,000sqm of land, will be energy-efficient and no doubt feature futuristic technologies.
We’ll end on a piece of MWC news focussed on somewhere slightly closer to home. The city of Bristol scooped the Judges Choice Smart City Awards at the GLOMOs, MWC’s annual prize-giving ceremony. According to judges, the project resulted in ‘a strong IoT network test bed and a city operations centre that is beginning to make a real impact on broader city policy.’ Bristol is actually smarter than London, according to Huawei’s latest UK Smart Cities Index – I’ll leave that as a point for discussion between West Country and London-based readers!
The idea of smart cities is exciting. However, MWC also made us think about how we can construct and sustain smart city concepts, as well as ensure both citizens and stakeholders benefit now, and in our automated, interactive, drone-filled future habitats!
Visiting another country is all about immersing yourself in the culture and customs, and Mobile World Congress this year had a similarly immersive theme.
It’s no longer enough to simply use technology and devices. Instead, manufacturers, brands and retailers have been developing products which allow users to experience technology. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) were all a reality at the show this year, so on the second day I sought out news from the field, in the Fira.
Orange demoed the results of a 5G network it has set up especially for MWC 2018, allowing visitors to embark on a VR experience. They simply have to put on a VR headset and are instantly ‘transported’ to a cable car with a 360-degree of Barcelona’s port – the location of the city’s real cable car. The 5G network supports super-fast download and upload speeds, allowing for the streaming of 4K and 8K video.
From the networks to the hardware; US company Vuzix is also at the show with its augmented reality glasses. The smart glasses, which feature Amazon Alexa, allow the wearer to see the visuals of their smartphone or computer screen, displayed in real-time on the glass lenses, giving a new definition to the term ‘hands-free’. Whether consumers will want to walk around wearing the glasses – or whether they’ll pose a safety hazard on busy city streets – remains to be seen.
Next, we can’t talk about immersive technology (or, in fact, any technology) without a mention of Google. The company has used MWC to launch version 1.0 of its ARCore framework, which transforms the humble smartphone into an AR-enabled tool capable of running augmented reality applications.
Brands like Columbia Pictures, JD.com and Porsche have partnered with Google for the launch, meaning the brand’s fans can visualise to-scale objects in real-world settings, via their smartphone camera. This brings the shopping experience even closer to the consumer (literally, into their home), and no doubt other retailers will follow suit.
Immersive reality isn’t just available on small screens. Telefónica presented its TV Virtual Experience at MWC, which harnesses virtual reality to immerse the viewer in 3D content via its Movistar+ pay-TV platform. The experience is interactive, and can be shared with other users of the app who appear as avatars in a virtual setting. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get to the Telefónica stand, but it reportedly featured a private virtual room and public viewing room with a 192-inch screen, where viewers could interact with 3D objects.
Only time will tell whether these gadgets and solutions are able to break out of the realms of novelty, and provide relevant experiences and practical solutions in reality.
Image: Hot air balloon at Vive’s booth at MWC, showcasing Janimation’s virtual reality technology
Do we need to call time on the Fourth Estate? Exactly what do we want from the media and journalists?
Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of British society. As long ago as 1787, Edmund Burke (an MP and a brilliant political theorist) told Parliament that ‘a Fourth Estate’ is crucial. He was talking about the absolute independence of the media from politics. Since then, it’s a notion we have come back to time and time again. Media freedom, we say, is not just a laudable aim – it’s something we should all defend.
Yet, more and more, journalism and politics are entwined, and the independent nature of our media is questioned. The same is true across the pond in the US, where some commentators have described the media as a ‘fourth branch’ of government – inseparable from the decisions and actions of the establishment.
It’s certainly true that trust in media is eroding. Research by Reuters revealed that only 43% of the UK public agree that news can be trusted, a 7% decline from 2016. The levels of trust in media varies widely from country to country, falling to a worrying 23% in South Korea,
Of course there have been attempts to counteract this. Wikitribune has attempted to build a network where journalists and commentators work side by side, and community media sources more generally are growing in popularity. But so far, none of them have met the mark – and the mainstream media is still far and away our main source of news.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least a silver lining in the black cloud of fake news. In the US, Reuters recorded an increase in trust in professional journalism, citing the public concern around fake news during the presidential election as contributing factor to this shift. There also appears to be a growing wariness around social media as a key source of accurate news. On a global level, only a quarter of respondents think social media does a good job in separating fact from fiction, compared to 40% for the news media.
The future of trusted, unbiased, reporting may lie in the hands of individual journalists. Whether it’s the mainstream media, or individual social accounts, we must recognise and scrutinise authors, separating real credible journalism from politically-influenced, self-serving versions of ‘truth’.
