What Is Augmented Reality

This article is Part 2 of a 9 Part series titled Immersive 101: AR for Marketing. You can download the PDF version here.

Augmented Reality (AR) has emerged as a transformative technology in recent years, revolutionizing the way people interact with digital content. From fun Snapchat filters to the ability to visualize furniture in your home before making a purchase, AR has found its way into almost every industry. With the ability to create immersive experiences, businesses now have a unique opportunity to increase engagement, drive sales, and build brand loyalty. It’s no surprise that AR has become a popular topic of discussion among businesses and consumers alike.   


Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that allows users to overlay digital content onto the physical world in real-time. AR enhances the existing environment by adding digital elements to it. This technology is typically accessed through a mobile device or a wearable, such as smart glasses. AR works by using the device’s camera and sensors to scan and map the physical environment. The AR software then analyzes this information and superimposes digital elements onto the user’s view of the real world. These digital elements can be anything from 3D models to text to video and can be interactive, allowing users to manipulate or interact with them.  


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The concept of Augmented Reality dates back to the 1960s when Ivan Sutherland, a computer scientist, developed the first head-mounted display, which he called “The Sword of Damocles.” The device was bulky and expensive, but it laid the groundwork for future AR technology. It wasn’t until the 1990s that AR began to gain mainstream attention, with the development of the first AR application, called Virtual Fixtures, by the US Air Force.
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The early 2000s saw the emergence of AR as a commercial technology, with the launch of ARToolKit, an open-source software library that enabled developers to create AR applications easily. Since then, the technology has evolved significantly, with advances in computer vision, graphics, and mobile computing enabling the creation of more sophisticated AR experiences.  


There are three main types of Augmented Reality: NativeAR, WebAR, and SocialAR. Each type has its unique features and capabilities, and businesses can choose the type that best suits their needs.


NativeAR refers to AR experiences that are created using native app development tools for specific platforms like iOS or Android. Game development tools like Unity and Unreal provide the ability to build AR experiences for both major platforms at the same time. These native experiences typically provide the most advanced features and capabilities, such as 3D object recognition and tracking as well as offline access. That said, creating a NativeAR app can be time-consuming and costly and requires users to download an app which can take several minutes.
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Ikea makes use of NativeAR through their app Ikea Place. Through advanced 3D object recognition and tracking technology, this app enables customers to preview furniture in their homes before making a purchase.


WebAR refers to AR experiences that are accessed through a web browser, without the need for a dedicated app. This type of AR is typically easier and more affordable to create than NativeAR and can be accessed on a wider range of devices. However, WebAR experiences are limited by tracking (they require a horizontal plane so no wall tracking) and require an internet connection. One example of WebAR is the Moët-Hennessy Virtual Concierge activation. This experience allows users to place the concierge in their home/space, and then answer a series of questions that lead to their perfect product recommendation.


SocialAR refers to AR experiences that are integrated into social media platforms, such as Snapchat or Instagram. These experiences are designed to be shared with friends and can be used to promote products, services, or events. SocialAR experiences are typically easy to use and accessible to a wide audience, but they may be limited in terms of functionality. One example of SocialAR is the Steve Maddenverse Big Head Girls AR filters. The Instagram filters enabled users to see what they would look like as 3D avatars of Normani, Nessa Barrett, Jordan Alexander, Sydney Sweeney, and Justine Skye in Steve Maddens iconic “Big Head Girl’ style from the 90’s and early 00’s.  


Augmented Reality Software applications are essential for creating immersive AR experiences. The software offers developers the tools and resources necessary to create AR experiences that meet the demands of modern consumers. Here are some of the top development platforms for AR:

8th Wall

8th Wall is a cloud-based development platform for creating WebAR experiences. It stands out from other platforms by providing developers with a set of tools that can help them create AR experiences that are highly responsive, reliable, and scalable. With 8th Wall, developers can create AR experiences that work seamlessly on both iOS and Android devices, and can be customized to meet the needs of any brand.


Zappar is an AR development platform that provides developers with tools for creating both marker-based and markerless AR experiences. It offers an extensive analytics suite that enables businesses to measure the impact of their AR experiences on their audience. 


