SL Entrepreneur Profile: Dave Elchoness Discusses Agumented Reality and Virtual Worlds

June 2nd, 2010  |  Published in SL Entrepreneur Profiles, SLENTRE.COM Magazine Feature Articles

Tagwhat creator Dave Elchoness discusses augmented reality and virtual worlds.Formerly head of the Association of Virtual Worlds, Dave Elchoness, has created the augmented reality (AR) platform Tagwhat.

He will be visiting Portland,  Oregon in order to present on the topic for the Software Association of Oregon. Dave was generous enough to answer some of  SLENTRE.COM’s questions regarding AR and why it will be a game changer.

How do you define Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality. or AR, is the real time display of digital imagery on the camera view of a computer.  Basically, if you’ve ever seen a Terminator movie, you’ve seen AR.  The data that the Terminator sees through his eyes on top of his reality.  Look at a building and see AR overlaying it including the building’s history, fuel consumption, tenant information, and you begin to realize the potential of AR.  In the case of Tagwhat, the AR is mobile, meaning that the digital imagery overlays the camera view of the mobile device.  Tagwhat is available for Android devices and for iPhone 3GS.

Why do marketers need to be paying attention to Augmented Reality?

Because it represents the next evolution of the web.  The AR we do is mobile and location based.  As you move about the world, the data delivered to your device is highly contextual to who you are and where you are.  Therefore, the message is incredibly powerful.  Beyond the sometimes gimmicky nature of some AR, Tagwhat allows for a highly targeted message placed at any square inch of the globe, so if you ever dreamt of being able to reach someone at a particular place or time of day, now you can.

AR is the web where it should be i.e. at the places where the information originates or most useful to the user of the information.  If you think of every square inch of the Earth from ground to sky as chock full of information, communication, history, commercial opportunity, and more, you can begin to see the promise of AR.

Describe Tagwhat and why we should join and download the application to our phone.

I’ll try to make this as simple as possible so everyone can appreciate what Tagwhat is.  Tagwhat gives every user, from individuals to businesses, the entire globe upon which to place AR tags, or virtual notes.  By following other users and selecting channels in Tagwhat, you bring their AR tags into your world.  These tags are highly interactive, meaning users can comment on them, make a phone call or send an email through them, and even launch a website from them.  Tagwhat is on-line and mobile, so anyone can enjoy this ‘place’ based information and communication system.  Basically, to sum it up, every user owns the globe and can choose the digital content to create, share, and consume over every inch of it.

People should join Tagwhat because it is an entirely unique way to communicate via place.  For example, join Tagwhat and place tags around your next travel destination.  Tag your hotel, restaurants you’d like to visit, activities you’d like to participate in.  Then, when you arrive, you’ll have your own personalized mobile application with everything you’ve tagged including turn by turn directions from one place to the next.  Once you’re home, place photos and tips at the destination so that friends and travelers who follow you there can benefit from your insights.  But Tagwhat is not just about travel, it’s about communicating with friends in a whole new way, learning about the world around you as you move through it, and even playing Foursquare in midst of all of this other interactivity.  Tagwhat is the digital window through which we see whatever sort of location based information we can imagine.

As for marketers, Tagwhat allows engagement with consumers like never before.  Drop a promotion outside of your client’s shop so that passersby can see it.  Place a video clip on a busy streetcorner to engage the crowd.  Tag a restaurant with a fantastic review for patrons to read and comment on.  Offer mobile ticketing opportunities outside a theater.  Even place a tag linked to an on-line store so that passersby can quickly shop at a retailer.  The number of different ways to interact and engage is amazing.  Up until now, the web revolution has largely bypassed pedestrians and small businesses.  Tagwhat is changing that.

Who is currently using Tagwhat?

Tagwhat launched publicly on May 6 but already it is being used by individuals worldwide for everything from location based blogs, selling real estate, travel journals, and quite a bit more.  We have museums in the system using the service to extend their traditional exhibits to the locations where the exhibits arise or will be most impactful.  We have IBM featuring content in Tagwhat, including via a virtual exhibit in NYC’s Madison Square Park.  They have bigger plans for even more campaigns.  We have photographers displaying their work.  More users are finding Tagwhat everyday, and as they invite their contacts through Tagwhat’s linkages with Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, we expect to grow steadily.

How can a brick and mortar business leverage a platform like Tagwhat?

Easy.  It takes a minute to set up a Tagwhat account.  Then, it takes seconds to place tags at locations around the world where the business wishes to deliver a message.  Perhaps in busy places near the business location.  Or maybe it’s where their products come from.  Maybe drop a coupon nearby or a video showing business being done at the location.  Certainly attach the business’ website address to the tag.  It all depends on what sort of business it is, but any business can benefit.  Once the business’ Tagwhat page is set up, promote it with the unique web address assigned to it.  For example, mine is  People who come to the web address will be able to see the business’ tags worldwide and join Tagwhat to follow the business and share in its mobile experience.

Are you planning on rolling out an advertising/revenue model?

Yes, location based advertising and other promotions will be rolled out shortly.  But our plans go beyond ads.  Our goal is to offer compelling location based content no matter what your interest is.  AR offers the possibility for new revenue models that haven’t quite been done yet.  We’re exploring those too.

What other AR  platforms are going to be  key players over the next few years?

I think we need to be careful about how we define the industry.  AR for AR’s sake won’t succeed.  The AR needs to be location based, interactive, engaging and it needs to be diverse enough to capture interest.  Location based services or games will not capture everyone’s attention.  But computing via location based AR is the future of the web.  There is no doubt about that.  I expect lots of players in the industry over the next several years and I expect Tagwhat to be at the forefront.

Do you feel AR and virtual technologies like Second Life will cross paths soon?

I think that eventually we’ll be able to tune our mobile device (probably eyewear) to reality based AR, mirror world interaction, or virtual world experience.  When you’re ‘inside the web’, which is what AR promises, that web can be anything from real data to virtual fantasy world.

Can you see ways virtual worlds can be enhanced through AR?

I think AR can serve as a portal from real life to virtuality.  Currently you have to sit down as your computer to enter a virtual world.  But what if that virtual world was available from your eyewear?  What if you could look right and left and see your coworkers 10,000 miles away as if they were in the same place via a virtual workplace?  What if retailers offered virtual game worlds to users in close proximity to their establishments – sort of a gift for visiting?  This and more is coming and it’s coming pretty fast and it’s going to change our lives in a very significant way.

Give us a teaser from your upcoming presentation in Portland, Oregon. Why do social media marketers and Internet professionals need to be there?

All I can say is that mobile augmented reality, and in particular, Tagwhat, is going to change how we view the web as a social medium, in the enterprise, and everywhere else.  I sincerely believe that if marketers give short shrift to ‘location’ based computing and interaction, they will have to do a lot of catch-up very soon.  I promise my presentation will be informative and fun.  :-)

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