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My Conversation with James Cameron

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I don’t make it a habit of sharing personal conversations on my blog, but when the individual you are exchanging ideas with happens to be James Cameron, it’s very difficult not to share (okay brag) a little.

I was invited to a private Avatar screening on the Fox Studio lot, presented by James Cameron and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The screening showed about an hours worth of the film, and focused on the strong environmental message throughout. James Cameron spoke after the film on the amazing reception the movie has made with environmentally conscious people. He discussed his passion for nature, technology, and much more (Have you seen his 3D undersea documentaries?). The irony that Avatar uses state-of-the-art “technology” to tell a story about “getting back to nature” does not get past him. It is this topic — “using technology to better the planet” that I was most interested in speaking with Mr. Cameron about.

The screening was followed by a reception, where I got to meet and speak with Mr. Cameron for about 10 minutes. We spoke primarily about Augmented Reality, which played a large role in the making and marketing of Avatar.

Coke, Mattel, and McDonald’s used Augmented Reality to integrate the Avatar brand into their cans, toys and happy meals. James Cameron also used AR technology in the filming of Avatar, to pre-visualize his actors within the CG scenes live, and in real-time. For those familiar with motion capture animation technology. Mr. Cameron pushed this further… creating a system that allowed him to observe on a monitor how the actors’ virtual counterparts interacted with the movie’s digital world in a real time environment. He was able to adjust and direct the scenes as if shooting live action, but in a computer generated world.

Mr. Cameron and I started to speak about the power of entertainment and games to motivate people to action towards bettering the world, and this is where things really got interesting. It became clear immediately that this was our shared passion… to not only entertain and engage people… but to motivate people towards good. I shared a bit about my past projects like Superdudes, and the notion of “games with goals” really resonated with Mr. Cameron.

It’s fairly clear that a movie like Avatar is a success because it delivers on many levels… beyond box office numbers, it entertains, and it gets people to think… and maybe even act! I would not be surprised if all the talk about the 3D technology and the enormous box office of Avatar are soon overshadowed by the message and impact of the movie itself on our society.

Needless to say it was a great honor to be able to talk about things like augmented reality, technology, movies, games, and the environment with James Cameron. It is my hope that the work we do at Ogmento can make a similar impact with people the way Avatar did… delivering content that immerses people into a new world… entertains, engages, challenges…and as a bonus perhaps motivates people to take action and do their part in making the world a better place.

Prime-Time for Augmented Reality

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A recent AdAge artilce, starts off with the following question – Is augmented reality ready for prime-time?

Twentieth Century Fox, Coke and McDonalds are about to test the emerging technology’s mettle as a marketing tool to promote the Dec. 18 release of “Avatar,” the first live-action movie to be produced and released entirely in stereoscopic 3-D.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an opportunity to go to lunch with the guys at Total Immersion responsibile for the Avatar AR campaign, Bruno Uzzan and Greg Davis. At their office, I got a sneak peek at the AR enhanced AVTR Coke can, and checked out the Avatar Mattel Toys and i-Tag’s too. Clearly, the Avatar AR campaign is a significant milestone in what is truly the dawn of AR marketing.

The AdAge article asked – Will Efforts by Coke, McDonald’s to Plug Fox’s Much-Anticipated Movie Finally Take Nascent Tech Mainstream?

I respond to this question with the following comments…

I am excited to see this campaign come to life, and believe it represents the dawn of AR marketing in a big way… highlighting how mega brands and products will come to life with added engagement, and rich-media to further enhance the customer experience.

Today’s webcam campaigns are clearly more about the wow-factor of triggering holographic-like animations off of an everyday item. As we quickly move from glyph-like codes (i.e Esquire mag) to natural feature tracking (i.e branded logos). The evolution of hardware and software will only lead to more robust, compelling and informative marketing campaigns. And mobile… will change everything!

The power of mobile AR will truly revolutionize how marketing is done. Smartphones can be used to unlock a deeper / hidden layer of content tied to the people, places and things all around us. The power and potential of that cannot be denied. We are just getting started with AR marketing.

So, will efforts by Coke, McDonalds to plug Avatar take nascent tech mainstream? Absolutely! I would argue that these mega-brands and franchises are not rolling the dice on AR technology, but rather understand where this technology is headed, and the power that it brings. We should look to these mainstreams brands to realize the right time to step in is now.