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Billbid — Real Life’s Ad Blocker

Using augmented reality to change billboards around Nashville

There’s a ton of hype about augmented reality nowadays. Snapchat uses augmented reality to give you the puppy face filter, Pokemon Go uses augmented reality to spawn a Pikachu for you to catch, and Apple’s measuring app uses augmented reality to help you measure your dining table. Augmented reality allows you to add some fantasy to the world, and that’s exciting.

Education, sports, manufacturing, medical services, and many others industries are finally adopting AR. While Apple has quickly become the biggest augmented reality platform in the world, Magic Leap just released their new technology. We’ve seen the recent growth of new startups, conferences, headsets, and content. But what’s next?

The world that I’m about to describe might sound crazy, but please use your imagination. In 2028, perhaps everyone will be wearing augmented reality glasses during their morning commute, using them to watch Friends and catch up on emails. Perhaps all car windshields will contain augmented reality technology that helps your designated driver navigate to the nearest McDonalds drive-thru. Around your town, imagine that this same technology can change or block billboard ads on the street. Ad-blocking on the internet is popular today, so folks may want to do it in real life too (at least in 2028). This app would even be great for companies that want to try out different billboard ads to see which ones are best.

We decided to make an app that does just this. Billbid lets you edit some of the billboard ads around Nashville through the perspective on your phone screen, allowing you to block ads or replace them with different ones. Here’s how it works.

Under the Hood

Billbid uses a built-in experience platform provided by Unity, allowing you to create objects and place them in an infinite 3D space. It also uses an image recognition tool called Vuforia, so when your phone camera recognizes an image, the app does stuff. Combining these features together, Billbid adds new items to a specific point in 3D space when your camera is familiar with an image it sees. In our case, the new items added are new images that overlay existing ones. So, rather than making an image in the real world disappear, we actually just cover it up using our phone camera (we’re just covering up billboards). This concept could be used on car windshields in the future, assuming that billboards are primarily viewed through car windows.

In Action

Rolling through the streets of Nashville, I demonstrated Billbid blocking billboard ads via my phone! There were a few bail bond ads we decided to replace. Some before & after photos…

Note: These were really created with the app and not photoshop.

We’ve Prepared for a New Billboard Ad Industry

With the concept of Billbid in mind, what if companies could place bids to replace billboards around Nashville with their own ads using augmented reality? The highest bidding company would get their billboard displayed through all car windshields, or maybe a certain percent of car windshields. To prepare for this, we created www.billbid.glitch.me, a billboard ad bidding site. On the site, just search for a billboard you like in Nashville, place a bid, and watch your ad get displayed for thousands of people through car windshield augmented reality technology. Bids will be accepted in 2028.

When it comes to the real-world applications of new technology, many industries are finally embracing augmented reality at full throttle. We’re just thinking ahead about billboards. Heads up!

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