Start Leveraging the Full Native Power of Technology Now
by Alex Hertel and Philipp Hertel, Ph.D.
There’s an adage common among military historians that armies have a tendency to “fight the previous war.” For instance, one reason why we had our hands full with the Axis early in WWII was precisely because we depended on WWI tactics even though new technology had evolved which made them obsolete. This principle is applicable whenever new technology is invented and our digital technology is no exception.
Our first attempt at TV advertising is a prime example. Early TV ads didn’t use video, even though it was available – instead, they only contained words. There were no TV ad experts, so we instinctively ran to our comfort zone and copied the types of ads that we were running on yesterday’s hardware, the radio. We completely underutilized the native powers of the new medium by running “software” native to the radio on more powerful TV hardware. Eventually we figured out how to create “software” properly and took advantage of the TV’s full potential.
Unfortunately, history repeated itself with a vengeance in the world of digital advertising. The birth of the web saw the creation of pop-ups and banner ads, which are essentially just the types of ads that we’ve been putting into magazines for the past century. To this day we continue to fight the previous war by running “software” native to magazines on computers which really should have made it possible to do something far more interesting and powerful.
But even this pales in comparison to the lack of innovation that we saw when mobile advertising was born. Instead of taking advantage of our new native mobile powers, we once again retreated to our comfort zone and recycled online banner ad technology. By running software native to the web on next-generation mobile hardware, we’re doing exactly the same thing that the radio ad experts did with televisions when they first came out – we’re foolishly choosing not to use the mobile hardware’s additional powers, which have the potential to produce truly physical interactions with the real world. As a result, our mobile advertising isn’t actually even mobile.
Only a small number of companies are taking advantage of the physicality and mobility of the new hardware. To name a few, Pokemon Go, Uber, Starbucks, and Google Maps were designed using a mindset that moved away from cyberspace to do something much more interesting and interactive in the real world. For example, Pokemon Go took advantage of the phone’s GPS, camera and gyroscope to create an experience compelling enough to get millions of people out of their seats and walk to physical locations. This app could have easily been programmed to be your typical point-and-tap game, but it broke the cycle and created a phenomenon.
Nearly 10 years after the invention of smartphones, almost all developers are still treating them as PC or web simulators. We live in a world where true mobile advertising doesn’t yet exist (at least at scale), and there’s still very little truly mobile software available. Projecting this trend into the future, it’s not hard to imagine what’s going to happen in our next major leap forward with augmented reality (AR) wearables. Just picture it: you’ve got a pair of AR glasses which are capable of overlaying digital graphics and interactions on the real world. The hardware works amazingly well, however, there are few examples of impactful AR software experiences that make full use of its innate native powers. Unfortunately, if history is any guide, the vast majority of software developers will continue to fight the previous war, choosing instead to let the new AR hardware simply simulate the previous generation of mobile or even web technology.
AR technology has the potential to make the world digitally interactive. Consider how amazing an AR version of Google Maps’ navigation feature could be. Instead of looking down at a screen in your hand to guide you turn-by-turn, the AR hardware will be capable of overlaying the direction arrows right on the sidewalk ahead of you to lead to your destination. This and other applications in verticals including entertainment, education and retail are possible if we learn to fully embrace new hardware powers as soon as they become available.
It’s time to stop fighting the previous war and start leveraging the full native power of technology immediately when it becomes available. Let’s not wait for a decade to pass before our AR software catches up to the hardware. This time around, let’s get it right.
Alex Hertel and Philipp Hertel, Ph.D. are the co-founders of Xperiel.