Our Creative Technologist, Jon Jones explores the changes we’ve seen in Augmented Reality (AR) technology, from our first to most recent and viral campaigns.

For 15 years, Grand Visual has been at the forefront of the digital OOH landscape. From the first time we ever used AR, for a Lynx campaign (2011), to the most recent work we did for Amazon (2019), it’s safe to say that we’ve had the opportunity to work on some pretty impressive AR executions.

With both feet firmly in a new decade, I’ve decided to take a look back at this journey with 2020 vision to predict what this year will bring – from tech innovation to best in class examples of AR in OOH.

The key technological change I’ve seen in AR technology is the improvement in the way that we automate it. For the Lynx campaign we did back in 2011, the AR process was entirely manual. Every single transition, vision mixing to the screen, and sending the resulting photo back to the user, each element was manual. This sort of process inherently doesn’t lend itself to any kind of longevity regarding activation times.

Fast forward to a campaign we did for Spider-Verse exactly seven years later and we were able to run the activation for over a month without any human interaction. This is in part down to the huge amount of improvement with the live graphics technologies that enable us to automatically apply visual effects to our camera feed.

Another development I’ve noticed is the scalability of which we’re able to deploy AR. Back in 2014, we worked on one of our most memorable AR campaigns of all time for Pepsi MAX. Still to this day, the campaign accounts for the majority of our website leads and is constantly shared on social media.

Back then, this use of AR in digital OOH was unique and only achievable on a small scale. However, with Snapchat lenses and filters launched the following year, a wider audience was introduced to the world of Augmented Reality. This technology is something that now exists in everyone’s back pockets and has become commonplace. Whilst it’s enjoyable to keep celebrating this award-winning campaign, it’s essential to keep looking towards the future and planning our next big project.

In 2020, when it comes to creative technology and AR executions, a key consideration is how to make these scalable and shareable experiences. Over the years we have seen inventory change in such a way that means Augmented Reality is no longer limited to a one-off stunt, and can be a more ingrained part of a campaign’s creative, like this campaign we did for O2 Goslings in 2017.

Keeping our finger on the pulse of the latest tech advances, 5G may bring quite a few benefits, provides us with a great opportunity to continue to push the boundaries of DOOH. Although, of course, it’s the creative idea behind any execution that brings success and not necessarily the most advanced technology.

This year we will keep on innovating and exploring the technology available to us, with a focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and 5G. Augmented Reality is at the heart of some of our best interactive campaigns and we expect this to continue and evolve. Last decade was all about growing and introducing AR technology to the digital OOH landscape; we can’t wait to see what the next decade brings. 


Air quality sensor for digital OOH. Grand Visual.
When considering dynamic DOOH campaigns that use data, the mind automatically jumps to weather data such as temperature, precipitation and wind… however, there are a wealth of other data types available, from pollen counts to traffic jams. What we wanted to explore was the possibility of collecting hyper-localised air quality data, that could be used to update each piece of DOOH creative.

There are a plethora of different sensors available on the market that can detect gas levels. The sensor that we settled on was the MQ135 (catchy, right?) which can detect gases such as NH3, NOx, alcohol, Benzene, smoke, and CO2. Getting the readings of these substances in the air would give us a good indication of the current air quality.

By connecting the sensor to an Arduino and an LED strip, we were able to get a visual representation of the readings. Luckily, it seemed that the quality of air in our office was good, so we introduced some other pollutants to test.

Air Quality sensor for digital OOH.

The sensor we had displayed its readings on the screen in ppm (parts per million). The higher the number the more pollutants in the air.

This was the scale used to categorise the ppm ranges.

Results from air quality tests using an air quality sensor. Grand Visual.

With the demo working successfully the next step was to take it outside. So to make the kit portable, we set ourselves up with a 3D printed box to house the sensor along with a USB battery.

Then we headed out to get some measurements.

Results from air quality tests using an air quality sensor. Grand Visual.

Are you surprised by the readings? All 3 locations fell well within the “good” range, we definitely expected much higher readings in Piccadilly Circus compared to St James’s Park, but it was reassuring to see there was a difference.

For this example, we used an air quality sensor but there are sensors that can provide data local to a particular installation such as temperature, lightning strikes, rain detection and sound decibel levels.

We’re no strangers to dynamic campaigns that rely on specific data triggers, take for example this campaign for Elizabeth Arden which used location-specific pollution readings. Imagine how much more effective this could have been with hyper-localised, real-time readings. It’s still in the early stages, but we’re keen to keep looking into new and more creative data sources to power DOOH.

