Tuesday 28 February 2012

Virtual Icons

"Virtual Icons" was published in Luxury Briefing in February 2012.


Virtual Icons
by Alexander Gallé

2012 is the year of mobile. Of course, so was 2011, and 2010, and every year since the first internet enabled phones came on the market.

But 2012 is definitely more interesting for mobile, because of the mesh this particular medium – and I am calling it a new medium – is now able to lay over reality as we experience it.

We have all seen the way citizens around the planet used their mobile phones to film and upload footage at demonstrations throughout 2011. Looking at the resulting footage on YouTube, one might even be tempted to say the filming and uploading was the action: for every tiniest bit of police interaction, hundreds of citizen-journalists raised their mobile phones to record the event.

The next step in mobile interaction is, I believe, very much the other way round: rather than sending out information, it’ll be about receiving information that completes the reality in front of you while you point your camera phone at it. The killer apps that will make all the difference will be the ones that manage to forge an intelligent connection between the two.

Games will be the leaders in the sector, defining the medium itself. It’s one thing playing a game of shoot-em-up in an imaginary 3D world, it’s something else playing it on your iPad, shooting fictional characters that appear on your screen while you run around the corridors of your own house. On your tablet, a ghost may appear sitting at your kitchen table, using the perimeter and lighting set-up of the real space as you walk around it.

Such interaction would, once and for all, enable the platform to truly become a medium in its own right, with its own, intrinsic idiosyncrasies that stimulate a user engagement of an entirely different kind.

A simple adaptation of this technology for the luxury sector would be a printed paper strap that shows the user what a particular watch might look like on his wrist: just wrap the strap around your wrist, point your phone camera at it and see a 3D file of the watch around your wrist instead. This way, online watch retailers could replicate the in-store experience of trying on a watch.

From here, it’s only a small step thinking that augmented information could be networked, searchable and shareable, enabling you the kind of interaction with reality that is normally associated with web 2.0 websites. Were you ever enchanted by the way experts on Antiques Roadshow manage to weave stories around the antiques placed in front of them, enhancing the emotional connection we have with them? If you were, then you will understand the true potential of this technology and the relevance it has to the luxury sector, a sector in which objects are always iconic, always imbued with some kind of information that reinforces our emotional connection with them.

Visit the Gallé website at www.galle.com