Mobile operator Telefnica, which owns O2 in the UK, has announced it will integrate augmented reality technology from HP's Aurasma into its mobile advertising offerings.
The agreement is being touted as the biggest deal between a global telecoms company and an augmented reality provider to date. The new services will initially be rolled out in the UK through O2, and offered to brands through O2 Media.
Augmented reality is the overlay of digital information onto a view of the real world. Since the arrival of powerful computers and smartphones, with built-in video capabilities and 3D rendering, companies have started developing mobile applications that use image-recognition technology to bring static images to life.
Aurasma's augmented reality platform, available as a free app for iPhones, iPads and high-powered Android devices, allows interactive digital content such as videos, coupons, competitions and 3D animations to be "unlocked" from various types of media, such as outdoor billboards, print adverts, products, physical locations and in-store materials.
For example, the company was recently contracted by men's magazine GQ to bring augmented reality content to print adverts in its September issue. By capturing print adverts in their smartphone's viewfinder, readers are able to automatically view additional content such as websites and campaign videos.
Since launch in June 2011, Aurasma claims to have attracted over 8,000 commercial partners to its platform and reached more than four million downloads of its app. The partnership with Telefnica will potentially enable it to reach a further 25 markets and 300 million customers worldwide.
"Augmented reality has the potential to fundamentally change advertising, transforming current static formats and introducing new levels of interactivity," said Shaun Gregory, Global Director of Advertising at Telefnica Digital.
"Aurasma is the undoubted leader in this space with a uniquely scalable platform approach and best in class image recognition technology. It has already demonstrated the power of its technology in thousands of innovative campaigns across the world and we look forward to working with them to further drive the use of this technology in advertising and marketing communications."
Analyst firm Semico recently predicted that the augmented reality market will be worth $600 billion by 2016. The technology is still in its infancy and is often looked upon as gimmicky, it said, but will drive innovation within the gaming, medical, mobile, automotive and manufacturing markets.