Voice activation creative technology testing for digital OOH. Grand Visual.
We’re always trying to learn new things and experiment with new technologies. Often projects come about by a question being asked that we don’t know the answer to. Our latest project stemmed from such a question, will voice activation work for OOH?

Voice recognition/activation is a technology that is growing exponentially. According to ComScore, 50% of all searches will be completed via voice by 2020. That’s a figure that becomes less surprising as time moves on and more people have an Alexa or Google Home. With voice commands seamlessly assisting with the day to day running of households, why wouldn’t it be able to be used in OOH as well?

To find out how possible it is, we thought we should start by buying a few different types of microphones to test what was going to be the most suitable in the OOH environment. We opted for two little mics, one stage and one shotgun mic. We thought this would provide a decent range of sizes and multi-directional options to at least give us a starting point.

The actual process for testing a microphone isn’t remarkably scientific. Our creative technologist Jon Jones attached various mics to an easyVR module for testing. And by attaching, it is literally getting the old soldering iron out and sticking the parts together. Then someone stands a metre or so away from it to see whether easyVR can understand what they’re saying without being affected by irrelevant noises.

We found that while the easyVR module was trainable to a particular voice, it would struggle to accurately understand the same phrase being said by someone else. As it’s primarily designed as a hobbyist item, we had to explore different software options for speech recognition. Writing some software to interface with Microsoft Azure’s Cognitive voice services proved hugely successful and accurate in transcribing what a user was saying.

In our tests, we found that all of the microphones performed well but the directional shotgun mic gave us the greatest flexibility, but being realistic, it wouldn’t be practical for digital OOH. We would likely need something much smaller and more compact, that could deliver us the same accuracy with results.

We decided to see how far we could push the compactness of the microphone and invested in a small USB lapel mic, which would be perfect for hiding in a digital OOH installation. A couple of test trips down Regent Street and at bus stops later … Success! This combination of hardware and software was performing brilliantly.

With the mic sorted, the next phase was training the AI to recognise what people are trying to say. People generally veer away from the script if the question is too vague or open-ended.

Entering a bit more code enabled us to not only hear what a user was saying but also understanding, in-depth, the meaning and intent of what they were saying. For example, saying “I’m hungry” or “What’s for lunch?” has the same intent – it’s a request to find somewhere to eat. With voice activation/detection in OOH, simplicity is the key, so minimise the options available as potential answers or actions.

To train the device, we had our colleagues talk to the computer and answer the set question. We ended up with some rather rogue responses… But it was all a learning curve and really reinforced the need to ask simple questions that couldn’t be misinterpreted.

Overall it’s been an incredibly interesting project, and certainly the potential for bringing voice activation to digital out of home is there. It will be exciting to see how voice technology evolves and becomes a more prominent feature in people’s lives.

Google Multi App Old Street digital OOH
Welcome to our DOOH News for August 2019. This month, we’ve been busy working hard on a brand new campaign for Google, exploring new technology for augmented & mixed reality and much more. Enjoy!
This month… Google owned British Summertime!

Google Multi App EC1

Google extended its “Make the Most of Summer” campaign with a responsive, data-driven digital OOH push, demonstrating how Google is there to help you enjoy the Summer.

In other news…

Want to find out how some of the world’s biggest entertainment brands are using digital OOH to bring their shows to life?

Entertainment Digital OOH

Our Creative Technologist shares a behind-the-scenes look at Mo-Sy’s StarTracker technology for Augmented & Mixed Reality.

Technology for Augmented and Mixed Reality

Here’s our latest showreel, showcasing the creative possibilities of dynamic for digital OOH. Enjoy!

Want to know what campaigns made our Top 5 Dynamic Digital OOH Campaigns?

Google Outside Dynamic DIgital OOH

It was amazing to see our key digital OOH moments highlighted in this piece from Campaign Mag.

Pepsi MAX Augmented Reality digital OOH

Our CCO Dan Dawson gave us a backstage view of Outdoor Cannes Lions 2019, plus a look at Digital’s progress within the category.

cannes outdoor lions

Here’s our tips for successfully rolling out global digital OOH campaigns.

Dufry Global DOOH

We hope you’ve enjoyed our DOOH News for August 2019. If you would like to start receiving our monthly DOOH Newsletters in your mailbox, then please sign up here.

Mo-Sys StarTracker
Jon Jones, Creative Technologist

You may be familiar with The Weather Channel’s immersive mixed reality depicting the effects of flooding caused by hurricanes, or perhaps appreciated the BBC’s use of Augmented Reality during their 2019 Wimbledon coverage. These effects were made possible by Mo-Sys’ StarTracker technology.

