Through a client engagement earlier this year, augmented reality company popped up on my radar - or more likely, took it by storm. Since then, I’ve explored common applications of AR technology to refining my predictions on AR maturation and how we’ll all be out of a job.
What is AR?
Augmented Reality (AR) is a growing trend in the digital space where reality is augmented with another information layer. Majority of people these days have a smartphone device that has internet connectivity and a camera. These two features open up a world of possibilities regarding how brands, marketers, businesses, artists, musicians - you name it, can add an experiential or information layer to the real world.
AR: Use Cases
While some marketers claim augmented reality is a fad, there are very specific examples of ways it has been leveraged to provide usefulness for people. Take US Postal Service. A common challenge for the postal service’s audience is determine what size box they’ll need to ship an object. Postal service listened and created a handy simulator that allows users via webcam to get a feel for box sizes in comparison to their desired object to ship.
Geographical or local mobile experiences are likely the AR experience consumers are most familiar with. As users rely less on GPS devices, yellow pages, and restaurant guides, their mobile device becomes all of these services in one. AR streamlines users’ experience to date of conducting a search via Google mobile browser for a restaurant, launch and leverage an app for recommendations, and launch Google maps to find it. Now applications like Yelp or Zagat consolidate these steps and apply an information layer (What are ratings / reviews of local businesses on this block? What are restaurants on this street and how are they rated?) to the user’s camera phone to better understand what is around them and make rapid decisions.
In the entertainment and education niches, augmented reality is gaining momentum. I personally love history AR applications like The Museum of London‘s Streetmuseum app. Users can learn more about the history of city blocks by viewing 100 years ago via their smartphone camera. MOMA launched an art exhibit only accessible to those visitors with a smartphone device. I just also found this demo video including clips from movies accessible when you visit the actual spot in which that scene was shot.
Retail AR: Current
Retailers and CPGs have tested augmented reality and are striving to find useful applications beyond user entertainment. See Metaio videos on retail solutions leveraging a webcam to an in-store kiosk for Legos (love this experience - it is useful because it shows what the actual built Lego scene will look like AND it is fun). Another smart example I liked was a Nestle cereal box that brought to life games and entertainment on the packaging (I do however question why a kid would want to hold a cereal box up to a webcam, when if Nestle had a kid-friendly microsite with games that would probably be a stronger user experience).
Everything Is A Store
Most interesting product demo I’ve seen to date is an execution Metaio led to demonstrate ability to recognize a real object via a camera (not just a trigger like a QR code). In this example, a user leverages her smartphone to recognize a particular model of printer. Then via her smartphone, she sees an ‘x-ray’ image of the inner workings of the printer to learn how to install an ink cartridge.
While the concept may seem simple, the implications are huge. When technologies mature (as this prototype hints at) to the point when actual 3-D objects can be recognized by a smartphone camera, anything, anywhere can be monetized.
Let’s pretend this technology exists today and has 100% degree of accuracy. I’m a big fan of Tokyo Bay watches. Let’s say, I leverage this “technology x” that recognizes has a database of every make and model of Tokyo Bay watches. As a marketer, I then marry that product information database with an ecommerce system so any watch we’ve ever produced can be recognized, purchased and fulfilled.
I build an AR application that leverages “technology x” that can recognize a Tokyo Bay watch anywhere, on anyone / anything, anytime. What does this mean?
It means, that bricks-and-mortar stores and websites have an expiration date. As AR technology matures, users will have the ability to recognize and purchase a product anywhere. The “store” will be dead. Store 2.0 will equal real-world experiences that can be monetized.
If there ever is an industry to watch, smart marketers will keep an eye on augment reality emerging technologies and integration with ecommerce systems. It is just a matter of time, before this marketing bomb hits.