When conducting some preliminary research for this post, I came across an Economist article written this February about the outlook for both augmented and virtual reality. One particularly precocious paragraph read:
“If AR is not to go the same way [as VR], it will have to be made easier to use. That probably means consumer versions will be adapted for peoples’ phones.”
I can’t help but wonder if Tim Cook smiled while reading that back in February and whispered, “Just wait.”
With Apple’s keynote now in the rearview mirror, there’s a lot to sort through regarding their latest offerings. And while augmented reality is by no means a new phenomenon, it is still the most impactful feature coming to iOS 11 this fall.
For those who did not get a chance to watch Apple’s keynote or may not know much about augmented reality, it is essentially a close relative to VR, but with some significant differences. While VR seeks to transport users to a different and equally convincing reality, AR seeks to instead augment the user’s present reality by overlaying it with computer-generated content. This content can range anywhere from turn-by-turn directions over a sidewalk to dinosaurs running wild through Central Park.
Up until this summer, when Apple opened up ARKit for beta testing, AR had struggled to break through. This was mainly due to the sheer complexities required of its implementation. For example, previous AR projects such as Google Tango, while highly advanced, required that mobile device companies install special hardware into their devices in order to take advantage of Tango.
This too is, partially, why VR has struggled to take off in recent years. No one really wants to be stuck with in a room with a bulky headset and all the other equipment required to make it work. Unless something is simple to use and does not require extra bells and whistles, consumers will gradually become frustrated and disinterested.
Thus, why the Economist notes that if AR is to take off, it will likely happen through a consumer-oriented version for mobile phones.
While they may not have been the first to dabble, they have found a way to implement AR without compromising their device’s ease of use and design. It’s no coincidence that Google has now announced its own ARCore, made in a similar vein to Apple’s ARKit.
Make no mistake, AR is coming, and both consumers and marketers stand to benefit greatly.
Consumers don’t want to be told what to do by brands; they want to be part of the process. What better way for brands to engage and foster goodwill among their bases than by creating meaningful and engaging content through augmented reality? Take budgets out of the equation and marketers are really only limited only by their imagination.
IKEA, for example, will release an iOS app this fall that allows consumers to use their iPhone’s camera to measure their living space and place different types of IKEA furniture with accurate scale.
While there are numerous other ways to use this new tool, I am particularly enamored with its potential uses in proximity marketing. I imagine push notifications that not only offer marketing communications on a one-to-one basis but also give each consumer a way to digitally interact with brands in the physical world, through AR’s digital overlays.
Regardless of how one decides to implement augmented reality into their marketing strategy, brands and their consumers have a lot to be excited about. Not only do consumers get to enjoy all the new AR apps slated to release this fall, but brands gain yet another tool with which to flex their creative muscles while further fostering goodwill among their customer base.
Trent Teixeira is a Client Services intern at OMA and a Digital and Integrated Marketing Communications Major entering his third year at Arizona State University. He believes finger guns are a lost art in America and has been to Baked Bear more times in the last year and a half than there are episodes in Game of Thrones.