You can’t legally paint graffiti on someone else’s property, or plant advertisements in someone else’s yard. But, what if the property owner doesn’t know that that graffiti or advertisements are there? This is one level of the discourse currently happening around location-based AR experiences and no one has done more to add to that discourse than Darabase.
ARPost met with CEO Dominic Collins and COO David Bomphrey to learn more about Darabase and what they’ve been up to in 2020.
Darabase and the AR Wild West
Darabase creates AR experiences based around existing outdoor media like screens and billboards. They also consult with other experience creators to help them navigate permissioned location-based experiences that are in keeping with the spirit of conventional property laws, which don’t typically carry over neatly to the AR ecosystem (yet).
“There has to be some kind of permission-based regulatory framework,” said Collins. “Darabase was born out of that concept.”
The last time that ARPost talked to Darabase was back in February. Any ten-month period in XR can feel like years in any other industry and that’s doubly so for 2020.
Over the past few years certainly – but particularly over the last few months – XR technology hardware, infrastructure, and adoption has exploded. This in turn has led to more serious conversations over how and where we use AR.
“Where we were two years ago certainly was the Wild West,” said Bomphrey. “Now there’s a significant shift by all players… There’s a more grown-up conversation about what should be done rather than what can be done.”
Products and Partnerships
The times are always changing and Darabase has changed with them. This year, they’ve launched an experience management platform called MonitAR and teamed up with Freeths law firm on an exciting report. They’re also working with Ocean Outdoor on an AR experience for Landsec’s Piccadilly Lights.
Working with content creators is an important part of the Darabase mission but they also work with property managers who may or may not understand the impact of AR technology and its impact on their property.
“We’re seeing more and more applications that are world-facing,” said Collins. “The ability to do that, we believe, should be in collaboration with the property manager.”
The MonitAR platform creates an interactive map of AR experiences from a number of applications and publishers so that property managers can see where these experiences are in relation to their properties. It also helps property managers to contact the publishers in order to have these experiences removed if necessary.
“One of the problems, a bit like pollution, is that you can only see AR if you’re looking through the right lens,” said Bomphrey. “We look at all of the major AR applications and visualize them on a map.”
Being an AR producer themselves, Darabase also helps property managers to understand the value of implementing AR on their properties should they choose to leverage the technology themselves.
Augmenting the Piccadilly Lights With Ocean Outdoor and Landsec
“Early in the life of the company” Darabase spent a lot of time meeting with property owners “educating and evangelizing” on the nuance of AR permissions and location-based experiences. During this time they began working with both out-of-home media group Ocean Outdoor and prominent UK property owner Landsec. Ocean Outdoor and Landsec were already partners.
The group is working on bringing AR experiences to one of the world’s busiest screens in one of the world’s busiest cities. If that wasn’t enough, they’re working on leveraging technology that is cutting edge, even for AR: audio syncing to a personal device allowing different users to have different experiences of the same AR event.
Freeths Solicitors and “The Rise of Outdoor Augmented Reality”
For a more legal outlook, Darabase contributed to “The Rise of Outdoor Augmented Reality”, a recent report by Freeths Solicitors. The report lays out some of the current benefits and concerns surrounding location-based AR experiences and the current regulatory framework, or lack thereof.
“As with many advancements in technology, it can be seen that the legal and regulatory framework has yet to catch up with AR and the legal context is a complicated one,” reads the report.
Darabase came to work with Freeths through working with the publication Property Week. One of the goals of the report was to increase understanding of AR to people who are more likely to encounter it through other fields like property law.
“The main takeaway is just an understanding for people who aren’t digital natives that this is something that is meaningful today, it isn’t some kind of sci-fi future,” said Collins. “It has immediate potential and perhaps some concerns.”
“From Augmenting Faces to Augmenting Places”
Throughout the interview, Collins and Bomphrey expressed confidence that the potential and the complications that come from persistent location-based AR will continue through AR adoption and development. However, they are also confident that content producers are more interested than ever in preventing those complications from becoming problems.
Collins also pointed at “a shift from augmenting faces to augmenting spaces” – a line similar to Snap’s Bobby Murphy calling on Snapchat lens creators and app users alike to “turn your camera out towards the world” at Lens Fest just a week earlier.
Just as outlet providers like Snap are confident in AR users’ pursuit of doing good, Darabase is confident in the producers’ pursuit of doing good in the right way.
“We almost try not to get caught up in ‘Is this illegal or not?’ but focus on ‘Is this the way things should be done or not?’,” said Collins.