Having worked and written for BSN* over the past several years on virtual and augmented reality I am glad to return to explore the possibilities of my own work, a mobile app called Tagaboom that my friends and I just released for iOS and web, coming soon to Windows and Android. Tagaboom is an engine to annotate all media with all media, which we have implemented as a photo sharing application.

Tagaboom is among the earliest mobile applications that help users broadly annotate shared images with rich media. The potential for such applications is tremendous, and they are precursors for annotation of real space in the form of augmented reality.

Image vs. Reality

There is a progression from the snapshots of reality we record with our cameras every day and the unfolding world of augmented reality and wearable computing. Augmented reality generally hangs out where it is or where recognizable objects and tags reside. An annotated image looks a lot like an augmented reality, without the limitation of being there. Annotated images can float around the social web through social sharing. Annotated imagery can be thought of as portable augmented reality.

Augment vs. Annotate

Augmenting an image or scene may refer to annotation, or it might imply deeper interactivity. Augmented reality is often imagined as real time interaction with 3D Avatars and objects that match the dimensionality of real space creating additional visual and interactive experiences. But there are a broad range of digital objects we might associate with real space or tags ? an envelope containing a message, sound or narration, still images or illustrations. Augmented reality is simply annotated reality with thoughts around additional interaction and more complex visual forms ? both of which can be equally applicable to still images. The difference between digital augmentation and annotation is a question of degree, or there may be no different at all.

Tagaboom

Tagaboom is among the earliest mobile applications that help users broadly annotate shared images. Tagaboom creates photo conversations by combining photos with instantly shared speech, text, sketch, and effects. Tagaboom transports these images to iOS, the web, and soon Android and Windows. At Tagaboom we believe we are just starting to uncover compelling things we can do when we annotate imagery and real space and share collaboratively.

Photo Conversation

A photo conversation is a thread of media-rich annotations based on a photo or image. It sequences annotation in time just like a normal conversation ? it adds temporal to annotation With Tagaboom, media can be added right on top of a photo, or text and voice can create commentary and more traditional conversation. A meme is such an annotation, so are sketches or even more dramatic transformations such as photo filters and imagery effects. The annotations become conversation tools when they can be shared as a timeline of annotations ? Simon starts a Joke, Marty finishes the Joke, Steve modifies the image to reflect the joke all in a sequential conversation with real time updates. Media rich annotation has made it possible to use media to create a new kind of conversation, one in which users re-engage the photos or images directly.

Portable Social Networks

Most social networks work diligently to keep a conversation there for the purpose of creating ongoing engagement, growth, and advertising revenue. When you share a photo conversation, you are creating portable conversations that are shareable on any social network and can be employed as conversations there or as conversations spanning networks.

Simon and Marty and both share the same conversation using Tagaboom on different social networks, and everyone can converge on the image in the app or online and engage there. Since Tagaboom is available online or on mobile devices natively, this creates portable conversations which can be visually engaging and informative as annotations can mark up and modify the original image. Like a small, portable social network, each image is a conversation, and each conversation can live in the cloud not tied to any particular social network.

Private Social Networks

An application which makes it easy to share makes it almost inversely difficult to keep something private. While the bloopers can be entertaining and tantalizing, the potential for accidental sharing makes most of us a bit anxious. Google and Facebook have had their images tarnished as their user base, now the entire global population, feels increasingly overexposed.

Personally, I believe the antidote is for social networks to provide more than options and not nested menus ? rather create well defined apps and experiences that embrace private interaction. Privacy as an option in every conversation with Tagaboom, and I believe that the better the tools are for sharing with small groups, the more users will want to create and share ? just on their terms.

Beyond Facebook

If we think of Facebook and text annotation of photos as a foundation, we can see a number of applications beginning to reach beyond. Mobile apps have begun to embrace mobile annotation with rich media. Applications are pioneering the use of voice annotation with photos, and now Tagaboom is embracing all media types as images or annotations.

Augmented reality has yet to find an onramp despite impressive capabilities. Adoption has been slowed by competing solutions which solve similar problems such as maps and targeted advertising, and we are yet to find a hit-making gaming formula. By broadly embracing annotation in the cloud we are building a foundation for an interesting future which may bridge the gap.

Tagaboom is now available as a free download for iOS

Simon is the Chief Marketing Officer at Tagaboom and has recently championed Kickstarter projects including the Sixense STEM and Virtuix Omni. Simon incubates virtual and augmented reality technologies and promises that more lies ahead.

Editor’s Note: Simon is a unique type of visionary that is able to get people excited about cool upcoming technologies. Anyone that knows him will confirm this, we love him here at BSN* and wish him all the best with Tagaboom. We’ll be posting updates regarding the Android and Windows Phone versions shortly.