AR (or 'Augmented Reality' for all you acronym haters) is right up there with VR (Virtual Reality) as being pretty close to the bleeding edge for interactive tech.
If you're not sure of the differences between these two, basically:
- AR is viewing the world or an object through a device where you see the world as is but the device (phone, glasses, etc.) inserts graphic overlays over the image in realtime.
- VR id completely immersing yourself in an entirely virtual world through a headset (Google Daydream, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) where you can move around the world and interact, usually using other devices such as game controllers, etc.
If you want to know a little more about VR, you can check out our blog here but for today, we'll be discussing AR.
How is it being used?
Many companies are already using AR and it seems to be fairly diverse in it's potential applications.
The research centre at Disney has dabbled in AR as early as 2015. In a range of their children's colouring books they added the ability - via an app - to bring the character's in the books to life using augmented reality.
Now, it's been a very long time since I dusted off the old colouring pens and religiously stayed inside the lines but I have to admit...
... this looks magical!
Not only that, but the research data showed really positive feedback from the test group in factors such as desire to use the app and an increase in wanting to colour in and interact with the characters in the books.
"Hmmmm... I like this couch, I know it fits in my living room, but will it clash with my wallpaper?"
We've all been there in one way or another, and IKEA came up with a solution. Using IKEA's app, IKEA Place, you are able to virtually insert a piece of IKEA furniture in a space in your home to get a better idea of how it will look before you commit to a purchase. Also, you can capture a piece of furniture not from IKEA and the app will match that piece to the most visually similar in the IKEA catalogue.
Whilst we don't have the raw numbers to see whether the app has led to a particular increase in sales, it was a pretty decent success in marketing terms. It became the 2nd most popular download in the Apple app store when it came to ARKit-only apps. Other companies in the same sphere of business also seemed follow on IKEA's success and release their own range of apps, so all in all the app seems to have been a success.
L'Oréal makeup (YouCam)
Much like the previous app - seeing what a physical product looks like before you buy it - L'Oréal added their makeup line to the YouCam app which allows you to take a selfie and apply a range of makeup products to see their colour and style before you buy.
Now, while it's probably not fair to lay the success of the app at L'Oréal 's door, the success is undeniable. As of writing this blog, on the Google Play store the app has over 100 million downloads with an average rating 4.6 out of 5 from 3 million reviews. Again, I don't have the figures on how this impacts sales but from a marketing standpoint the evidence seems quite irrefutable.
To conclude - will it work for you?
From looking at the various success stories of augmented reality so far, it seems not to be a passing fad and looks like it will only grow. I didn't even touch upon the potential for gaming which we have already seen can be huge with the Pokemon Go phenomenon. Projections show that the combined market for AR and VR could be worth up to $108 billion by 2021. But when it comes to using it for your own brand or product, it really seems to come down to what it is that you sell. Like the examples I have listed, what seems to be potentially successful is when you have a product where the customer could benefit from visualising what it could be to own it, or if they can derive extra fun and entertainment from the physical product by interacting with it via an app. If your product falls into these categories then maybe using AR for marketing could work for you.