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The 101 of Augmented Reality

27 Aug 2020 by Jeremy Sweetman

By now you've heard about Augmented Reality (AR), but are still really confused about what it all means. What makes it different from VR? Are there different kinds and do I need a device, goggles, 3D glasses or...

Digital
the 101 of augmented reality jeremy sweetman

by now you've heard about augmented reality (ar), but are still really confused about what it all means. what makes it different from vr? are there different kinds and do i need a device, goggles, 3d glasses or something else to experience it? read on to have all your questions answered and to find out ar’s potential for your business.



for many the altering of reality, with holograms, interactive displays and 3d projections, is still the stuff of science-fiction. the truth is that all these things already exist and are playing an ever bigger role in our life experiences. as ar capability is being built into our devices (by default), its technology is set to dominate more of our daily lives. this ongoing advancement means delivering ar experiences to customers, prospects, employees and other stakeholders is becoming more affordable and accessible for business. and that’s exactly why you need to get your head around the basics of ar as a business opportunity.

a quick breakdown to start with.
before we explore more of the stuff within ar, it’s best we break a few things down and address some of the confusion that currently exists around what-is-what. there are typically three approaches that come under the umbrella term of extended reality (xr): 

  • ar (augmented reality)this is where your content appears over real-world views, usually in the form of digital images and sounds. often this is experienced through your smartphone. 
  • vr (virtual reality)this is where you deliver fully immersive experiences in an artificial world. typically this sort of content is delivered via headsets.
  • mr (mixed reality)this is where content combines both ar and vr elements so digital objects can interact with the real world. again, a range of specialist headsets allow for these types of engagement 

although this article is about ar, it’s important to understand the family of differing approaches this experience belongs to.

so, what is ar?
as indicated, augmented reality is the approach that expands the real world by adding layers of digital information onto it. it does not create an artificial world but enhances an existing real environment by adding digital sounds, videos and graphics to it. if you’ve ever tried to catch a pokemon, virtually move furniture around a room (via an app) or used a qr code to activate a video, sound or animation then you’ve probably already experienced ar. 

how does ar work?
this is probably more technical than most really need to know, but the short story is that ar overlays data (images, animations, videos, 3d models), via a range of devices (more on this later), to add computer effects to a real world setting. this is achieved via a combination of elements such as:

  • cameras and sensors. these collect data about a user's interactions and send it for processing. cameras on devices scan the surroundings to locate physical objects and generating 3d models. 
  • processing. ar devices act like computers, requiring a cpu, a gpu, flash memory, ram, bluetooth and/or wifi, a gps, etc. to be able to measure speed, angle, direction, orientation in space, and so on.

there are other elements, like projection and reflection, which are also core to many ar experiences but they need a more complex explanation so we’ll leave these for another time.

what types of ar are there?
the two most common ar types are marker-based or marker-less:

  • marker-based ar: this requires a special visual object and a camera to scan it. it may be anything from a printed qr code to a designed symbol or icon. the ar device uses the marker to know it needs to start the digital experience.
  • marker-less ar: can also be referred to as location-based or position-based ar, marker-less uses gps, a gyroscope, a compass, and/or an accelerometer to provide data based on a user's location. this data can determine what ar content you get in a certain location. with the widespread availability of smartphones, this type of ar can be used to produce maps or directions, nearby businesses' info or additional supporting content like words, numbers and video.

other ar types include projection-based (typically 3d projections on to a mapped out surface) and super-imposition-based (using object recognition to replace part or whole objects).

what devices are used?
many devices, from smartphones and tablets to gadgets like google glass, support ar. these generally fall into these categories:

  • mobile handheld devices (smartphones and tablets) – the most available and best fit for ar mobile apps, across gaming, entertainment, business analytics, sports, social networking and more.
  • special ar devices, designed specifically for ar experiences, such as head-up displays (hud), that send data to a display directly in the user's view. such devices already have applications in aviation, automotive industry, manufacturing, sports and other areas.
  • ar glasses (or smart glasses) like google glasses, hololens, laster see-thru and others. these display data from your smartphone or tablet, allowing hands-free access to content. we see a great example of this technology driving business improvement with boeing’s assembly lines.

device technologies continue to evolve. samsung and sony are developing ar contact (smart) lenses and virtual retinal displays (vrd) are also in development, creating images by projecting laser light directly into the human eye.

what are the possible business applications of ar?
ar business applications are growing at a rapid rate. these include:

