Posted by: bbannan | April 11, 2011

Augmented Reality and Tomatoes: Competitive Analysis – Michelle

Tomatoes generate debate, cause perplexity, and sometimes confusion regarding their status as a fruit or a vegetable. Scientifically they are a fruit. However, tomatoes hang out with the vegetables at the store, and frequently are displayed on educational charts as vegetables. When we want to do a competitive analysis of tomatoes the question becomes: Who are the competitors, are they apples and oranges or are they carrots and beets? The answer depends on the context we are using or comparing tomatoes.

Augmented Reality (AR) has elements, functions, and operations of several well-known and established technologies and applications. AR also interacts and perhaps even competes with the real world. This makes it difficult to determine who the competitor is and how to effectively conduct competitive research and analysis. The determination of competitor is driven by the AR application we are designing and who we are designing it for. This search for identity and how AR is benchmark is the subject of AR sites and technology blogs.

AR is an emerging and rapidly changing technology without a diverse and large community of competitors. In each of our team projects the competitors are both in the realm of technology and human physical interaction. This makes a side-by-side or point-to-point comparison difficult. However, the functionalities we are designing and conceptual context we are using do provide some anchor points sufficient for us to use the competitive analysis process.

The pearls of wisdom that roll out of Kuniavsky (2003) discussion on competitive research and analysis are to embrace the process and look in the mirror. Merging Kuniavsky concepts with fundamental elements of good investigation techniques and some AR blogs I came up with these thoughts and questions as essential to an effective functional and operational competitive analysis:

–          Define our own expectations of usability, functionality, and operations. Openly listen for others perspectives and being willing to adapt.

–          Look at other products or activities that have direct or indirect functions similar to our own products. Compare the functionalities based on what they provide and don’t provide the user.  (Watch and listen)

–          Ask the same tough questions of other products we asked ourselves about user interface, functionality, user expectations, feasibility, viability, and sustainability.

–          What does our AR product or the other product provide the user that other current technology does not?

–          What about our AR product or the other product is most valued by the user and why?

–          What are our AR products or the other product’s issues of sustainability and relevancy? (Are we at risk of a “one-hit wonder”?)

–          How does a product and company gain the trust of the user?

–          Don’t make the data try to fit. The difference or often the competitive advantages for someone.

–          What are strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT)? (This is the cornerstone of a good decision matrix)

The research, analysis, reflection, and adaptation are constant and ongoing processes to develop and sustain a cutting edge product. Unlike the tomatoes’ crisis of being trapped between two worlds AR products will eventually stand-alone with clear benchmarks.

Bottom line: The outcome of the competitive analysis is actionable information to improve our product.

Some Helpful Resources:

1.  Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) is an excellent process for competitive analysis. SWOTs organize and focus well-defined information and identify ill-defined domain or problems.  (I would recommend typing into a search engine “SWOT templates” and then select “images” display. This will provide you a wide display of the different usage and types of SWOTs).

SWOT Analysis Worksheet: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/worksheets/SWOTAnalysisWorksheet.pdf

Competitive analysis using SWOT: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/competitive-analysis-using-swot-TC006078428.aspx?CTT=5&origin=HA001165603

Mind Mapping: http://www.mindgenius.com/

2.  AR discussion forums/sites on challenges currently facing AR and updates on new AR developments.

Futuristlens: http://www.futuristlens.com/category/augmented-reality-2/

Augmented Planet: http://www.augmentedplanet.com/2010/06/the-mobile-augmented-reality-competitive-landscape/ (This site has good diversity of information and links to other AR relevant sites).

 

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Responses

  1. I do agree that the wide array of AR functionality makes it a difficult technology to make a comparison with across various uses. I also think that because it’s such a new and evolving technology, a set of standards to compare upon is yet to truly exist. What I like about your post, is that you outline specific functionalities that currently define what the use of AR aims to accomplish.

    The point that I particularly like was the one concerning its value to the user. I think at this stage in the technology’s evolution, this is a particular are that needs to remain in the designer’s focus. It’s important for designers to utilize AR for specific reasons that directly enhance the user experience, rather than using it just for its novelty.

    Ultimately, we are using this technology to fill learning gaps. When competitively comparing AR utilization to others, we must measure the value of the technology regarding how it is filling these learning gaps and improving the experience of the learner. Where have the learner’s abilities improved as a result of using AR? How often do they now rely upon AR for completing the desired task? These are questions that should be asked regarding the value of the AR application. Regarding user feedback, it would be important to find out what improvements could be made to the application in order to increase its desirability and use amongst the learner, thus providing further value-based research.

    • Dave,
      I have really been thinking about your comments. I agree there is the risk the technology enticing us into focusing on it instead of the purpose of the activity. We risk amplifying/showcasing the novelty experience of the technology instead of the functionality for learner. Interestingly this morning as I was organizing my day I saw on the TV an advertisement for the expansion of Nintendo 3DS augmented reality games. It peaked my interest. I decided to do a little more research on where Nintendo was going with the new version of games. What I came across was very interesting. They are moving forward at an increased speed in development and marketing. Nintendo marketing to get the competitive edge in the game industry will directly impact the momentum of the development of AR capabilities and devices.
      During the research process I found an interesting tangent that really relates to our user research and discussion. It is a short 12 minutes clip from a panel discussion on gaming and user research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business Entrepreneurship Conference. g on understanding the users. The panel of experts in this video talks about how they approach finding out what engages the user and enhances their learning experience. Some of it is a little scary about how much they dive into the human behavior and cognitive process. In short they are talking about getting inside the user’s mind. Well worth the 12 minutes:
      Gaming for the Greater Good, GSB Entrepreneurship Conference, Stanford Business

      • Oops I pasted the wrong url. Sorry
        Games for the Greater Good GSB discussion is at

  2. Two things I learned from your post Michelle:
    1. SWOT analysis which I was familiar with in evaluating programs, but I also liked how you linked it to AR and technology tools.

    2. Ask the same tough questions of other products we asked ourselves about user interface, functionality, user expectations, feasibility, viability, and sustainability. That’s very useful when you’re doing competitive research and conducting user experience to evaluate other competitor tools.

    I think competitive research could have been a great starting point for the AR mobile applications we have designed for this course.

  3. Ghania,
    Thank you for the response.

    SWOTs are really diverse tools. Professionally, I find them very effective in our problem solving process. The challenge is frequently items can fit into more than one category of the SWOT depending on the context. It is a dynamic tool.


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