Augmented Reality, mobile, search and (maybe) getting it wrong

I may have been caught out in one of my predictions for 2009 and it might be worth me starting with a possible mea culpa.

In January 2009, I kicked off the year with a post that made five (adjusted to six) predictions for 2009.

The most controversial of these was that 2009 would not be year for mobile.

My theory was that in a down economy the bigger players (ie OTAs and suppliers) would be too busy shoring up their business and improving packaging and cross-sell to a “bet” on an investment in mobile.

The counter argument led by Norm Rose was that smart phone penetration was so high and rising so fast (led by Blackberry but with iPhone on the charge) that it was irrefutable that mobile has jumped from a side-bar to a fully fledged distribution channel for travel.

I still think it is clear that booking by mobile is not for 2009 (except in Japan and Korea).

But 2009 is certainly the year that mobile technology got sexy – real sexy.

I am talking about Augmented Reality.

Wikipedia defines Augmented Reality as:

“…a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with, or augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery, creating a mixed reality”.

In other words put reality and technology together and stir. 

Mashable has a great page carrying video demos of Top Six Augmented Reality Mobile Apps.

There are two my favourites I want to share with you.

Nearest Tube gives reality based directional guide for Tube stations in London (a similar New York version called Bionic Eye is also very interesting).

The second is Wikitude. It inserts point of interest information and background into the real time experience of a traveller.  Videos for both below.

Nearest Tube






Beyond threatening my prediction, Augmented Reality is an exciting transition technology.

It is part of the shift from input based to search to intuitive and contextual search.

Prior to Augmented Reality a consumer had to type in search boxes the parameters they are interested in searching.

Phrases like “tube stations in W1 London”, “hotels near the Opera House” and “history of the Eiffel Tower” needed to be typed out using fingers or thumbs and answers sorted and sifted through care of Google (or Bing/Yahoo if you are in the minority) if you wanted to get destination specific and (hopefully) timely information.

Now that technology can marry the context (ie the time relevance and your location) with application specific requests to give targeted, specific and unique answers.

The consumer selects the need (tube, point of interest, service need, information) and the context and application will do the rest. 

This changes search and will change marketing.

It is another step in our industry’s ability to development a specific and targeted recommendation of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time.

The concept I am calling EveryYou over at The Boot.

The combination in the change in technological capability for search and mobile plus the social movement of consumers desire to share information is the great promise of Augmented Reality.

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Tim Hughes

About the Writer :: Tim Hughes

Tim Hughes is an online travel industry executive who has been blogging since June 2006 at the Business of Online Travel (the BOOT).

The BOOT covers analysis of online travel industry trends, consumer and company behaviour and broader online/web activity of interest to online travel companies (with a bias towards Tim’s home markets of Asia and Australasia and with the odd post on consuming and loving travel thrown in).

In late-2010 the BOOT clocked its 1,000th post, 200,000th visitor and 300,000th page view.In his work life he is the CEO of Getaway Lounge - a premium travel deal site based in Australia.

Tim has worked for both Orbtitz and Expedia. Prior to the travel industry Tim was a commercial lawyer and venture capitalist. Tim’s views are his alone and not necessarily the views of Getaway Lounge or any of its investors.



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  1. Mobile Augmented Reality, Social Media & Marketing Opportunities « Digital Communication by Edouard

    […] service) comme révolution des médias sociaux et de la consommation. by Francois, L. • Augmented Reality, mobile, search and (maybe) getting it wrong. by Hughes, T. • Augmented reality set for major growth: ABI Research. by Harnick, C. • Top […]

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    […] Both Tim Hughes and Norm Rose have recently written about the emergence of mobile as an emerging distribution channel for travel (check previous Tnooz post Augmented Reality, mobile, search and (maybe) getting it wrong). […]

  3. Carl Jackson

    Nice post Tim,
    I agree that AR will have a big part to play for all types of travellers in the future. The ability to inform, immerse and recommend information to travellers based on the genome of a place and the context of the traveller is a compelling product development path.
    I’ve been following your EveryYou concept with interest as it ties in with parts of our new platform being demonstrated onstage in Florida in November.

    @jan @tim completely agree DMC’s need to think better about how they engage their markets in the emerging world.

  4. Tim

    @Jan – thanks for first Tnooz comment. I agree with you. DMC’s need to stop spending money on over the top World Travel Mart booths and give that cash to iPhone app developers instead!

  5. Jan Peeters

    Hi Tim,

    Augmented reality will not only change search and marketing: it will generate a complete new future for tourism destinations and tourism venues. Imagine the classical visits to the pyramids with a reconstruction of the building process or just life in Egypt ages ago?

    I think this will be the ultimate boost for the tourism industry, bringing together the concepts of “visiting”, “learning”, “experiencing” and “travelling” into one completely new concept.

    Destination Management Companies (private and government owned) should be the first to embrace this technology, further investing in it and using it.

    Keep on doing this onderful job with Tnooz!



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