We were invited down to Mo-Sys’ studio and development centre recently to see their kit in action. It was certainly impressive to see a demonstration in real life and how the tech works behind-the-scenes.

Mo-Sys StarTracker

Reflective dots are attached to the studio ceiling and Mo-Sys’ StarTracker sensor calculates where in the studio the camera is – even when the camera moves. The data is then passed on to a computer that generates the Mixed Reality environment. This is where graphics can be put in front or behind the subject within the 3D environment in real-time.

The Weather Channel - Mo-Sys

Here, you can create anything from a photo realistic to a cartoon superhero world. The tech can use the latest in ray tracing rendering in the Unreal engine.

Imagine bringing Hollywood-grade CGI techniques and graphics to an OOH activation – experiences would be more immersive than ever before! The beauty of this tech is its ability to render graphics on the fly, rather than having to have them pre-rendered to make the experience. With this evolution we now have the ability to create activations where participants are able to interact within a 3D AR environment.

We worked with mixed reality on the Disney Infinity project, which used Chromatte and keying technology. Whilst this project was a huge success, imagine what we could have achieved with the technology that exists today. Being able to create, track & react with participants in the 3D environment offers activations like these a level of flexibility that was previously unobtainable.

Disney Infinity Grand Visual

Envision being placed in the same 3D space as, say a character from your favourite TV show, where you and the camera would be able to move around giving the appearance of them actually being there next to you. It’d be a great experience and takeaway video!

It’s awesome to see such advances in technology and the creative ways they are being applied, like with the Weather Channel. It makes this a very exciting space to be working in. We’re really looking forward to seeing how this will be used across the wider industry and in particular the creative opportunity tech like this brings for digital OOH.

Marvel Doctor Strange OOH experience
Our Creative Technologist Jon Jones explores the possibilities for digital OOH with the recent deployment of 5G.

This article first appeared in Digital Signage Connection on 28th June 2019.

5G is a term being bandied around a lot in media circles right now. The first wave of fifth generation wireless networks have been deployed, and consumers and businesses alike are getting excited by the promise of superior high-speed connectivity. But what exactly does 5G mean for the digital out-of-home (DOOH) landscape?

Perhaps the most cited benefit of 5G over and above previous iterations (see diagram) is speed. 5G is between 10- and 20-times faster than 4G and much, much more responsive. Other benefits, however, include better coverage and a lot more capacity. This means that your phone should now continue to function and upload content even when you are at a major sports stadium or music event. Finally, latency, or the time it takes devices to communicate with each other over wireless networks, will also drastically decrease. All these attributes will benefit the DOOH industry and enable greater creativity.

Digital OOH and 5G

Live Streaming

With such marked improvements regarding speed and latency, the possibilities for live and reliable streaming linkups between DOOH sites open-up. This is not a new approach for DOOH, and we have achieved this before in live streaming film premieres, catwalk shows, sports tournaments and other red-carpet events. For the theatrical release of Doctor Strange, we utilized a satellite link for guests to ‘open a portal’ (or live video link) between London and LA. A satellite connection guaranteed us a good quality link, but even with a satellite link, we still experienced some delay in the feed, in addition to the heftier price tag. With 5G, the delay on the stream will be greatly reduced, and of course, the cost is also significantly less.

Augmented Reality

Having a greater technical backbone will extend the realm and capacity for linking and connecting different DOOH sites, and it also opens the door for many more creative and personalized experiences that link up to remote systems.

Our latest Augmented Reality campaigns are built on the Unity platform, which creates real-time rendering and is primarily used to develop computer games, so it requires extra computing power. These applications usually run on powerful gaming rigs, but it’s not always possible to install this kind of hardware in bus shelters for example. What we can do, however, is tap into computing power in the cloud.

Personalization, Machine Learning, & Dynamic Creative Optimization

The ability to deliver real-time, personalized, and contextual creative to DOOH screens has been proven time and time again to boost engagement. With the overall increase of speed when 5G hits, improvements to data processing will enable DOOH advertisers to respond seamlessly with contextual creative across multiple locations – creative that can be informed by and optimized using real-time audience data insights.

But it goes further than this. Displays will be informed by and interact with other mobile devices, applications, cameras, and wearables to gather and process data and deliver more useful and targeted experiences. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will reform campaigns, optimizing creative on-the-go. Imagine an Augmented Reality campaign that could reflect the current weather conditions. Or perhaps a virtual brand ambassador powered by Artificial Intelligence that could engage and answer questions about the product or service being advertised.

Whilst these are realistic possibilities today, they currently require budgets and timelines that are too prohibitive. But with the arrival of 5G, and the ability to render in real-time on the cloud, it is more feasible than ever before to deliver reactive and interactive campaigns at scale. Campaigns of this nature no longer need to be limited to one-off stunts. Personalized interactive creative can now be delivered at scale, like never before.