  • retail - driving better customer engagement, retention, brand awareness and sales. some features help customers make wiser and quicker purchases, liking providing product data with 3d models of different sizes or colours. 
  • real-estate such as 3d tours of apartments and houses that haven’t been built yet, allowing potential purchasers to visualise themselves in them and make design decisions.
  • education and training with interactive models for learning, from mathematics and chemistry right through to simulating real life work situations.
  • medicine and healthcare to help diagnose, monitor, and train.
  • military for advanced navigation and real time data.
  • tourism, with data on destinations, navigation, and directions.
  • broadcasting, to enhance live events and event streaming with overlayed content.
  • industrial design, allowing the visualisation and modelling of potential solutions.

why we love ar so much?
as a strategic communications agency that works across both physical and digital mediums, we’ve really embraced ar as a tool to help our clients communicate more effectively with their existing and potential customers, with their staff and with the wider community. in all cases, our goal is to build engagement, grow perception, and to drive actions that align with our clients’ objectives. here’s why we think it’s so effective:

  • ar is multi-sensory, making it particularly effective in driving engagement, recall and association. 
  • brands are formed from people’s experiences and ar experiences are rich and immersive, helping drive positive associations with your brand. 
  • one of the key challenges for business is getting audiences to make multiple contacts across their sales, social, web and other touchpoints. ar has the potential to bring many of these together in one experience.
  • finally, ar is cool and interesting. therefore it has a curiosity factor that will make audiences want to try it. they engage with you when otherwise they may not have.

and as ar technology advances and becomes even more accessible, we see the business benefits and possibilities continuing to escalate.

 

augmented reality explained, augmented reality 101

Does glitter work on everything?

28 Aug 2018 by Jeremy Sweetman

Recently, my daughter had a eureka moment when she realised that by copying her project from Google Docs into a website template, it would invoke a completely different response or level of engagement from her...

Digital
does glitter work on everything? jeremy sweetman

recently, my daughter had a eureka moment when she realised that by copying her project from google docs into a website template, it would invoke a completely different response or level of engagement from her audience. same copy, different outcome. excited by her breakthrough, she’s now an advocate of delivering her work by all sorts of varied means.

from this initial discovery, she’s also realised that sometimes a straight copy-and-paste just isn’t enough. sometimes additional crafting is needed depending on where her story is being told. now she’s graduated to adding pictures, quotes, videos and (of course) glitter to engage her audience.

this revelation isn’t new, but it is a reminder that we should continually look to craft our content to maintain its effectiveness – regardless of channel. but do we?

too often the focus becomes central to one channel. one output. all the thinking, crafting and love get poured into a single delivery. then, with what’s left, we make it work for the other channels. the risk is that the story can be diluted. lose its shine. or worse, its effectiveness.

as storytellers, this is on us.

so, whether you're a client, a strategist, marketer, creative or copywriter; if you’re planning, creating or delivering a multi-channel story, then (please) pause. think about how you craft your content. think about its effectiveness for every one of the channels you’ve identified. explore and understand all the opportunities; be aware of the challenges and limitations. in short, work towards telling the clearest story you can – for every channel.

multi-channel communication, crafting content

Semi Permanent - Day One

13 Aug 2018 by Jeremy Sweetman

  Semi-Permanent has always been a calendar event, but previously there was never really enough ‘digital’ to justify shelling out any sort of investment. This year, however, the ‘Day One’ agenda looked...

Digital
semi permanent - day one jeremy sweetman

 

semi-permanent has always been a calendar event, but previously there was never really enough ‘digital’ to justify shelling out any sort of investment. this year, however, the ‘day one’ agenda looked particularly designed for the technically inclined. speakers from air bnb, google and uber spoke alongside netflix and facebook forming the opening salvo for this year’s event. dad, can i go? pretty please!

the morning was crammed back-to-back with the above speakers, and they were all good (well, mostly). each offered a mix of wisdom and experience, which is still echoing away in my mind. one clear theme from all speakers was a need to craft the solution, prototype, test (and repeat and repeat and repeat), before deploying at scale (and by scale, think 80 million uber users generating over 10 billion rides (to date) or 120 million netflix users over 109 countries). what’s even more mind-blowing is the netflix product design team is only ten-strong and constantly on the move, experiencing the different countries and cultural differences to maintain relevance for each country netflix is in.

another core theme was the notion that ‘there are no sacred cows’, citing many examples where improvements can be found in areas already thought perfect.

whereas the morning talked digital, the afternoon couldn’t have been more different with a series of talks aimed at diversity within the creative industry. really powerful stuff! talks from beth o’brien (colenso) and tea uglow (google) left me particularly inspired (for different reasons) and reminded me of the benefits that pursuing more diversity brings to our own creative pursuits.

for me, ‘day one’ was a success. well done semi-permanent! knowing me, the speakers’ experiences will now slowly be deconstructed and repurposed' eventually touching aspects of my work. thanks for letting me go, dad. 

semi-permanent, insight creative

Websites: the end is just the beginning

16 Oct 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

When I visit a website, I typically (and quickly) scan the homepage. I might scroll just beyond the fold to see what content morsels lie just out of sight – and if I don’t find anything to sink my teeth into –...