It’s up to all of us to facilitate this voice, and to use our own communities – our social platforms perhaps most predominantly – to share the news stories we trust, and to call out those that we don’t.
Only 18 days until Christmas (woohoo!) and for many of us this means just two weeks left of work. But come January 3rd we’ll be staring down the barrel of MWC 2018. Hopefully you will have read and acted upon my recent post on the MWC planning tips and ‘must-dos’ for October, November and December, placing you in a strong position to achieve your PR goals.
Now is the time to plan for the New Year, so here’s part II of my mini-series offering advice to exhibitors and attendees on how to prep for MWC from January onward.
Journalists are returning to work post-Christmas. Admittedly, in the first week back they’ll unlikely delight at being at the receiving end of a call from a PR trying to schedule a client into their MWC calendar.
Analysts, however, do start booking in meetings from early January and appreciate this communication far more than last-minute contact weeks before the show. Ensure your PR team is making initial email communication with relevant analysts, sharing information on main discussion points, the spokespeople available and any demonstrations you’re presenting at MWC.
Pre-show media awareness is critical to at- and post-show success. Press activity should be ramped up, and buzz created about your company before MWC to ensure that attendees have heard your company’s messaging and want rather than have to see you during the show.
Inclusion in pre-MWC features is essential, positioning your company firmly on the Mobile World Congress map. This is also an opportunity to test-drive the messaging developed in November, before your leadership team speaks to media, analysts and prospective customers come February.
Now is the time to start contacting journalists in earnest, and whilst you will get push-back from some, providing snappy, interesting insight into your company and demos will ensure you’re top of their list when it comes to booking in meetings. Many emails will get lost amongst the hundreds that journalists will receive, so ensure you PR team is also speaking to them on the phone when possible.
You should also look to finalise an evening itinerary for your team, book restaurants, and share diaries. Everyone in your team should be on the same page when it comes to messaging, and in the same place when it comes to attending industry and social events. Work with your PR team to ensure that you have developed messaging that will resonate with the media and analyst communities, and which also supports the corporate objectives of your business.
Central to your plans should be the annual Babel Boat Party! Tapas, wine, and sea air are the perfect antidote to a long day at the Fira, so make sure you’ve RSVP-ed to guarantee your place aboard the good ship Babel.
With just weeks to go, February should predominantly be spent confirming and concluding, rather than considering and arranging. The exception here is press releases. Messaging and announcements can easily get drowned out in at-show MWC noise, with the major players all clamouring for attention and column inches. The weeks running up to the show, in February, can be a great time to put out press releases, helping to elevate the status of your company and help secure last-minute briefings.
Spend the days leading up to the show conducting pre-show briefings, double checking all appointments, checking in for flights, and reaffirming what your company should (and, importantly, should not!) reveal during the show.
Mobile World Congress can be a powerful tool for launching or lasting in an industry which is getting more competitive, disruptive and unpredictable. By choosing the right PR agency and planning ahead, your company can at least predict show success for 2018.
In the meantime, all the best for Christmas, a prosperous New Year and a marvellous MWC!
A collective “Is it that time of year already!?” resonated around the Babel office earlier this week, as the GSMA’s MWC registration email landed in our inboxes. Yet preparation for the annual Mobile World Congress has already begun in earnest here. The Babel team has been busy laying the groundwork, before a contingent flies out to Barcelona to support our clients and enjoy our twelfth year at the show.
If you’re exhibiting at MWC, no doubt you’ll be planning stand layout, booking flights and accommodation (if you haven’t already) and then attempting to work out how to finance the rest of the year! So, what next? MWC is the perfect opportunity to elevate your company and messaging, build relationships (and leads) and set the tone for the rest of the year, and if you’re planning to make a splash at the show, then you need to start planning for that eventuality right now.
Ahead of picking up the phone in the New Year to journalists with the age old question ‘are you going to MWC?’ here’s what should be happening in the next couple of months.
If you didn’t get the hoped-for coverage and briefings around MWC last year, it’s time to reconsider your approach. If you haven’t got a PR team in place, you need to move quickly to find one, ensuring that you have enough time to work with them to prepare for the show. Choose an agency wisely: history and knowledge of MWC and the industry are a given, but proven media and analyst contacts, results-driven strategies, and experience working with everyone from start-ups to corporate giants, are also important factors. A PR team should offer your company a clear roadmap of MWC activity that begins now and carries on even after you’ve caught the last taxi leaving the Fira.
