Blurring the lines: the future of augmented reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is one of those pieces of technology that looks like it came straight out of a film. We’re not at Minority Report levels yet, but we’re getting close. Similar to VR, AR is something that has been around for since the 90s but is currently going through a renaissance thanks to the advent of smartphones and tablets.

One of the biggest mobile games on the market is Pokémon Go, which prominently features AR. On the enterprise tech side of things, it has evolved, with Microsoft’s HoloLens or the Magic Leap One advancing towards ‘mixed reality’. Many companies see the value of it as a marketing tool. It even featured on the latest series of BBC’s The Apprentice, with candidates having to design a comic book that came to life on your phone. It’s technology of the future right here in 2018. But is it here to stay or will it become a gimmick?

It’s in the game

Considering how long AR has existed as a concept, it isn’t going to be some flash in the pan fad. If projections are to be believed, The AR and VR device market is worth approximately $1.8 billion. The user base of AR is also expected to explode in the next four years.

Currently, gaming is the most popular use of the technology – and will probably continue to be. We already mentioned Pokémon Go from Niantic, which had its highest player count since 2016 this summer. That game came off the back of Niantic’s Ingress, which was also centred around AR.

Despite this, AR hasn’t taken hold of the gaming scene quite like how VR has. When Microsoft demoed their HoloLens at E3 in 2015, Minecraft took centre stage, but the technology has proven more popular with the likes of NASA, medical schools, and the military. Not surprising since it costs up to £4,500. Not exactly a consumer product. That’s not to say AR doesn’t have its place with consumers.

ARdvertising

Snapchat, one of the most successful mobile apps on the market flaunts its AR as a key feature. Other companies are using the tech to enhance the user experience. IKEA Place is an app that lets you ‘place’ their furniture in your home to see how it looks. Specsavers allow you to try before you buy too, so you can see if those tortoiseshell specs actually suit you.

For those last two, they are marketing tools disguised as an app. The aim is for the user to buy IKEA furniture or Specsavers glasses. But it doesn’t feel that way when you’re using it. And that is the key to good AR.

AR is fast becoming the most desirable way to advertise, as it adds an element of interactivity you don’t usually find. Consumers want experiences, not adverts. They are pervasive, and it’s hard not to tune them out unless they do something especially unique (see John Lewis’s Christmas ads and the resulting hype). AR adverts are more engaging; whether it takes the form of a game or overlays an element into the world, it involves the user. Even though AR and games make the perfect match, their use as a marketing tool for games is woefully underutilised given that assets will exist from the game which can potentially be used to create such experiences.

The one downside? It’s not always effortless. Bringing AR into the world usually requires an extra app, which makes using it as an advertising tool that much more complicated. But it’s a ‘chicken or egg’ kind of problem – consumers don’t use the apps because there’s not enough there, but it doesn’t exist because there are no consumers.

The solution is to create more experiences. If you build it, they will come, as the saying goes. There’s clearly a taste for AR, and it’s never been more accessible to the general public. If the market truly is set to take off in the coming years, don’t you want to be involved?

With experience creating AR apps that engage and enrapture audiences, RealtimeUK knows all about the importance of AR having worked with the automotive sector to create unique, bespoke AR experiences. If you have an upcoming project that would benefit from an AR experience, get in touch with me on +44 (0)161 711 0260 or dave@realtimeuk.com