What Now?

5G will fundamentally change the way we use and think about the Internet. These are just a few of the areas 5G is likely to have an effect on DOOH in the immediate term. Although we are still some way off from having 5G fully at our disposal, new marketing approaches also take time to develop, so it makes sense to start thinking about what this high-speed connected landscape brings to DOOH now, and in turn, what new creative possibilities DOOH will unlock for the advertiser.

Dan Dawson CCO, Grand Visual

This first appeared in MarTech Series on 21st February 2019.

Our Chief Creative Technology Officer, Daniel Dawson discusses technological advancements in the Out-of-Home (OOH) industry in 2018 and his predictions for AdTech with MarTech Series.

Daniel Dawson ADtech OOH

Tell us about your role at Grand Visual and the team/technology you handle.

I head up all creative technology projects at Grand Visual and I am lucky to have a diverse team with a broad spectrum of creative, technical and coding backgrounds to work with.

Besides working on our own AdTech platforms and systems, we also explore, implement, and hone a whole range of innovative engagement techniques such as Augmented Reality, Touch & Gesture, Face Tracking, Video, and Mobile to drive interactions. Engaging stories allow consumers to change or personalize experiences in various ways, creating greater brand recall and changing consumer behaviours. 

What were the most significant technological advancements in the Out-of-Home industry in 2018?

There have been some high-profile advancements in the testing of programmatic platforms for automated media trading. A significant and necessary step forward for the industry, in terms of connecting real programmatic media to programmatic creative — the holy grail.

Google Maps DOOH 2019

What are your predictions on the state of AdTech in 2019?

AdTech systems are already changing the way brands plan, book and use the Out-of-Home medium. OOH specialists have begun to buy a sustained presence across the year for heavy OOH users such as McDonald’sCoca Cola and Google, with these brand’s implementing a longer-term intelligent planning approach across their brand and product portfolios. In 2019, these backend AdTech systems will make huge steps in terms of their interoperability. This will see improvements across inventory management, transactional exchanges, data management, creative logistics, creative optimization and, of course, reporting, all areas for systemization. Consolidation of networks, agreement on standards, and system integration will show Digital Out-of-Home gearing up to be a real force this year.

How would the AdTech industry further grow with the maturity of data science and analytics?

In the Digital OOH (DOOH) space, we are rich in data. While data aggregation and uniformity is still a challenge, especially with some campaigns using up to 15 separate data feeds, we have the benefit of permanent screen technology and can, therefore, build a data picture of the location, the changing conditions, and audiences. Audience insights boost our ability to make advertising creatives contextual and relevant, and more impactful. It also enables targeted Out-of-Home ad buys, which are only activated when the conditions are right, leading to improvements in audience targeting efficiency.

Real-time campaign reporting from third-party verification platforms such as PlayTrack also offers advertisers the ability to assess campaign success and optimize creative on the go. This level of transparency and accountability is crucial for the programmatic future of Digital OOH. Further down the line again — increased data sharing through the blockchain will fuel omnichannel and omniscreen campaigns with much smarter cross-platform audience planning. With more electronic devices in everyone’s pockets, connected, cross-platform digital platforms campaigns will become a programmatic reality.

Spotify 2018 Wrapped Digital OOH

Tell us more about QDOT.

QDOT is an AdTech business designed to facilitate smart, scalable campaign management for digital OOH. These digital-asset management tools were originally developed and used as in-house processes, for Grand visual clients. But as the market grew and evolved to become a flexible, tactical, and real-time platform, just like other digital mediums, Out-of-Home required the infrastructure and creative toolkits to handle the growing volume of creative. That’s why we launched QDOT and opened up our platforms and services to the entire market.

To deliver Spotify’s Wrapped campaign, for example, over 7,640 personalized playlists were shared globally. OpenLoop, the smart campaign management platform from QDOT, allowed users to submit their personalized Wrapped stats and see them published on iconic digital billboards around the world. OpenLoop ingested the data and automated the delivery just moments later. Before OpenLoop, campaigns like this would have been a logistical nightmare. It’s about providing ease of use and driving creativity.

How did you prepare for the execution of the ‘Wrapped’ campaign?

Spotify sent us a version of their data schema and a mock-up of the creative. We tested the schema across our platforms and suggested refinements. Our software is very versatile and is able to ingest feeds to match them against physical locations and media plans. Pairing this with our creative and content development made the whole process very smooth for us and the client.

