- The Black Eyed Peas, the Grammy-winning hip-hop group led by rapper Will.I.Am, released an augmented reality (AR) mobile application on Black Friday to go with its graphic novel “Masters of the Sun: The Zombie Chronicles.” Readers who hold a smartphone over the pages of the comic will see the story come to life through animated features and voice-overs from several celebrities. A virtual reality (VR) version on Oculus is in the works for early next year, TechCrunch reported.
- Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, Mary J Blige, Rosario Dawson and Snoop Dogg are among the performers who help to tell the story of a California hip-hop group that battle an alien deity who turns drug dealers and gangsters into zombies. Marvel Comics chairman emeritus Stan Lee narrates the AR experience, which features a score by Will.I.Am and Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, per TechCrunch.
- Marvel Comics in August published the graphic novel, which was co-written by Will.I.Am and Benjamin Jackendoff and illustrated by Damion Scott. The app was developed with Trigger Global, a mixed-reality company that's previously developed content for brands like AMC, Google, Mattel and Red Bull. The app is available now for $1.99 on iOS and Android.
The development of an AR-powered comic book is a creative experiment with multimedia content, as more companies seek ways to use emerging visual technology in smartphone apps. Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore platforms promise to unleash the creative powers of millions of software developers worldwide, especially as the tech giants offer the possibility of reaching a vast audience of mobile users. The AR market needs a wider variety of content to encourage greater adoption of the technology, which means media and gaming companies have an opportunity to stake a claim early on in a burgeoning market.
The Black Eyed Peas aren't the first to bridge the gap between online and offline experiences with a print publication. In April, Ford partnered with Marvel to promote the film "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" through a digital and limited print comic. Mercedez-Benz in October created six digital comics on Instagram for the Nov. 17 release of Warner Bros. Pictures film "Justice League." This trend of developing fun digital content is growing as marketers' strategies continue to expand in an attempt to connect with younger consumers who aren't interested in traditional ads.
Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.I.Am isn’t a stranger to technology as the founder of I.Am+, a Hollywood-based technology company that has had a mixed history of marketing consumer electronics including iPhone cases, wearable “smart bands” and wireless Bluetooth headphones. However, I.Am+ is making better headway in the enterprise market. The company this month raised $117 million in venture funding to support the development of its voice-activated digital assistant Omega. The company is targeting customer service apps in the enterprise market. Deutsche Telekom, the German telecom giant and parent company of T-Mobile, has been using Omega to power an artificial intelligence (AI) customer support chatbot since June, according to Reuters.
Total spending on AR and virtual reality products is estimated to jump from $11.4 billion this year to about $215 billion in four years, per an August study from the International Data Corporation. Games will likely dominate AR and VR tech with total spending reaching $9.5 billion by 2021, the researcher said.