Augmented reality (AR) technology has been around for years, but 2017 will be the year that AR finally takes off. AR is a technology that layers digital elements or information onto the user’s view of the real world (think Pokemon Go) via a mobile phone or smartglasses. (Check out this post for more handy AR and VR explainers.)
According to Digi-Capital, the mobile AR market could hit over a billion users and $60 billion in revenue globally by 2021. There’s a reason why Snapchat’s dancing hot dog went viral. It’s because consumers enjoy altering their physical environment and seeing the inanimate come to life. They’ll eventually want AR to contextualize their reality, and it’ll start with their mobile phones.
AR has many practical business applications. Here are a few recent examples:
- Sports teams are using AR for better training and analytics of their games
- Car companies such as BMW and Toyota are using AR to let consumers design their own cars
- Retailers like H&M and JCPenney are using AR as a new way for customers to try on clothes without going to the fitting room
Next, I’ll share the top four things brands need to know about augmented reality to be poised to take advantage of this exciting new technology.
1. AR will start on mobile phones and move to glasses
Today, most AR technology is being accessed via smartphones. That will soon change, as AR becomes more widely available on VR headsets and glasses. This will increase the usability of AR, since your environment wouldn’t be limited to just what’s on your phone screen. You’ll be able to survey everything around you with AR as your guide, adding context (or entertainment) as you adjust your gaze.
Perhaps Google Glasses was ahead of its time, but the market is now ready to welcome AR into the world.
Perhaps Google Glasses was ahead of its time, but the market is now ready to welcome AR into the world. Current AR headsets are expensive, require a direct line to a high-power PC, or provide a limited field of view. But as more consumers start using AR on their phones, they’ll want to move away from looking at a screen to looking through glasses.
2. AR will contextualize our reality
According to Wareable, “AR overlays virtual 3D objects over the real world to create a sense that they’re in front of you, requiring you to be aware of your surroundings.” This means AR will help us find our way in stores, select a drink at Starbucks, compare products, etc. AR won’t take away from what we have in real life; it’ll enhance our experiences and enable us to explore new things.
3. AR cameras will be fully integrated into everyday lives
We’ve already seen how AR cameras are functioning on social media. Facebook, Snapchat, and now Instagram have AR filters. In the near future, AR cameras will be able to recognize items inside a consumer’s home or environment. Why is this important? AR will provide marketers with even more customer data.
Back in April, at F8, which is Facebook’s developers conference, Mark Zuckerberg showed how AR is becoming a major focus for the social network. He introduced the public to the Facebook Camera Effects Platform, which includes AR Studio, an augmented reality experience authoring tool.
The goal, according to Zuckerberg, is to turn smartphone cameras into the first AR platform, providing an opportunity for artists and developers to create effects for the Facebook camera. Consumers are giving Facebook access to their homes and offices through their camera. So don’t be surprised if after using Facebook’s AR camera effects on your aging refrigerator if you start getting ads about fridges even before you thought about replacing that appliance.
4. AR will solve many pain points
According to Business Insider, AR will help support and enhance business operations. Businesses will be able to provide better customer service and job training. If a customer doesn’t know how to troubleshoot a device or appliance, a technician will be able demonstrate the process by overlaying instructions through AR in real life. AR will allow brands to more personally engage with their customers. This will help create brand affinity and cultivate brand loyalty.
It’s important to understand that AR isn’t like VR. It won’t show us entirely new worlds and environments to explore. AR will help us explore the world in a new way.
Taher Baderkhan, YouVisit co-founder and CTO, agrees. “AR will be another dimension for users to explore a brand or location. It’s a more personal way of exploration. The more options you give your customers, the more they’ll be engaged. “
Cathy Hackl (@CathyHackl) is an Emmy-nominated communicator turned virtual reality and augmented reality speaker and futuristic content creator. She’s also the founder of Latinos in VR/AR and one of the women leading the virtual revolution.