Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Realities of Augmented Reality

The Realities of Augmented Reality


Most people think augmented reality, or AR, is a type of mobile app that adds a digital layer to the real world. That isn’t entirely true. It’s more than visual, more than mobile and has more marketing potential than you may have realized.

The Status Quo of Augmented Reality

The stereotypical implementation of augmented reality involves a smartphone and an app. Users of such platforms typically open up the app, which turns on the phone’s camera. Relevant information such as interactive animation or video is then placed on top of the image in the viewfinder, adding additional context to the real world as you view it from your smartphone’s screen.

Many apps implement this nicely. For instance, Augmented Reality Cinema allows users to point their smartphone cameras at a location that is relevant to a movie. Then, the app will serve up the content related to that location. For example, a user could hold up the camera to a phone booth and see the famous clip that was shot there. Aurasma is one of the most popular apps to provide similar functionality. Branded examples of this technology include Converse’s The Sampler, which allows users to “try on” sneakers before purchasing them.

Augmented Reality for the Senses

Many concepts outside of the norm may not even seem like augmented reality at all, and brands can take advantage in a variety of ways. Some of these AR platforms can manipulate human senses such as sound, taste and touch.

An example of audio-based augmented reality is “The National Mall,” an album released by D.C.-based Bluebrain. The app is meant to be used at the actual National Mall in D.C. As users walk to various monuments, the music they hear changes with their geographical movements giving each user an individual experience.

AR can tickle more than your ears too. The Yasuaki Kakehi Lab at Japan’s Keio University created Tag Candy, a lollipop device that gives the  sensation of tasting fireworks. Such experiences could generate a lot of interest and PR for companies associated to taste or candy. Additionally, technological advancements in touchscreens are allowing users to feel texture without touching a device at all. This could potentially let consumers feel the softness of a fabric before purchasing an item, for example.

Augmented Reality for the Spaces

Various environments are also being utilized in the AR space, from out-of-home spaces to in-store to  in-home. For example, in an AR execution for Beck’s green boxes were placed in various outdoor locations in London, Miami, New York and other major cities. Passersby were instructed to download an app when they came across a box. When the app is launched and the smartphone is pointed towards a green box, artwork appears on the mobile screen. Projection mapping is another amazing example of AR in the outdoor space, and brands such as H&M have jumped on the technology.

Macy’s has also implemented an AR concept in its flagship NYC store. The virtual fitting room allows users to “try on” various items and share them to social networks for the final stamp of approval. The 72-inch mirror was linked to an iPad, on which customers could select the clothing to appear on their image in the mirror. AR is also being used in the home for various purposes. For example, Panasonic’s AR Simulator allows consumers to see what a 50″ television would look like in their living room.

Looking Forward

Augmented reality, in the true sense of the phrase, is projected to strengthen in the coming years. According to a 2011 report from Juniper Research, mobile AR apps will reach nearly 1.5 billion downloads by 2015. Mobile Marketer also speculates that the industry will generate $1.5 billion in revenue by the same year. Brands should look to break the mold when using this technology, putting forth platforms that will engage a user’s senses in the environment that makes the most sense for the brand.

Emily Knab, 7.13.20

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