Blippar is an AR development platform that provides businesses with tools for creating immersive and interactive AR experiences. It provides a wide range of customization options and templates, making it easy for businesses to create AR experiences that are tailored to their brand and audience. 


ARToolKit is an open-source software library for creating marker-based AR experiences. It is easy to use and provides developers with a range of features and customization options that enable developers to create AR experiences that are highly customizable and interactive.   


AR has found a place in almost every industry, and its potential use cases are vast. Some of the top use cases for AR include:

Retail and Fashion

In the Retail and Fashion Industry, AR has the potential to enhance the customer experience by providing an immersive and interactive way to shop for products. Retailers can use AR to create virtual showrooms, allow customers to try on virtual clothes and accessories, and enable customers to visualize products in their own space before making a purchase. The technology allows retailers to create immersive experiences that bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping, and help customers make more informed purchase decisions. Research has found that these informed online purchase decisions,that AR enables, has led to a 25%66% decrease in returns, a 50% increase in product sampling time, and a 44% increase in likelihood to add an item to the cart.            An example of this is Bloomingdale’s 150th Anniversary AR Catalog, which brought their collection to life. Customers could scan AR-enabled looks within the catalog to see how they look and move in real life, not to mention click to purchase inside the experience. This experience had a 23.4% conversion rate and a 38% engagement rate


For Black History Month this year, ROSE created our Marching Forward AR exhibition, which commemorated moments of Black resistance in recent history. Users can tap to place the exhibit anywhere and walk along the iconic Black Lives Matter street art text, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the movement, while looking at and interacting with statues corresponding to these moments.             This experience highlights how augmented reality can be used as an important tool for immersive and accessible educational experiences. Augmented reality can be used to teach in the classroom and alongside, or instead of, IRL museum exhibits making educational resources available to all.

Food and Beverage

In the Food and Beverage Industry, augmented reality has been leveraged to personalize the purchase experience and offer consumers a unique and memorable experience. Through AR, Consumer Product brands can set themselves apart from competitors and be successful in increasing consumer engagement and driving sales.  An example of this is ROSE’s Patrón Tequila Virtual Gift Wrapper activation. This experience allows consumers to personalize their bottles of Patrón tequila with custom messages and virtual ribbons. The user can then share their bottle on social media or purchase it directly from the Patrón website. This activation had an average session duration of 1.5 minutes, and 53% of users clicked through to purchase Patrón before exiting.


Augmented Reality can enhance the tourism industry by providing a more interactive and engaging experience for travelers. AR can also provide travelers with information and context about the places they are visiting in a fun and immersive way.             AR can also be used to create virtual tours of destinations, allowing travelers to explore new places without ever leaving their homes. For example, in partnership with the Miami Design District, Mastercard™ has provided cardholders with an AR-powered virtual tour of the area. Using their mobile device, users are transported to the Miami Design District and can experience a 360-view of selected art pieces.  


Augmented Reality is a technology that has the potential to transform the way we interact with digital content and the real world. With its ability to enhance learning, create memorable consumer experiences, and provide innovative solutions across a range of industries, AR is a technology that businesses cannot afford to ignore. By understanding the different types of AR, their industry uses, and the software available, businesses can leverage this technology to create engaging and immersive experiences that delight their customers and drive business growth. Read the rest of the Immersive 101: AR for Marketing series:

What is Extended Reality

What is Augmented Reality

What is Virtual Reality

What is Mixed Reality

What is the Metaverse

What is an AR Social Filter

A Comprehensive Guide to Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

9 Types of AR and How You Can Use Them For Your Business

5 Ways to Prepare Your Firm to Boost ROI with AR Marketing


What Is Extended Reality?

This article is Part 1 of a 9 Part series titled Immersive 101: AR for Marketing. You can download the PDF version here. Extended Reality (XR) is one of the many “-R” abbreviations used in the immersive technology space these days. With so many similar terms floating around, it’s easy to get confused. Fortunately, “XR” is a sort of umbrella term that probably includes any other “-R” term out there.  

What Is XR?

