Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that ‘augments’ your reality by blending the real and digital world in such a way so to provide a unique experience.
We are using Augmented Reality every day, although most people aren’t aware of it. Examples date from the old movies like Who framed Roger Rabbitor Space Jam to the present days when Augmented Reality took off in mobile with popular apps like Pokemon Go or features on Snapchat that introduced many people to the seemingly futuristic concept.
AR market is rapidly growing so let’s see what’s the buzz.
What is AR?
Augmented Reality (AR), expands your ‘real’ or physical world — it imposes digital data being sound, video or text onto your realistic view.
As an example, think of Snapchat and their filters, where you can make funny selfies with various add-on’s and filters etc.
As opposed to Virtual Reality (VR) which actually ‘absorbs’ you into a 3D environment or situation, AR places digital information onto the real image or video thus saving most of the environment unaltered.
AR has become widespread due to a simple fact that you can experience AR using only a smartphone while for VR you need to have special equipment.
Many people think of AR as a tool for fun, but it is a rather powerful add-on to any industry nowadays as it can boost engagement and create realistic-like experiences with various products.
How does AR Work?
AR technology today is quite common -tech giants like Apple and Google already created AR toolkits to facilitate the development of the technology.
AR is actually overlaying the experience where the 1st layer is the real world. Layering effect enables the user to see both natural and artificial light and when the camera recognizes the target, it processes the image and then pastes a digital asset onto the image. This enables a user to see both the real and artificial world simultaneously.
For example, Gatwick airport developed an AR app which helps the passengers to navigate through their large site — they installed numerous beacons that guide people through the airport using augmented reality (AR). This way, passengers have an image of the real world (airport) with an overlaying image of digital navigation image (check-in, different gate numbers, etc.).
Together, they make AR experience for their users.
Types of AR
There are four main types of Augmented Reality.
Marker-based AR or ‘image recognition’ AR uses phone camera and certain visual markers (like QR code or a specific image) that produce AR when sensed by the camera. If you want your image to come alive, then you should use marker-based AR. Some examples are print media (posters, logos, brochures, etc.) or objects (bottles or some machinery etc.) like ScanLife or Popcode.
Markerless AR is the most popular type of AR — it uses an accelerometer, GPS or digital compass to provide data to the device based on location or speed. It is useful for showing physical objects in relation to other objects, for mapping directions, finding nearby companies and other location centered apps. Example of it is ARIS, an interactive storytelling application.
Projection based AR
Projection based AR is projecting light onto a real surface, similar to a movie projector. You don’t need any additional equipment like a screen or a headset.
This type of AR is usually deployed at large conferences or events as it can show large objects (cars, vans, etc.) and it can be used for consumer feedback on different models.
It can be interactive and uses sensors and 3D. Some of the examples include laser plasma technology which uses AR to project 3D interactive hologram.
Superimposition based AR
This type of AR uses object recognition — augmented image replaces the original image fully or partially. This type of AR is used in the field of medicine relating to superimposing X-ray onto a patient’s body.
It can be used to enhance historical tours — e.g. this type of AR can showcase a painting or a statue and how it looked like originally, visually depicting how it aged and why it is significant.
Benefits of AR for Mobile
Potential of AR is immense and brands are already utilizing AR technology to provide a brand new user experience to their customers.
Some examples include creating product demos, interactive advertising or providing real-time information to consumers. According to the Study from Ohio State University, people are more prone to buy a product after ‘touching’ it, or after interacting with it since during the process, an emotional bond is established.
Some benefits are:
Personalized Customer Experience
This is a great way for businesses to enhance their engagement with their consumers from apps where you can virtually ‘try-on’ the product like Ray-Ban did it with their Virtual Try-On feature to many other similar apps.
Another example is IKEA Place app, where customers can virtually place the furniture around their homes without leaving the comfort of their armchair. This way, customers can make sure it fits their space prior to any actual purchase.
Home Depot also did the same thing back in 2017 and developed an app where you can place furniture and other home accessories around your home, similar to IKEA.
