Yesterday, Google finally opened up the augmented reality game Ingress to iOS users, after having been an Android app for over two years. Ingress is a game in which you travel the real world, gathering resources, and looking for "alien portals" to take over or defend using your smartphone or tablet; these portals exist in the real world as historic landmarks and points of interest.
It's a fun game, filled with a great storyline and intriguing gameplay, especially since it requires that you actually get off your butt and travel to physical locations around you in order to attack or defend these portals.
What it is also, however, is a stellar example of what mobile is evolving to. Ingress is a beautiful demonstration of an immersive experience that blends offline and online nearly seamlessly. It's not just another app. It's also not just a game. It's a hybrid experience that more brands and marketers will need to embrace and emulate if they want to stand out from the crowd.
Imagine taking the same level of engaging augmented reality to things like museums, encyclopedias, product guides, even the field of marketing. Imagine being able to visualize the reach of your competitors in the real world and taking real world actions (mapped to the social graph) to counteract them.
Imagine looking at a real world map and seeing a social influencer activate, then seeing who they're connected to, and touching the screen to see how to activate them. Imagine seeing a competitor's business getting new links to their website and then identifying nearby media properties granting those links - and being able to win them over to your business.
Suddenly the idea of augmented reality seems less a game and more a viable way to conquer your niche, especially for local businesses.
The next wave of mobile is here: mobile as an integrated part of real life, not a distinct environment that insulates us from it. The games are just the beginning.
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