Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that augments your reality by blending the real and digital world in a subtle way so to provide you with 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 it?
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 like dog ears or gender swap filter, 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, being headgear or goggles.
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 it work?
In the past years, AR technology appeared as revolutionary, but today it’s 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 first layer is actually 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 augments the digital asset into 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, you 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 the user.
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.
2. Markerless AR
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 the location or speed. It is very useful for showing physical objects in relation to other objects. It is good for mapping directions, finding nearby companies and other location centered apps. Example of it is ARIS, an interactive storytelling application.
3. 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 also 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.
4. 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
Potential of AR is immense and brands, whether large corporations or middle-sized companies that like to keep the pace with the technology trends are already utilizing this technology in their business so to provide a brand new user experience.
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 applications.
Another concrete 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.
- Interactive advertising
Starbucks gave an excellent example of interactive advertising with their Starbucks Cup Magic which, when you point a camera towards the cup, enhances the customer experience by displaying animation characters like ice skater, a fox, etc. thus creating an interactive bond with their consumers and where consumers also create a bond with the brand itself.
More examples are Nivea interactive ad which included a wristband to put on your kid while running on the beach and then a parent could set the distance and 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!
- Consumer engagement and helping with purchase decisions
Sephora is also a good example — you only need to take a shot of your face and then plunge into an adventure of trying out different colours of eye shadows, 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 — in reality, Sephora is improving customer engagement by keeping consumers entertained for a longer time plus they improve the chances of purchase for the customers who can now interact with them in a brand new way.
More examples are Uniqlo Magic Mirror, which enables customers to try out multiple colours and patterns of the same garment — it was followed by Adidas and Gap. 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/product 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 as we all know, 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 giveaways that feature 3D images of prizes that can all be sent to anyone — from the ones who downloaded the app and walk within 50 metres of your booth to the ones who just entered the show.
AR can greatly help your company or a product to stand out of the crowd.
- Encouraging 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 same was done with Audi eKurtzinfo where the app converts your smartphone into a detailed user manual explaining how the parts work. I suppose it is extremely handy for the 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. Wonderful, isn’t it?
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 it helps to create a trust in a brand to which they will come back to purchase again.
- Geo-targeted market
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 way how to get there as well as 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 industry.
Product based companies can show their goods with AR-driven 360 view and interactive experiences where their customers can test products and 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, a sales representative can create product demos in his presentations using AR to show their product efficiency or usage process; an architectural design studio can show a client how a new room addition will look from outside when finished and much 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, ability to run apps, etc.
Only recently, Augmented Reality (AR) started getting much more attention and we are also sharing the same passion. If you wish to integrate AR features into your mobile app and keep the pace with the rapidly evolving technology, define your needs (or imaginative longing) and find a reliable development company to discuss your idea and turn it into ‘A-reality’.
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!