Usage of AR like here actually simplifies a product trial and an overall purchase process.
Starbucks gave an excellent example of interactive advertising with their Starbucks Cup Magic which displays animation characters like e.g. ice skater, a fox etc. when a customer points a camera towards the cup.
Such strategy enhances the customer experience by creating an interactive bond between your customers and your brand.
More examples are Nivea interactive ad which included a wristband to put on your kid and set the distance for parents to receive alerts if the child went beyond the limit.
Motorola did a great promotion of Moto X’s customization where people could change the colour of the phone by pushing buttons.
There are many more examples of interactive advertisement, print or not, which nowadays take over traditional marketing, so keep the pace!
Sephora is also a good example — you only need to take a shot of your face and plunge into an adventure of trying out different colors of lipsticks and other delicacies they offer.
You would say ‘Hah, this app has no other function except fun, it’s a waste of time!’
But it’s not true at all — Sephora is actually improving customer engagement by keeping consumers entertained for a longer time plus increasing chances of purchase from customers who can now interact with them in a brand new way.
Another example is Timberland Virtual Dressing Room where a consumer may try out different clothes, accessories and various combinations of the same. Virtual fitting rooms became a common feature nowadays, but the notion is still acquiring wider development.
Making Your Brand Stand Out
If you need to present your company or a product on a trade show, it can be demanding. Trade shows are all about attention — simple old flyers or brochures won’t do a trick anymore.
If you want your product to stand out, you need to evoke ‘fascination’ effect with people — for example, a mobile device feeding a video of a 3D interactive AR product model to a large screen will make people focus on your product with a fascination that other mediums cannot inspire. And -fascination creates an emotional bond which is good for sales.
You can use AR screens like nuReflection to attract more people to your booth, e.g. you can use AR position based messaging like digital directions to your booth overlaying the real world and more.
AR can greatly help your company or a product to stand out of the crowd.
Repeat Purchase and Customer Loyalty
If you want to maintain customer loyalty and enable repeat purchase, you need to go the extra mile for your customers.
The example is Audi eKurtzinfo – their app converts your smartphone into a detailed user manual explaining how the parts work. It is extremely handy for users since it helps them to identify buttons and knobs in a way hard copy manuals never could do. Plus, everything is stored in the cloud, so users don’t have to bother updating the app continually.
Another example of how a company encourages repeat purchase is Lego, which introduced an app ‘Lego X’ back in 2010 — it uses networked Lego bricks to create a 3D model on your device. Customers should just hold up the box in front of the screen and the finished Lego will appear on top of the box. This is an excellent way for customers to check the item prior to purchasing and helps to create a trust in a brand where they will come back to buy again.
Apps that use geo-location feature can use your device camera to show nearby restaurants, stores, and other locations along with important information about each location — reviews, directions, open/close time, etc.
Example app is Street Lens developed by Google which uses geo-targeting for enhancing your experience.
These types of apps can send notifications to the user according to their location and give recommendations about the best nearby bars and the directions how to get there or more specific goals like to find your car inside large parking lots or garages using GPS.
Boosting B2B Mobile Marketing
AR technology doesn’t fit only to individual purposes — it can also help to boost B2B marketing.
Product-based companies can show their goods with AR-driven 360 view and interactive experience where the customers can test their products while service-based companies can create AR tutorials of their key offerings, showing customers exactly what they will get for their money prior to any commitments.
For example, an architectural design studio can show a client how a new room addition will look from outside when finished and more. Examples of B2B usage of AR are endless and a good example is Cisco AR catalogue where you can explore the product features, rotate the products and learn more about the key technologies.
If you enable B2B audience to view interactive 3D models on their smartphones, companies can go beyond the limitations of video conferencing and engage participants on a whole new level.
Today’s industries are focusing more on mobile devices because they are ubiquitous and have all required elements for AR — screens, cameras, processors, sensors, etc.
As tools and frameworks for AR are rapidly evolving, AR is finding its way to various industries and we can expect to see more use cases and experiences involving AR which will take the mobile app ecosystem to the next level.
So, let’s stay tuned!