OBOTO – Rise of the Robots

OBOTO – Digital Pet (Robot) Showcases Advanced Augmented Reality

Since co-founding Ogmento back in 2009… a goal for the company has always been to creatie immersive augmented reality experiences, including the ability to place characters and other digital interactive content seamlessly into the physical world.

The key to a truly magical and immersive experience is in the tracking.  Powerful computer vision algorithms come into play in order to seamlessly tie the virtual to the physical.  With Ogmento  focusing on premium AR experiences,, we are now highlight some of our tracking capabilities with the introduction of OBOTO, and a little robot named Oggie.

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With our prototype OBOTO app (available for iPhone) we are testing out the idea of a digital toy robot that can interact and track to the physical world without the use of markers, printouts, or any pre-setup.  To date, the need for markers, printouts, or a lengthy set-up process have prevented Augmented Reality (AR) from true mass adoption.  These initialization methods are intrusive, and ultimately barriers to entrance for many mobile content enthusiasts looking to experience the magic of AR instantly.

When it comes to offering an engaging augmented reality experience (one which can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere), Ogmento believes a zero-initialization tracking solution in a natural environment is key.  The release of OBOTO, Ogmento’s first original project, showcases such a solution.

Users can place Oggie into any environment they wish — on a table, on the floor, in middle of the street, in their hand, etc.  Oggie will track to the environment instantly, allowing the user to pan, zoom, and move around creating a seamless mixed-reality experience.  This zero-initialization, natural feature tracking AR, allows for instant immersion, which is key.

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Photo and video features allow users to get creative and show off with their very own digital pet robot.

If people enjoy the notion of virtual characters in the real world, and  the character interactions that come along with that, there are endless opportunities for this type of application. Virtual pets, mascots, toys, and more. With the added ability to unlock exclusive content based on location, and brand recognition as well, this is a content model that has no limits, and will only continue to grow.

Be sure to download and check out OBOTO, and let me know what you think.  If your company, agency or brand have ideas in mind based on this content model, I’d love to explore opportunities with you.

Relavant Links

ogmento.com/apps/oboto

facebook.com/ObotoCentral

youtube.com/ObotoCentral

twitter.com/ObotoCentral

The Rise of Sensor-Based Apps and Wearables

I’m a big fan of sensor-based apps and personal wearables, as they bring with them vast potential for utilizing motivational data, content and feedback loops for things like self-improvement, optimal health and ultimately the gamification of every day life.

Nike has been playing a leadership role in this area for a few years now with their Nike+ sensor and app, and they are stepping it up once again with the release of the new Nike+ FuelBand.

While not perfect, the FuelBand has some very nice design features, and brings a new metric approach for motivating users to be active throughout the day.

Designed as a stylish and sleek bracelet (not too different than those yellow LiveStrong bangles), the FuelBand represents forward movement in tech fashion, with a device people might actually wear on a daily basis. As a bracelet on the wrist, rather than a chip tucked away in a shoe, it allows for a simple feedback display to be  viewed throughout the day. Here again, Nike has done a smart job to simplify this data down to some core metrics, along with with a power-meter that gets longer  in length and hotter in color the more “fuel” the wearer burns.  This meter-bar clearly indicates that feedback loops are key for continued motivational aspects.  Rather than pulling out your Nano, or iPhone, just look at the wrist as if checkin the time.

The Nike+ Fuel Band tracks your daily activity using an internal accelerometer (which senses your movement).  Time, Calories, Steps and NikeFuel are all tracked. The new “Fuel” metric is interesting and unique to Nike, as it matches a person’s movement through the wristband’s accelerometer against data collected on how rapidly oxygen is consumed.  This may not be the best way to track fitness, as it still relies primarily on an accelerometer, and the readings will vary greatly depending on how much you move your arm. If you were to ride a bike the sensor would probably read this activity as burning less Fuel than if you were sitting in a chair just waving your hand around.

While, I am not yet sold that the Fuel Band will be a big hit, or that it brings tremendous value for the price, I am impressed with what it represents as a sign of where things are going in sensor-based wearables and apps. We are only getting started.

As chip prices keep coming down, and sensors keep getting smaller, they will get embedded in more and more wearables, such as watches, clothing, jewelry…  and the feedback displays will likely end up moving onto our eyewear and sunglasses, utilizing heads-up-display technology. This is when things get even more interesting from my standpoint. The user can now have an always-on feedback loop, monitoring things like heart-rate, and eventually things like stress levels, blood pressure and more.

Once we start to gamily the feedback loops, or one can imagine how achieving our optimal health will become much more manageable and fun with such tech. Signs that this world is not so far off can be seen with announcements like this one, for Googles HUD Glasses.

Here is a mock-up image I made a while back for a presentation on LBS & AR Gaming.  The idea here is that we will someday be able to wear stylish Heads-Up-Display enabled eyewear, which could feed us our biometric data, along with other stats and game elements throughout the day. This example highlights the idea of a Nike+ AR  Pac-Man type App — set a course, and see GPS enabled landmarks as motivational collectibles to race towards and gobble up within a certain amount of time.  Comparing scores and results against friends in this type of game scenario would certainly be a nice evolution to the Nike Tag challenge program we have today.

