T&A: Tablets, Augmented Reality & Other 2011 Trends

When the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicked off in Las Vegas, the impending "tablet wars" promised to rule the blogosphere. Will Lenovo's IdeaPad Slate or Samsung's Galaxy Tab be the "iPad killer?" Probably not, but then again, we're only in the second week of the year. Apple has been in the driver's seat in the tablet market since it released the iPad last year. This week, analysts at BMO Capital Markets estimated that the iPad accounted for about 13 million of the 15 million to 16 million tablets sold in 2010. As far as 2011 trends are concerned, tablets have undoubtedly checked-in.

Aside from the continued onslaught of celebrity-endorsed headphones, as commented by Austin Carr, one other area that caught my attention from this year's CES was the unveiling of Polaroid's Grey Label. The new line of products were introduced by the company's novel creative director, Lady Gaga. The GL20 Camera Glasses represent the fusion of fashion and technology. Using a built-in camera, wearers can take and display photos on the glasses' LCD screen. Photos can then be transferred through USB onto any computer. "Smile! You're so f--ing famous!" she said as she demonstrated the product in front of her captivated audience.

This was neither a moment rooted in Lady Gaga's celebrity nor did it rest on smoke and mirrors. Instead, this launch marked a decisive shift for a company that could've been likened to the my_ (Myspace) of the camera industry in the digital age. As I thought about this View-Master come Doc Brown via Polaroid, I couldn't help but think back to a conversation about Augmented Reality (AR) that I recently had with John Havens, Executive Vice President, Social Media at Porter Novelli. At its core AR refers to the enhancement of a real-world environment through computer added data, like graphics.

As far as shifts in paradigms are concerned, John believes that AR will reach the mainstream in 2011 and accomplish just that. While interest in AR applications grew in 2010, the accelerated pace in the adoption of smartphones empowers U.S. consumers and leads to changes in behavior thereby enticing marketers and public relations professionals to focus on these platforms. According to Gartner, mobile phone sales in Q3 2010 rose 35% year over year and during that same time smartphone sales increased a whopping 96% accounting for 19.3% of worldwide mobile phone sales.

This past week NBC's Today Show experimented with AR through GoldRun, an iPhone app that enables you to locate and collect virtual objects. According to MediaBistro, the week before the trial NBC averaged 4.90M viewers, leading the group of morning shows and potentially exposing a similarly attentive audience to the AR platform on Jan. 3. This is one type of entertainment related application for AR. However, affecting human behavior and commerce are the future of AR according to John.

It's the merging of these various technologies (visual search, barcodes, and NFC (Near-Field Communications) that will allow consumers to shop, connect, and search fluidly via applications and devices where Augmented Reality is the gateway for all of these behaviors, John wrote.

Just as fashion looks East for inspiration, John believes that if that region is any indicator for near and long term digital trends and technologies, AR is on the precipice of becoming the Next Big Thing. While I'm content to toy with Stickybits (allows you to unlock barcodes with a quick scan and access product related info) and Tagwhat (allows you to create location-based content within app for sharing) from my iPhone and iPad for the time being, I yearn for a pair of AR-glasses where every facet of my life can be controlled with my intentional blink of an eye.

How about you? What trends do you think will make a splash in 2011? Do you currently use any applications based on AR?

- Pedro