Develop clear messaging for the show. Many journalists and analysts have spent years traipsing from stand to stand, only to find themselves bewildered by jargon and technical language at the expense of a necessary and sometimes ground-breaking proposition. The story behind a new product or solution can sometimes get lost in a soup of acronyms. Yes, cloud, 5G, IoT (and LTE) will be big issues at the show but in order to get noticed companies need to sharpen their messaging to clarify exactly where their proposition sits in the grand scheme of things.
The next two months provide the opportunity to refine messaging and positioning. Work on the detail but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, ensure content and messaging are accessible to the press and other key influencers. Make sure that press releases and other collateral are able to communicate the strategic importance of your product portfolio to the carriers, equipment manufacturers, consumers or whoever your target audience happens to be. A good PR agency will work closely with you to develop clear and precise messaging, they may even challenge you on it. It’s always useful to get a third party perspective on your branding and communications, its healthy to exchange ideas, particularly if you’re working on a new concept that you want to unveil at MWC. It’s better to go through that meticulous process now rather than weeks before the show.
Look out for our next MWC blog in a few weeks’ time when we look at how companies can hit the ground running in January to ramp up PR and coverage in the lead-up to the show.
This time a year ago, millions of people had turned into walking, phone-watching zombies. Night of the Living Dead it was not – instead Pokémon Go was at the peak of its popularity, with approximately 380 million active users worldwide. ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ was the objective of people everywhere you looked, with users roaming the streets with their eyes glued to their phones, trying to bag a Bulbasaur and get a peek of Pikachu.
Was it worth the hysteria? In my opinion, I found the game riddled with flaws – it was often slow, full of bugs and glitches, and had an amazing ability to decimate mobile phone battery life. Did I ever buy into it? Nah…
…well, maybe for a few days.
OK, admittedly the game was addictive and encouraged both a social and competitive connection between users. It’s easy to appreciate how unique it was on launch. Crucially, it introduced augmented reality (AR) to mainstream gaming, a technological concept that delivers a digital, holographic layer over the real world. Whilst AR had certainly been done before, this instance differed as the game encouraged people to go out and explore the real world through a looking glass that could transform familiar places – your home, street, office – into a new world filled with Pokémon.
So, with a year on from the launch of Pokémon Go, how has AR developed?
Certainly the popularity of Pokémon Go has waned. I no longer have any friends playing it; and I don’t see anyone wandering around the streets, like headless chickens, playing it. However, usage stats tell a slightly different story, suggesting the game is far from dead. In April, Niantic, the company that made Pokémon Go, announced that 65 million people were playing the game each month, with 20% of them playing the game every day. Whilst these numbers are drastically lower than what the game achieved during its peak, there is clearly still a huge demand for it – anything over 50 million users is no small feat.
We are yet to see another company that has been able to replicate the success of Pokémon Go, and leverage augmented reality to develop a truly unique experience for consumers.
Virtual reality on the other hand, a comparable technology, has seen a rise in consumer awareness and popularity in the gaming world. It is different to AR in that it enables users to be transported to a completely fabricated reality, which has almost no connection to the real world itself. HTC and Sony have both launched virtual reality headsets – HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR – the latter of which has sold over one million devices despite its hefty price tag of around £350.
Out of the two, augmented reality is projected to be the more successful, with AR revenue at $83.5 billion, which is $58 billion more than VR revenue. It is therefore not completely surprising that Microsoft has focused on augmented reality, with the launch of its smart glasses Hololens, as it believes that the technology offers a broader set of opportunities for the future.
Microsoft now claims that “mixed reality” is the next generational progression for AR. By delivering advanced holographic technology for human computer interaction, the innovation takes the best bits of both AR and VR. Microsoft is introducing advanced applications that go beyond gaming and entertainment, which it says will revolutionise business. For example, engineers could view live data and images whilst working, allowing greater accuracy, increased efficiency and improved productivity.
It is in the business world where augmented reality seems to have the most commercial potential. At MWC in 2016, Babel worked with Epson to launch the third generation of its augmented reality headset, the Moverio BT-300. The huge volume of media briefings and attendance at the launch event – from publications such as BBC, Forbes and CNET – demonstrated that the world was eager to learn more about AR’s applications in the business world. Epson was able to demonstrate how it could be used to enhance business across a range of industries, from tourism to automotive and retail.
With the likes of Intel, Microsoft and Acer hot on the heels of Epson’s innovations in this area, it will be interesting to see what unique use cases are developed for AR in the near future. In the meantime, we will have to wait patiently to see what the next ground-breaking consumer AR app or device is, that could potentially outlast the craze of Pokémon Go.