There are a few players in this field now, with Jawbone, Fitbit, Motorola, and a couple others releasing their versions of wristbands, watches, etc.. for tracking daily activity.  I imagine there will be more entrants in the coming years.  Still, Nike continues to be a major brand associated with health and fitness and will likely continue to play a strong role in the evolution of tracking our daily lives.

I’d love to hear from people focused in this field professionally, and get your take on the state of this industry, and where things are going. As Ogmento continues to develop Location-Based Augmented Reality games and content, the convergence of these two worlds in a few years is inevitable.

Going Geo-Social and Hyper-Local

I’m excited about the recent launch of our Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary iPhone game for many reasons — First, it’s Ogmento’s first big game title, and it feels great to finally have something out in the market. Even more so, this game represents a new breed of game design & platform, that is very powerful and represents the next generation of location-based gaming.

The Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary game can be described as a “Geo-Social, Massive Multiplayer, Augmented Reality Game.” That’s a mouthful, so lets call it a GSMMARG for now (if you have a better acronym, let me know). These three unique areas have individually generated a lot of buzz over the past year, but few have combined them all into one big game experience before.

On The Geo-Social side, the most common examples of popular mobile games include Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR, and MyTown. Still, while these apps might offer badges and rewards for your geo-social activities, only MyTown is really close to being a game. Foursquare and the like are more akin to LBS social networks, which offer “badges” for repeat visits to certain locations (check-ins) . While these Geo-Social apps are all the rage right now, there are some inherent flaws to the way they are set up, which make them 1) not very fun or engaging, 2) not very accurate, which encourages cheating, and 3) more suited as city-guides / utility apps than any sort of true game experience.

The Paranormal Activity Game developed by Ogmento takes a newer (and what I believe to be a much more engaging) approach to Geo-Social games. Using Google maps as our “game board”, players can dynamically change the tides in the battle between good and evil, and see how that plays out in real-time, in the real-world. If you neighborhood is infected by demonic activity, you can see that on a map (Hell Holes). You can then create safe havens (Sanctuaries) by casting spells, and see how the game board (map) changes instantly. Missions in turn are not as much about “check-ins” as they are about treasure hunting along a story-line path to discover unique locations, and unlock special items which allow for more powerful spells, etc. Unlike other Geo-Social apps, the power of this game can “drive” a player to a specific location for fun and rewards. We can create missions on the fly at any specific location or time, which is very powerful. For example… when the third Paranormal Activity movie comes out in theaters this October, we can drive people to the movie theaters opening night as a mission, and allow them to unlock special spells and rewards.

So let’s talk Hyper-Local! As I mentioned, the check-in is inherently flawed because one can check in to about 40 different locations from the comfort of their house. GPS alone is not very accurate, and rewarding somebody for visiting your retail store when they haven’t really visited does not make much sense. The lack of accuracy encourages cheating, and makes the experience less rewarding for those who play by the rules. Ogmento can take the idea of check-ins much further by using computer vision to essentially “verify” the visit. If the GPS is telling me I am standing near a Starbucks, and at the same time, I am “looking at” a Starbucks logo via my phone camera, we have a powerful combo. Now, add in a bit of Augmented Reality, and trigger an interactive experience off of the logo, as well. Now the player is engaged with the brand, experiencing a cool mixed-reality experience, unlocking special rewards, and truly verifying the visit.

Currently, the Paranormal Activity game has a hyper-local augmented reality experience that is not tied to locations, but rather from user-generated content. We wanted to show-off a bit of true hyper-local AR in the game, as most AR games in market still use GPS only, or other non-computer-vision techniques. We also did not want the user to have to print anything out, and to make the trigger something fun and unique, which tied into themes of the game. We came up with “sketch-casting” where players cast spells by sketching a pentagram, and focusing their camera on the drawing. The player can create their own star sketch, and witness a true computer-vision AR experience as part of the game — a sample of things to come.

If you have an iPhone, be sure to check out Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary, and try it out for yourself. While this horror-themed RPG might not be for everybody, the power of the platform is very evident. Ogmento will be launching more titles this year, which follow along the lines of PA:S. We’ve gone geo-social and hyper-local, and the mobile game space will never be the same again.

Experience Real World Horror

The press release went out today for Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary. We did a soft launch about a week ago, and got over 5,000 players in just a few days by word of mouth, and one mention on Paramounts Facebook page for the movie. Now with the press release out, we are looking forward to building those numbers dramatically. Exciting stuff! Here is the release…

Experience Real World Horror Game With Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary for iPhone

First Game to Combine Vision-based Augmented Reality, User-Generated Content and Geo-Social Elements; Now Available in the Apple App Store

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Augmented Reality (AR) gaming company Ogmento Inc. today announced the release of Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary, a geo-location based, augmented reality role-playing game, now available for free in the Apple App Store for the iPhone. Published by Ogmento under license from Paramount Digital Entertainment, Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary creates a new way for players to interact with their environment, where the world is the new game board and favorite neighborhood locations – coffee shops, grocery stores, parks – become integral elements in the game to transform a player’s daily routine into a riveting experience.

