Our latest collaboration with Gun Communications lets kids interact with Barbie® through Target’s shop windows. Working closely with Gun’s design team we created a custom XNA app for Microsoft Kinect® to create an interactive 3D storybook. The experience included a suite of gesture controlled mini-games including a Barbie® jigsaw puzzle, spin the ballerina and virtual painting game.
Just like Fleetwood Mac, the Internet wants to be with you everywhere. On the train, in the café, even tucked up in bed on a Sunday morning, nursing a hangover, that little terrier we call the Internet runs in the room, licks your face and begs you to share your condition with friends and strangers alike.
It never used to be so clingy. We would ‘log-on’ and more importantly, ‘log-off’. There was, after all, a time and a place. Not anymore, no sir-e. Thanks to our mobiles the majority of Australians now wake up to the Internet, commute with the Internet, work on the Internet and ‘relax’ with the Internet.
By 2015 Telsyte predicts 87 percent of Australians (over 16 years old) will own a smart phone. So just about every adult will be online for 100 percent of their waking life: reading, playing, sharing and consuming company services via their mobile.
Even now, in 2013, the phone is our Internet device of choice, but ask any of Australia’s best digital marketing planners and they’ll tell you their clients still fail to invest the appropriate time, planning and budget towards ‘mobile’.
We’ve seen this kind of lag between digital opportunity and digital spend before. In Australia at least, we didn’t see an appropriate media investment in Google Adwords until 2008, a full eight years after Google launched the service. Similarly we’re now seeing investment in social media gaining favour, some three years after Facebook became Australia’s number one media destination.
But what’s causing the current lag in mobile app investment; is it an Australian thing, are we just too laid back or do we consciously ignore the data? Possibly, but a more likely cause is a simple lack of ideas, caused in part by a lack of understanding of what’s possible.
To understand what’s possible businesses need to understand the difference between branded apps and brand advertising. The best branded apps do not belong to a campaign, they are not simply another channel through which to communicate the current brand message or product promotion. They are a utility in their own right; something useful that earns the attention of consumers. This type of app should be the obvious starting point for marketing and operations managers, take an existing business process or service and mobilise it through an app, thus delivering an improved customer experience.
But the more exciting opportunity lies in using mobile apps to provide brand new services that only the mobile Internet can deliver. Take a look outside of Australia and it’s not hard to find examples of disruptive new mobile services. Walgreens, the US based pharmacy chain has developed an app driven service allowing customers to ‘scan and refill’ their own prescriptions, an innovative use of mobile technology that provides a distinct point of differentiation over their competitors.
Australian businesses may have been a little slow out of the mobile blocks but 2013 will see the ideas (and investment) begin to flow. Financial services, health, telecommunications, education and real estate will likely lead the charge. Many of the apps will continue to mobilise existing business services but a few innovative companies will seize the opportunity to do something different.
As with Walgreens, it will be the brave first movers in Australia, who’ll reap the rewards through app differentiation. By considering ‘mobile’ to be an opportunity to deliver useful new services (and not just another channel to market) these disruptive Australian companies will be rewarded with publicity for their innovation, earn referral from their existing customers and increase profitability through more efficient service delivery.
The technical solution consisted of a custom-made application using Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio combined with the Kinect for Windows hardware and software development kit (SDK). The user interacts with the application through a natural gesture and overlay interface, augmented with audio and visual cues. Skeletal tracking is used to determine the position and orientation of the user and various Barbie™ outfits are rescaled and rendered over the user in real time. After selecting an outfit the user is prompted to strike a pose, and after a short countdown the resulting postcard-style photo is uploaded to a Pyramid-powered web server. All approved images (users aged 13+ only with guardian consent) can then displayed in a gallery section of the Barbie® Australian Facebook page.
The app will be launched at a media event in Sydney on April 11, 2012. A series of public events will then be executed at Westfield centres during school holidays, commencing at Westfield Parramatta (NSW April 12 – 15), Westfield Doncaster (VIC June 28 – July 1), and Westfield Chermside (QLD Sept 27 – 30).