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28 April 2017 : Pica #007

When a picture becomes a thousand words.

Augmented reality.

Who’s reality is it anyway?

At Facebook's F8 developer conference last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said; "We're making the camera the first augmented reality platform”. He was talking about smartphone cameras and the software his company is developing to automate facial and object detection in images and overlay relevant information. Facebook is not alone; Google, Pinterest, Snapchat, and others are investing in augmented reality. Yes, A.R. the guts of the Pokemon Go, the Snapchat filters that let you add graphics to selfies and any other application that can add information to images.

This first wave of the technology provides plenty of creative opportunities for brands: Zuckerberg used the Nike Run Club app as an example, where runners can add headbands to their photo’s and overlay their running statistics. But the ability for machines to identify objects and people within images and the utilization of this information goes far beyond adding goofy graphics to images. Some 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day. Currently they are something of a black box, for which there is only very basic data. Images and video are a huge part of Facebook but mentions, social sentiment and other parameters are measured by words alone.

Fast forward to a brave new world where Gooface (my nickname for the online duopoly) can automatically mine data from images. Where brands pay to have their visual elements included in the algorithms that identify logos and products to track their presence. Where ad targeting can include parameters obtained from image scans. Where, theoretically, as you look at the photo’s of your cousins wedding, an overlay can inform you of what watch it is the groom is wearing and where you can get a great discount on it, right now.

Like much of the technology that increasingly measures and records our lives there will be legal and moral issues to confront and resolve. If the last decade is any indication of how these things will play out the user will relinquish control in exchange for convenience and gimmicks giving brands increasingly powerful tools to scrutinise and interrupt. Using those tools wisely will distinguish the lions from the hyenas.

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