The difficulty with the definitions comes from the “X.” Depending on who you ask, it might not stand for anything. Some people use it as a placeholder, like a variable in a math problem. Some even pronounce “XR” as “X Reality.” Others use XR not to mean “any reality” but to mean “all reality” for example to discuss immersive technology generally rather than one at a time. People in this camp are more likely to say “XR” as “Extended Reality.” People have their preferences between the two “XR” uses but both can be handy in different situations depending on what you’re talking about.  A lot of companies getting into immersive activations want to do it because they’re flashy. They might know that they want to do something with immersive technology but might not know whether they want to use AR, VR, or MR. Here the first use, X Reality, can be fitting because they’ll only use one form of immersive technology but they don’t know which one. A lot of academics, journalists, and technologists use “XR” as “Extended Reality” because they’re not just talking about AR or MR or VR – they’re talking about all of these technologies at once. This use is particularly helpful when talking about solutions like Varjo Reality Cloud which operates more like AR for an on-site user and more like VR for remote users. So, what are the differences between the other R terms? Why might it or might it not be important to specify how they are being grouped?  

The “-R” Abbreviations in Immersive Technology

VR, AR, MR – in all of those familiar abbreviations the “R” stands for “reality” and that’s true for “XR” as well. But, with XR being an umbrella term, it’s easier to understand if you also have a firm grasp on the other Rs as well.

AR – Augmented Reality

Augmented reality places virtual elements into a user’s view of their physical surroundings using a camera and either a transparent lens or a live-view of a camera feed often through a mobile phone. Most modern virtual reality headsets have a similar function called “passthrough” but this particular technology is still largely experimental except on professional-grade devices. The virtual elements in augmented reality activations aren’t usually responsive – they add value to the user’s surroundings, or the user’s surroundings add impact to the virtual elements. For example, in the AR lookbook that ROSE developed with KHAITE, users could see models walking in their actual surroundings or view virtual representations of items in their own homes.

MR – Mixed Reality

Mixed reality is similar to augmented reality in that it all starts with the user’s environment. However, the virtual elements in an MR experience are much more intelligent and interactive. They may interact believably with one another or with the environment. They may also collect and display information on the environment from connected devices or onboard sensors. Mixed reality requires a lot more computing power both to drive the interactive virtual elements and to display them in a meaningful way. As a result, most mixed reality experiences are made available exclusively on dedicated mixed reality devices like Magic Leap or Microsoft’s HoloLens. GigXR’s Insight series with ANIMA RES uses a HoloLens headset to display detailed and interactive anatomy models in a healthcare and education solution. If more than one person has a Hololens they can both join that session, or one presenter with a headset can stream or record a session to remote users without access to headsets.

VR – Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is entirely virtual. The user’s natural field of view is entirely replaced by computer-rendered settings and elements, potentially including other users represented as avatars. That doesn’t mean that everything in a VR experience has to be built from the ground up. For example, products like Microsoft Mesh can place a live volumetric capture of an individual within a virtually constructed environment. Similarly, some VR experiences take place within 3D images or videos. VR is popular in gaming and social applications but is also used for remote collaboration, design, and training. In fact, 3lb XR and 3lb Games design enterprise training simulations and other solutions as well as games, cross-pollinating one another to make intuitive and immersive enterprise solutions as well as fun and challenging entertainment experiences.

The Acronym of Possibilities

Whether XR means one unspecified form of immersive technology or all forms of immersive technology together depends on who uses it and in what context. It’s also one of those terms that end users of the technology don’t really use at all – it’s primarily used at a relatively higher level of discourse. With this knowledge, you’ll probably be able to tease out what someone means when they say “XR” and if you don’t it’s okay to ask them to clarify. This is an emerging technology with an emerging dictionary of terms and everyone being on the same page is more important than appearing to understand nuanced specialist terminology. Read the rest of the Immersive 101: AR for Marketing series:

What is Extended Reality

What is Augmented Reality

What is Virtual Reality

What is Mixed Reality

What is the Metaverse

What is an AR Social Filter

A Comprehensive Guide to Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

9 Types of AR and How You Can Use Them For Your Business

5 Ways to Prepare Your Firm to Boost ROI with AR Marketing