LOS ANGELES, June 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army and Air Force are investing in high-tech marketing devices to attract recruits to their ranks.
From traditional posters, radio and television marketing of the past, the services have moved to "augmented reality," which uses technology to simulate conditions in working environments, enlighten potential new recruits and provide training.
An added plus is that the marketing devices are deployed in conditions that will be familiar to most young people -- such as computer games.
Augmented Reality integrates 3-D objects into live video, which is digitally processed and "augmented" with the 3-D components. The resulting digital process mixes real and virtual worlds together in real time.
Officials said they decided on Total Immersion's AR technology without hesitation as it offered the best value for money. Service recruitment has already reached Facebook and Twitter and other popular social networking sites with high visitor ratios.
"In our search for the best vendor, we landed on Total Immersion without one single reservation and they have delivered the very best, and simply the coolest live mobile tour experience for our client and the visitors to our interactive areas just love it," an announcement said.
"AR provides a diverse playing field for engagement -- one that is evolving beyond digital marketing at a rapid pace," said Bruno Uzzan, chief executive officer and co-founder, Total Immersion.
Taking their recruiting efforts to a new level via two distinct experimental marketing initiatives, the Army and the Air Force embraced "augmented reality" as part of the drive to engage with young Americans.
The technology and the equipment that goes with it is provided by Total Immersion, considered a global leader in AR solutions that educate and motivate as they engage. The Army campaign was created by Momentum Worldwide's Chicago team and TimeZoneOne, also of Chicago. GSD&M Idea City of Austin, Texas, developed the Air Force campaign.
The U.S. Army's "Race for Strength Challenge" pits a fully tricked out, Army-sponsored vehicle -- Ryan Newman's No. 39 Army Chevrolet Impala -- against the Army's high-tech fleet, placing potential recruits into the action, via the Web and through kiosks installed at NASCAR events.
At the kiosks and online, players can race against MRAP and Stryker armored vehicles, through various and sometimes treacherous environments. Players control vehicles by means of a card or printout featuring a tracked image and a steering wheel. The game is featured in the billboard promo loop on the goarmy.com homepage.
The racing game is an extension of the Army's continuing effort to showcase its high-tech skills training and the various options and career opportunities it offers.
At the same time, the Air Force has kicked off "Command Center Alpha," its newest mobile marketing tour immerses visitors in the "sci-fi" world of the Air Force.
The interactive tour includes 3-D computer graphics, videos, educational kiosks, digital downloads and a full-size F-16 Thunderbird display. Visitors use hand-held devices, which rely on natural image tracking, enabling them to experience augmented reality in the form of 3-D animations and video.
The mobile marketing tour is an extension of the Air Force's sci-fi advertising campaign, which showcases technology that was once regarded as science fiction but that the Air Force is actually deploying today. Against that backdrop, Command Center Alpha highlights the variety of job opportunities the Air Force offers.
The mobile tour got under way April 21 at the Suwannee River Jam in Live Oak, Fla., and will include stops at major events and venues throughout the summer.
"As many young Americans are not aware of the wide variety of opportunities available to them in the U.S. Army, we found that through an augmented reality experience, we could give them a true taste of the elite technology and training used to develop the Army Strong Soldier and help our client, the U.S. Army, really resonate," said Chris Weil, chairman and CEO of Momentum Worldwide.
Col. Michael Tillema, Air Force Recruiting Service's strategic marketing and communications division chief, said, "Technology changes the way we fly, fight and win, and by using cutting-edge technology like augmented reality, the Command Center Alpha tour is able to illustrate the high-tech nature of the Air Force."
Uzzan said that by "deploying AR, the Army and the Air Force are making powerful, complementary statements about the role of technology in the military, as well as about AR's ability to enlighten.
"The common thread linking these scenarios is the intersection of real and non-real elements, which come together and transform the immediate reality, and to present prospective recruits with a different kind of experience -- educational and involving, every step of the way," said Uzzan.
Total Immersion has headquarters in New Paltz, N.Y.