The launch of this game marks several milestones in mobile gaming:

– The first augmented reality game of its kind to use Ogmento’s patent-pending technology that engages with user-generated content. It allows users to draw out game play elements on paper that come into life in the game through a camera phone.

– The first game of its kind to mix geo-social and vision-based augmented reality game elements with a top tier film franchise.

Game Overview

Demonic forces are trying to bring hell to earth, and it’s up to players to withstand temptations and possessions to stop them. In Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary for the iPhone, players will have to choose a side in the global battle between good or evil. Using their iPhone at home, at work, or where ever they are, this location-based, augmented reality experience will empower players to seek out demonic activity that will test their sanity at every turn. Be careful not to succumb to evil urges, or players will become possessed by powerful dark forces. Cast spells to create sanctuaries around a player’s favorite places to keep the demons away, or submit to the unknown and spread hellholes across the city. But players can’t persevere on their own; they’ll want to recruit and collaborate with friends around the world to stay on top.

“The Paranormal Activity franchise embodies the powerful psychological space between what’s real and what’s imagined,” said Brian Selzer, co-founder and president of Ogmento. “We wanted to encapsulate that feeling in an iPhone game and use augmented reality to accentuate the overall game experience in a way that has never been done before.”

Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary is free to play, with additional features, game elements and virtual goods available for purchase in the iTunes App Store.

Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary for the iPhone can be downloaded for free at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paranormal-activity-sanctuary/id392834635?mt=8&ls=1

About Ogmento

Ogmento was founded in 2009 by industry veterans committed to developing the next generation of video games. Through cutting-edge technology that overlays computer graphics onto real-world environments, Ogmento creates games that let users directly interact with their surrounding environment. The company is currently developing ground-breaking Augmented Reality (AR) content for a range of mobile devices and platforms including iPhone, Android, PC, and traditional game consoles. Ogmento is ideally positioned at the epicenter of the Augmented Reality and Geo-location gaming industries. For more information please visit http://ogmento.com/.

About Paramount Digital Entertainment

Paramount Digital Entertainment (PDE) is a division of Paramount Pictures Corporation. PDE develops and distributes filmed entertainment across worldwide digital distribution platforms including online, mobile and portable devices, videogames, and emerging technologies. Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. The company’s labels include Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Digital Entertainment, Paramount Famous Productions, Paramount Home Entertainment, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., Paramount Studio Group and Paramount Worldwide Television Distribution.

Prime-Time for Augmented Reality

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.

My UgoTrade.com Interview (Augmented Hollywood)

Picture 3I was interviewed a couple weeks back by Tish Shute for her UgoTrade.com blog. Tish is a very strong supporter and voice for our burgeoning Augmented Reality Industry. She has been doing a series of feature interviews lately with all the major companies in the AR space. If you are new to AR, I highly recommend diving into UgoTrade for a truly inside perspective on things.

As for my interview, we spoke about AR from a bit of a Hollywood angle. Since I have been in a lot of studio meetings lately for Ogmento, touting our mobile Augmented Reality services, I shared a bit of insight on things from that perspective.

Here is an excerpt:

Brian Selzer: Hollywood creatives caught the AR bug before they knew what AR was. Look at science fiction movies and video games to see AR everywhere. Terminator, The Matrix, Minority Report, Iron Man.. the list goes on. Look at any video game with an integrated heads-up display. It’s clear Hollywood loves AR. It’s only been in the past few months though that the light bulb has been lit and Hollywood is seeing that the software and hardware are here today to deliver these types of AR experiences in real life (to a lesser extent of course, but the path is getting clear). So yes, the buzz is here and it’s strong. With that, we all have to be prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly as AR goes mainstream.

It certainly goes to show how young this industry is when Ogmento and Total Immersion are currently the only AR companies based in Los Angeles. It’s very exciting to be the only company right now demonstrating a natural feature tracking (markerless) iPhone experience in Hollywood. We are in talks to bring some very big brand and properties to the mobile AR space. The goal is to deliver experiences that create added engagement and value to the consumer.

For much more, check out – Games, Goggles, and Going Hollywood…How AR is Changing the Entertainment Landscape: Talking with Brian Selzer, Ogmento

My Wired.com Interview

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Wired.com interviewed me the other day on the subject of Augmented Reality.

Here is the article, which is currently the featured story on the site. – “If You’re Not Seeing Data, You’re Not Seeing.”

Being a huge Wired fan since the inception of the magazine it was a thrill to be directly contacted by them for my perspective on the dawn of the AR industry. I was asked specifically about the product mix focus for Ogmento, so I hinted at the fact that we are in talks to create mobile marketing campaigns around some major movies and toy lines.

I was slightly miss-quoted on the comment “In 2010 every blockbuster movie is going to have a mobile AR campaign tied to it.” I am not in the position to speak for “every” big movie marketing campaign, but I did share that all of the major movie studios we have met with love the possibilities of mobile AR. It is certain we will see a lot happening in the movie marketing space by end of year and into next.