McDonald's McWeather Digital OOH

At Grand Visual, how do you combine creative technology with data? Could you lead us through your data analytics operations before launching any DOOH/OTT campaigns?

Data crafting is part of what we do. We evaluate all the sources of data that are available and decide how and what to use in order to enhance the brand story and bring the campaign to life. It’s not about using data and technology for the sake of it, we approach data carefully with the brand story always at the heart of what we do. It’s rule-based and creative-driven data science.

How do you prepare for an AI-focused world? Which technologies are you most keen to learn more about?

Grand Visual’s job is to craft creative stories based on the data sources available. So, we’re interested in Machine Learning algorithms and Predictive Analytics based on historical data. Both on a media buying level as well as content creation. If we can predict consumer behaviour — we can base messages on real-world outcomes.

Unified programmatic planning and creative optimization is the end goal, where Planning, Buying, Distribution, Playback, and Reporting are programmatically achieved using real-time audience information and data insight to drive the decision-making process. So. right now creating standards, is a core challenge for the industry. Globally agreed standards for independent 3rd-party verification of advertising play-outs (down to a panel and individual play level), will support the growth of the digital OOH market globally. Making it easier to run digital campaigns at scale across all DOOH channels.

Grand Visual Team Promotions
At Grand Visual, we like to think that people are at the heart of what we do.

It’s the people behind our campaigns that really matter. Without them, transporting New Yorkers into the Spider-Verse and enabling shoppers to dance with Mickey Mouse wouldn’t have been possible! 

Each year, we have grown from strength to strength, not only as a company but as a team. Here at Grand Visual, we are invested in developing the careers of our people, and fully recognising the efforts and growth of individuals over the last 12 months. With that being said, we are very proud to announce that:


Gwen Kotschy, Head of People, Grand Visual & QDOT commented:

The many promotions across Grand Visual are a testament to not just our wonderful team but also how the business rewards and acknowledges it’s talent. And with further growth across Production, Creative and Technical teams planned for this year, we’re looking forward to a people-focused 2019!’


If you would like to join our team then please keep an eye on our Current Openings, Twitter & Linkedin.


Integrated Systems Europe is the world´s largest AV systems integration show, taking place in Amsterdam from 5-8 February. Jon, Creative Technologist, and Collins, Technician went along to check out the latest cutting-edge technology. We’ve shared our highlights from the show, so if you couldn’t make it or just want to check it out again, see our key takeaways below. We’re already looking forward to ISE 2020!

Technology Grand Visual Digital OOH
Welcome to our September instalment of Things We Love. A little something we hope will help you to get to know us at GV a little better. Every month we’re sharing things we’ve worked on and loved, new technology we’ve been looking at which could be applied to digital OOH, all things creative or something we’re just really geeking out on.

Buffalo Bill Gates Technology

Buffalo Bill Gates – PETE – MGFX DESIGNER

“Artist Kalle Mattsson, aka Buffalo Bill Gates, creates celebrity portrait mash-ups of famous faces with other celebrity identities/fictional entities to create offbeat hybrid personalities. We commonly see this ‘meme’ type artwork primarily online, however, it is great to see that Kalle Mattsson has an upcoming print exhibition showcasing his many wacky creations.”

Mixed Reality Graphic For The Weather Channel – ADAM – MGFX DESIGNER

The Weather Channel utilised mixed reality while reporting on the power and danger of Hurricane Florence. The graphics showed flood waters rising well above the meteorologist’s heads, with howling winds and cars floating on the surface of the water. The technology is incredibly effective, and I’m keen to see the evolution of mixed reality and how that can be translated to digital signage and beyond.”

Interactive display in AR – STEVE – CREATIVE

Apples ARKit has enabled many software developers and hobbyists to push Augmented Reality technology further, producing ideas and concepts that could change the way we interact with products, and advertisements. AR IRL (in real life) is a proof of concept which shows that users can interact with Augmented Reality elements onscreen in order to have an impact on physical objects. This example shows a user interacting with an AR keypad lock which unlocks a physical box. It’s an exciting thought to be able to interact with some kind of puzzle on your phone to unlock a digital vending machine DOOH activation.”

Cryptocurrency digital OOH

Jackson Palmer – FREDDIE – DEVELOPER

As a tech guy, I find cryptocurrency interesting from the development perspective and recently I’ve been enjoying Jackson Palmer on YouTube. He’s great at explaining the technicalities of cryptocurrencies and stays clear of the trading side of things. For instance, his latest episode outlines what Dapps are (decentralised applications – apps run by many users rather than a company) and why no one is using them. It’s interesting if you want to get a critical look at the current state of cryptocurrency technologies and what the future is likely to hold.”