It’s been around for a while but we’re hearing more and more about augmented reality or ‘AR’ as it is often abbreviated to. So what exactly is augmented reality, how does it work and how might it affect the way that you communicate with your customers? Read on to find out more…
What is augmented reality?
Wikipedia describes augmented reality as ‘a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.’
A shorter – and perhaps simpler – description is provided by Oxford dictionaries. It refers to augmented reality as ‘a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.’
Augmented reality is different from virtual reality, where the real world is replaced with a simulated one.
How does it work?
The reasonably new technology of augmented reality blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell. The basic concept behind AR is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real time.
Perhaps the best way of understanding augmented reality is to experience the technology in action. You may have already done so without realising it – particularly if you are an IKEA customer. The Swedish furniture giant’s 2013 catalogue app was the most downloaded branded app of 2012 and featured an augmented reality viewer that allowed readers to use their tablet or smartphone to visualise furniture from its catalogue in 3D, along with related video and digital content.
A recent Business Insider article highlighted some recent clever AR campaigns that achieved what many organisations strive for: They created a positive ‘buzz’ around the brand. A couple of our favourite examples are highlighted below:
Ford shows off some of the features of its Grand C-Max via an outdoor AR campaign that offers the next best thing to actually test driving the vehicle.
Food processing company, Heinz, uses augmented reality technology from blippar to allow customers to access a virtual cookbook by scanning their Heinz ketchup bottle. All of the different recipes used ketchup as their “secret ingredient”.
How can I use AR to communicate with my audience?
As smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly sophisticated and their use more prevalent, augmented reality offers organisations another opportunity to bring their brands and products to life for prospective customers. AR is therefore likely to secure a place in many companies’ advertising budgets in the future. It is estimated that the market for augmented reality in the US will reach $350 million in 2014, compared to $6 million in 2008.
As with many types of technology, there is always the risk that some will use augmented reality incorrectly, or in a ‘gimmicky’ fashion. When used properly, however, AR has huge potential as part of an organisation’s marketing efforts. By its very nature, it allows individuals to interact with the brand and its products or services.
Augmented reality also offers new opportunities for non-commercial purposes, such as educational or charity campaigns.
Two very different examples below show how a charity has used AR to highlight the serious issue of domestic violence, while National Geographic embraced the technology to introduce members of the public to ancient dinosaurs.
Non-profit domestic abuse campaign
National Geographic’s live augmented reality campaign
If you would like some assistance with your organisation’s communication activities, please get in touch.