Aurasma vs. Blippar

I’ve written about Augmented Reality extensively in the past, but since the days of immersing myself in the purely theoretical potential for the medium, a few key players have rooted themselves in a very commercial reality that is now powering the fledgling industry.

And while B2B-focused vendors such as ViewAR remain behind the scenes, the likes of Aurasma and Blippar have soared in notoriety thanks to some quite excellent packaging and an impressive sales proposition. They are the standard bearers, at least in the eyes of the public.

I like Aurasma. But I also like Blippar. So which is better? Well, let’s find out… Here are some provocations I’ve been toying around with. See if it helps you decide, and let me know which side you fall on in the comments.

[twocol_one][dropcap]A[/dropcap]urasma has more technological power behind it. They have (supposedly) incorporated academic research into their proprietary tech and have a heritage in pattern recognition systems – remember their core business though: integrating with business critical processes and then slowly ramping up prices. They do this across all other Autonomy products! Also consider they are an HP property, whose business is hardware, not software. I believe Aurasma are only using this period of their lifespan to learn what does and doesn’t work, get better at it, gain status, equip users to enjoy AR, and then develop a mobile chipset (literally, hardware optimised for AR) that can be embedded in mobile devices, making HP buckets of royalties. They are chasing install base, but not because they want advertising bucks: they want to whitelabel their tech (i.e. Tesco, Heat & GQ) and then disappear into the background.[/twocol_one]

[twocol_one_last][dropcap]B[/dropcap]lippar have a proprietary AR engine, but are listed as using Qualcomm’s Vuforia engine – which is free to use. They seem focused on innovations in the augmented layer. Reading their interviews, they speak of AR not as a tech, platform or medium, but as a kind of magic campaign juice: stuff that reveals they are extremely focused on delivering a good consumer experience paid for by advertisers, with them as connective tissue. To this end, they too are chasing install base, but ultimately they have a different goal in mind. Being Qualcomm-backed, their future is in flexing their creative muscles and helping make AR a mass market medium through normalising behaviour. Big rivals: Aurasma in the short term, but I imagine that one day, Aurasma will revert back to being a tech platform, and companies like Blippar will provide the surface experience: where good content, not tech, will be what sells.[/twocol_one_last]

So what do you reckon – A or B?

The Second Uncanny Valley

A few weeks ago I wrote about the new Tintin movie in the context of the Uncanny Valley (read my article here).

While searching around for a clear diagram illustrating the principle, I stumbled upon an article called The Second Uncanny Valley on a site called Open the Future, which features a load of really interesting stuff by a guy called Jamais Cascio.

Cascio is a futurist who centres his thinking on the question: “what if human beings, and all of our technology, could actually manage to change things for the better?” He’s an optimist, and one who’s interested in ideas as far ranging as geoengineering, climate science, renewables, open source, emerging tech, social networks, ethics and transhumanism. He’s also spoken at TED. Interesting bloke, really.

Which is why when I saw the below, in the context of the above, I felt quite childish when my access point to considering his ‘Second Uncanny Valley’ as an academic framework are media such as Transmetropolitan, Neuromancer or even Lawnmower Man. Take a look:

Just for clarity, his principle thought is that in a posthuman world, Masahiro Mori‘s Uncanny Valley theory (green area) would need to be extended out into this new blue area:

Once a significant number of us are opting for cosmetic cyborgism, seeking out other human upgrades, or even just trying to fake it, we’ll probably feel quite weird about having transhumans (or homo superior as Magneto might say) walking among us. That’s the second uncanny valley, right there.

Guys like Kevin Warwick (pictured left) are probably the first wave of posthumanism yet to plunge into this new uncanny valley. All he has is a chip in his arm that opens doors on his university campus. He claims to be the “world’s first cyborg”, but as many of you will know, the upcoming singularity will see a lot more of us merging with the machine world.

The ultimate end, perhaps the ‘radical posthuman’ at the far right of Cascio’s model, might be an entirely discarnate consciousness: thought without body, or more likely a digital embodiment. And that’s as familiar, on this scale, as the industrial robots at the opposite end. But Cascio might say ‘not in a way that’s uncanny’. And he’d go on to say:

I wanted to be clear on a distinction between things made/evolved to be like humans, and things made/evolved from humans […] the H+ era is likely to see a diversity of morphologies, both physical and cognitive.

Not to put words in his mouth, but with all of the things we might evolve to become, physically, mentally, virtually or otherwise, I think the idea is that we make a sort of ‘leap across’ the second uncanny valley to a place where we’re comfortable with our future lives.

Basically, technology, don’t creep us out.