Digital
websites: the end is just the beginning jeremy sweetman

when i visit a website, i typically (and quickly) scan the homepage. i might scroll just beyond the fold to see what content morsels lie just out of sight – and if i don’t find anything to sink my teeth into – i check out the menu. if it’s a burger, i open it.

every website has a goal. an intent. whether measurable by dollars & cents, subscription or shares, or likes or engagements. in an ideal situation, users would all view a website in the same way, they would understand the intent and participate – consciously or sub-consciously. the problem is, that even with the clearest of journeys, the user will always do what the user always does. the challenge then becomes one of designing a better user experience. one that marries the user’s needs with the business objectives.

when we develop a website, we factor in that people engage differently. they navigate differently; some consume content, others snack; some anchor themselves to desktops, others view things on the go. the one truism is that people engage differently.

so, given that people engage differently, how do you build the perfect website to cater for all the differences? the answer is, you don’t.

when you start defining an experience, you research, and plan, and interview and develop and trial all of the ideas and possibilities you think will solve the challenge. at some point, you have to put it out there and watch. and learn. and then refine and evolve.

knowledge, creativity, and experience provide a perfect starting point, but ultimately your users define how they will engage with you and your brand.

"at some point, you have to put it out there and watch. and learn.

and then refine and evolve."

through observation of user behaviour, you can refine your service and offer more meaningful choices. you can cater for better engagement. ultimately, you aim to aid your users to achieve your goals by delivering a better experience. to assist in your quest for clarity, a wealth of knowledge, tools and analysis is on offer to help you maximise the online experience of your users.

don’t be afraid to not know all the answers when you go live with a website. be galvanised in the notion that you’ll learn, and refine, and improve with each user interaction. your goals will be more achievable, fuelled by an increase in your understanding. your platform will become more resilient to change the more you know about how your users engage – regardless of browser, device or time of day etc.

to create meaningful online experiences that ebb & flow based on user needs and business objectives – don’t ever see the ‘going live’ of your website as the end of your project – but instead, the beginning. be prepared to learn more about your users, beyond what you thought you knew. and don’t shy away from changing your direction off the back of analysis of your users’ behaviours.

websites, user experience, ux, incremental improvement

The Reign of Content

12 Jun 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

The continued reign of content online is undisputed. It remains central to any online patronage. It motivates engagement, drives purchases and creates connections between individuals and brands. Think about it. When...

Digital
the reign of content jeremy sweetman

the continued reign of content online is undisputed. it remains central to any online patronage. it motivates engagement, drives purchases and creates connections between individuals and brands. think about it. when was the last time you visited a site because they used a certain cms or technical infrastructure? i’m guessing, never! although if you’re more technically inclined <cough>geek</cough> like me, maybe you do on occasion. 

arguably, sites are visited because of an article, or video, an animation, a meme, or a blog… etc. etc. etc. don’t get me wrong, the platform or the container is important. just not important to the people visiting your site.

clearly, content matters! this is not a new concept by any stretch. not even one i can lay claim too. in 1996, bill gates coined the phrase ‘content is king’. he predicted that the internet would eventually make money via content, as it does in broadcasting. fast forward 20+ years, and many notable individuals have gone on to endorse bill’s sentiment. arguably, his predictions not only hold true today but are central to developing rich user engagements and loyalty.

"good content allows us to tell the clearest stories."

good content allows us to tell the clearest stories. we use video to make the complex simple. we deliver interactions that engage and surprise. we contextualise to add meaning. and we wrap it in brand to create a connection and deliver an experience.

the digital landscape continues to change – with new technologies, frameworks, tools and methodologies to enable us to maximise how we engage with our users. through this transformation, the value of content has been a constant, and with new tools & technologies, we’re able to create (and deliver) even better content than ever before.

however, given this transformation, we must now balance a new set of challenges. challenges like understanding how people navigate, search, scan and engage with content. these components must then be reflected against supported devices (i.e. mobile vs desktop), with consideration placed on the content pace & structure - potentially offering things like a tiered content structure to allow users to drill deeper – where relevant/interested.

"users visit sites because content has meaning. but they can also leave, due to lack of it."

by wielding these new tools, we can create more meaningful and engaging online experiences. we can contextualise content based on location, device and/or previous user engagement. we create intimacy by providing relevance and conversation. we use functionality to amplify (the content) – because we understand that people don’t visit our sites because we’re using wordpress or drupal or {insert cms here}. they visit because our content has meaning. and (sometimes) they leave, due to lack of it. content truly is still king.

so, if content is king, how do you encourage engagement, drive purchases and create connections with both your users and brand? how do you deliver a memorable experience?

website, content

The Clash of Data and Design.

