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IRON MAN Returns
With Mobile Augmented Reality


One of this summer’s biggest box office cinema hits is Iron Man 2 – the story about a billionaire technical genius who fights crime as the armored superhero Iron Man. Given the high-tech nature of the film, it was a natural promotional fit for launching a new, premium mobile phone, and not surprisingly, augmented reality was the technology chosen.

In this article we see how LG Mobile Phones teamed up with Marvel Comics, Paramount Pictures, and Total Immersion to execute a campaign utilizing both mobile-based and PC-based AR.

Mobile Augmented Reality has started to become fairly widespread recently, largely based on the popularity of AR systems such as Layar, Mobilizy, and Junaio. These systems make it fairly easy to link images and information to a physical location, and then allow users to discover the information through an AR interface.

For some examples of mobile AR, see:
• IKEA Uses Mobile Augmented Reality To Engage Shoppers’ Imagination
• Mobile Apps Score At Wimbledon
• Rolling Stones Launch AR Campaign
• Mobile Augmented Reality Builds Deep Consumer Engagement

In general, these applications determine the users location using GPS and their direction from an embedded compass, and based on these this they can determine what information to overlay onto the realworld image from the phone’s camera.

Another kind of AR is based on the AR application recognizing the images it sees, and using them to trigger the experience. The Iron Man campaign is based on this markerless technology.

For the Iron Man 2 campaign, a dedicated microsite was built ( where consumers could download special AR applications, and a limited edition version of the Iron Man 2 comic book was used to trigger several different AR experiences.

Wear the suit

ironman-suit.gifA key part of the film is that the hero wears a special armored suit to augment his abilities, and one of the most iconic scenes is when the suit automatically covers the hero. The first part of the marketing campaign, which runs on a PC, let’s each person experience what it is like to be in the suit.

The AR experience is kicked off by holding the comic book in front of the PC’s camera. The software determines the location and position of the user’s face, and then creates an Iron Man helmet directly over their head. Even better, once the suit is on, when the person moves their head, the AR experience moves the helmet to match the movement.

There is also the possibility to see what the view would be like from inside the suit, as the user can change the view so they see the Iron Man heads-up display.

This is a little difficult to explain clearly, but the following video trailer shows it nicely.

Pilot Iron Man

The second part of the AR experience is triggered by the back cover of the special edition comic book.

A fast-paced, timed game called “Sky Thruster” lets players, through movement detection, control a flying figure of Iron Man across desert and urban landscapes. Using the comic book as a joystick, players dodge city buildings and close encounters with LG icons as they race to the finish and move on to higher levels.


Going mobile

As this is an LG campaign, making some of the Iron Man AR experience available on a mobile device is clearly important, plus it benefits the campaign by allowing people to more easily show it and share it with friends.

In this case, LG put a virtual Iron Man into the handset. Consumers simply point their LG phone at the special edition comic book, and an Iron Man figure begins to build on the screen. When it is complete, they can fly the figure around the room just by moving the comic book.

Here is a video to show what it looks like (look carefully as the image is a bit small, and there is no sound).


This is clearly a very targeted, very technology driven campaign. Given that the special edition comic was primarily distributed to people who had already purchased the new LG Ally handset, the objective was probably to build some buzz around the product and polish up LG’s high-tech image, rather than to drive sales.

This campaign provides us a good look at where AR is today – it can do some very interesting things and is definitely moving quickly to the consumer level – but it is still quite technology driven instead of being a means to drive interesting consumer interaction.

One thing I think we can take away from this campaign is that AR, and especially mobile AR, is continuing to improve and grow. In the near future we can hope to see a lot of interesting campaigns and applications utilizing this new technology to build true, long-term customer engagement.

14.07.2010    Tags: , ,
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