Augmented Reality starting gaining attention in Google in 2009 and peaked in 2016 with the launch of a traditional card game, modified for mobile phones, with Augmented Reality and greater gamification as an extra feature. You may have heard of this, it was Pokémon GO. Instead of collecting and swapping cards, the new game was based on the concept of getting people off their sofas and couches and going outside to explore. Once the app was downloaded, your mobile phone gave you the real version of your outside world using street view maps, overlaid with opportunities to discover and collect small cartoon-like creatures, collectively called Pokémon, in a variety of ‘habitats’.
I recall walking across a main train station in London, where hundreds of people had discovered a Metapod and were stampeding in my direction!
Several companies realized they had been added as PokéStops, locations for Pokémon habitats, and were able to turn this into business opportunities. Some bought ‘lures’ for $1 to increase the number of Pokémon characters at their location, therefore increasing the footfall and offered extra deals for those catching a Pokémon, such as ‘buy 10 cookies, get another free’.
The downside was that the game drained the mobile phone battery very quickly and once people had collected several Pokémon characters, interest started to wane.
We find that emerging technologies often start in gaming environments and translate into useful business applications later.
The key is understanding the concept and looking for opportunities as to how this would work for your business.
Augmenting is defined as making something greater in strength, size, number or a similar attribute. While this definition is fairly generalist, it fails miserably at actually describing augmented reality. To understand what this technology is, however, it’s important to understand what it is not. It isn’t virtual reality, a technology that seemingly removes a person from the real world entirely. For example, wearing VR glasses to look inside a machine, as I witnessed at a Solidworks conference, or at the University of Derby, where students in healthcare are creating room-sets to better understand how patients would operate in these environments.
Instead, augmented reality, also known as AR, creates something and puts it into the real world. In essence, this makes whatever reality that’s being created all the more genuine.
Let’s look at some examples of how businesses are using AR.
Augmented reality is popular in the fashion and app worlds, as it is easy to translate application into revenue. However there are opportunities for other business sectors. Imagine a traditional poster in the manufacturing environment, add a code which the customer scans and gets right though to a quick introduction from your managing or engineering director, or better still, a testimonial from an existing customer.
The other advantage for business is that customers no longer need to imagine what they’re getting. They now have the ability to have a real-world view of their investment.
Construction managers, for instance, can use the technology to ensure building equipment is exactly where it’s supposed to be on site. Other industries can use augmented reality to let potential customers try on sunglasses, model clothes or even see what a swimming pool will look like on their property.
Pokémon GO obviously led to huge success for its creators, but many other businesses are utilising the technology to succeed in their own industries. Whether it’s marketing, manufacturing or simply improving the customer experience, several companies demonstrate exactly how augmented reality should be done.
Here’s a snapshot of which sectors are using augmented reality.
|Fashion||Burberry||See new nail colours before buying|
|Attractions||Museum of London||Look into the past and understand historical changes|
|Attractions||Disney||Used at theme parks to add greater content and boost sales|
|Retail||L’Oréal||Encourage faster purchase of display stands|
|Retail||Argos||Bringing the catalogue to life adding richer content|
|Education||University of Derby||Live use by students to enrich assignments|
|Accommodation||Best Western||Promote the brand to a wider audience using virtual Disney characters in their reception are for selfies|
|Publications||The Times||Providing extra content and interviews|
Burberry London allows shoppers totry out the company’s digital nail bar. Using augmented reality in the Burberry store, customers can select their skin tone, along with a variety of nail polish colours and brands. Once this is done, the nail bar shows clients exactly what their hands will look like with the selected shades.
L’Oréal Professional has also jumped into the augmented reality world. The company equipped its sales representatives with programs that create 3D images of their display stands and show them in the real world through a tablet.
This allows salespeople to show their customers exactly how a L’Oreal display case will look in their salons. No more guesswork for salon owners who want to know what they’re getting.
Even the Museum of London has come around to augmented reality by releasing an app for history lovers. With the Streetmuseum app, tourists and locals alike can walk to certain parts of the city with their mobile devices and experience history. By holding up their device, they see a real-time view of the modern world, but the app also superimposes a historical image of the location. This provides a stark contrast of how London became the way it is today.
The University of Derby is using AR within their teaching on the BSc in Digital Marketing. Students on marketing modules create regular posters for print, and ‘augment’ their work by attaching an AR element. For example the traditional poster may be a public health message about smoking or obesity, students subsequently record a message about why they selected the topic or provide additional information. This is accessed via a couple of apps Aurasma and Blippar.
Although fans of augmented reality may have their own opinions on the matter, this technology can be broken down into three categories of tools.
A augmented reality type is gaming, and as mentioned, Pokemon GO took full advantage of this possibility.
Companies can create browsers that simply enrich certain experiences. Pointing a device at a ship, for instance, could provide interested parties with information on its history, cargo, destination and more.
Finally, there are 3D viewers. This is the category that consumers are really enjoying. It’s also the category used by the businesses mentioned earlier. Image trackers can be used with the technology to showcase specific 3D realities, but it’s also easy to simply project any life-sized image into consumers’ everyday lives. While some may find this a downgrade from virtual technology, augmented reality provides far more realism by keeping the real world from fading away.
Augmented reality isn’t simply a temporary fad. As shown above, Google trends have increased with searches looking for augmented reality. By 2017, the market for smart glasses with augmented reality capability is expected to approach £981 billion. Of course, there’s no reason for businesses to wait for this to occur.
Most consumers are still mystified by the idea of augmented reality, so now is the time to take advantage. Once a large portion of the population is walking around with smart glasses showing them things they’ve never seen, the technology will begin to lose its novelty. Smart entrepreneurs need to jump in now while consumers will still make a special trip just to see the world as it could be.
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