30 May 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

Now, you may already know this, but the digital landscape harbours a polarised community of data-driven practitioners and their design counterparts. This tension is (typically) born from perceptions that data driven...

Digital
the clash of data and design. jeremy sweetman

now, you may already know this, but the digital landscape harbours a polarised community of data-driven practitioners and their design counterparts. this tension is (typically) born from perceptions that data driven design diminishes – if not eliminates – creativity. really!?

let’s be clear, what is data-driven design?

(for simplicity) we can define data-driven-design as the use of quantitative data to inform the design deliverable.

data+design=?

without doubt, there are large companies that live & die by their data-centric approach to design – i’m looking at you google & facebook. but this focus is equally balanced by successful counterparts like apple – who are particularly anti-data – and who openly express a heavily design-centric process. so, who’s right? both? neither?

could it be that both are wrong? with the answer lying within a blend of both? now before ‘heresy’ is suggested from the respective camps – let me explain.

data creates opportunity. delivering opportunity to gain user empathy and inspiration. it pulls back the cover on what people say they do and displays what they ‘actually’ do. remember that numbers represent people, behaviours and engagement; then this intelligence allows design to drive innovation and fuels informed improvement.

as a tool, data then allows for better designed experiences, elevating the human-centred design process.

as the world becomes increasingly more digital, we’ll need to continue to embrace the ‘data by-product’ of user engagement to continually craft better outcomes. by leveraging analytics, we enrich our understanding of amazing (or awful) experiences and, therefore, can iterate in more meaningful ways. this, ultimately, will lead to better products. increased user engagement.

bear-hugs all round.

perceptions aside, it's time to hug an analyst and/or high-five a designer, then wield the power of data & design in pursuit of crafting more meaningful digital experiences.

data+design=amazing experiences <3

data, design

Web design trends for 2014

16 Dec 2013 by Jeremy Sweetman

Everyone tends to like having a stab at predicting the future of… well… anything & everything. So here goes… my top three predictions for web design in 2014 are: 1. More flat design: More and more we are...

Digital
web design trends for 2014 jeremy sweetman

everyone tends to like having a stab at predicting the future of… well… anything & everything. so here goes… my top three predictions for web design in 2014 are:

1. more flat design: more and more we are seeing big brands moving away from skeumorphism in favour of a flat design. design that represents a 100% purpose when considering the function of the product. the most obvious examples (that i’m almost certain most have experienced) is the new ios7 from apple or (from the other camp) the windows metro ui and its wonderful array of tiles. flat design tends to focus on flat shapes and indicators that help the user have a more accessible experience.

click here for an interesting article around the battle of flat design versus skeumorphism. or check out this infographic.

2. focus on mobile: a bit of a no-brainer really. mobile is here. with 4.55 billion people expected to use a smart phone in 2014 – it’s no surprise the shift in focus (source. emarketers, jan 14, 2014). but what this figure doesn’t account for are all tablet users or steady flow of wearable gadgets starting to hit the market. mobile is going to be big.

this (obviously) means understanding the nuances of our users and how they consume information across all these devices will be key to mastering the mobile space.

3. endless scrolling: as much as the concept of ‘infinite’ or ‘endless’ scrolling as been around for a little while – i think it will definitely become more prominent within new sites & over new platforms.

i think it (definitely) will start to reign supreme on mobile devices; as it allows users to scroll through content faster & easier than having to click through links and wait for pages to catch up. typically, infinite scrolling pages are not content-cluttered which aligns itself with the new online design techniques quite nicely. this is especially true when overall layout and design can change as a user scrolls – which makes it easy for users to forget they are scrolling through quite a bit of information.

one of my current favorites (for lots of reasons) is departementcreatif.com – check it out.

of course, other ‘designery‘ stuff which is gaining momentum in popularity at the moment – whether by design, opportunity or necessity has to include:

  • less text, more video: a wall of text versus a 30 second video – no contest.  videos are a great way to effectively communicate with audiences who want to be entertained & engaged.
  • big background videos: as bandwidth has less impact on design, we are starting to see more big background videos; that (if done right) provide a deeper user experience and greater connection to the brand.
  • hidden/slide-out menus: users are becoming more and more savvy in their use of technology. a button to reveal a plethora of menu options is becoming common place on mobile devices. although, some would argue this is a negative from a ux/usability perspective – what do you think?


so, have i missed something important? have i got something completely wrong? be vocal and let me know.

of course, i’d be keen to hear what your web design predictions for 2014? don’t be shy!

website, trends
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