Futuristic Super 8 Ads Remind Us of Minority Report

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Aurasma in the Super 8 App
A futuristic augmented reality tie-in for the movie Super 8 turns your smartphone into its own science fiction story. With just your iPhone and its camera, the movie's new app can turn any Super 8 poster in the United States into a video clip from the film. The technology behind this comes from Autonomy, which normally plays in enterprise software. But with its AR play, an iPhone app called Aurasma, you can use your smartphone or tablet to trigger cool videos and animation based upon what you're looking at through the camera.

Aurasma's content is just one aspect of a long and complex viral marketing campaign for the film that's included a hidden url in a single frame of the movie's original teaser trailer and some extra footage hidden in the movie's iPhone app. By solving puzzles and following clues in the app and around the web Super 8 fans are able to unlock frames of this hidden video. Since the Super 8 app has already been downloaded over a million times, users have been able to work together to assemble minutes of hidden footage this way.

The AR content may be the film's coolest trick yet, though.

Once you've downloaded the Super 8 app and opened it up you'll be able to access the Aurasma content by clicking on the "AR Lens." This brings up the view from your phone's camera. Then it's just a simple matter of pointing the lens at an image like the Super 8 poster that's been "lit up"-as Autonomy refers to content that's Aurasma-enabled--and the app will recognize the image and work its magic, including but not limited to launching a game or playing video.(An earlier demo reel shows the technology can trigger more than just video clips.) One example we've seen demonstrated: Superimposing a video over an image, to make it seem as if the image came alive.

We got a quick demo video from Autonomy.

In the case of the Super 8 poster, the app currently plays a short teaser clip for the movie. Autonomy says that could change, though, if J.J. Abrams and the creative team behind Super 8 decide to include new clips or even a totally different type of content; the idea would be to evolve the content the longer the movie's out. Unlike a lot of AR apps that depend on black and white tags, Aurasma relies on image recognition, as opposed to a bar code or QR code. This means the company can "light up" almost anything, be it a physical object or a static page. Using the characteristics of an object (including an image), an action is associated with it in a database, and then when the app identifies that object, it deploys the action that image has triggered. We saw Aurasma work on the sample image the company provided of the Mona Lisa, and on a different picture of the Mona Lisa, too.

With the ability to trigger more complex 3D effects, and the promised future streamlining of its AR pop-up experience, Aurasma shows a lot of potential. The company first demoed its technology in April; the Super 8 activity is its first forge ahead, but by no means its last. Autonomy promises it has a lot more coming down the pipeline. Next on deck: Embedding a pop-up video in a paper catalog Tsubo shoes.

If you're hungry for more AR action now, though, you can download the standalone Aurasma app that lets you create your own "lit up" objects. Autonomy recently released a version for Android to complement the iOS version.

Additional reporting by Melissa J. Perenson.

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