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What Is an AR Social Filter?

As we continue to explore the frontiers of technology, one marvel that has profoundly impacted our interaction with the digital world is Augmented Reality (AR). AR has gained immense popularity, particularly in the realm of social media, where AR Social Filters have become a part of our daily lives. But what is an AR Social filter, and how does it work?  

THE THREE TYPES OF AUGMENTED REALITY

Augmented Reality (AR) refers to a technology that overlays digital information or virtual objects onto the real world, enhancing our perception and interaction with our surroundings. AR blurs the line between the physical and digital realms, creating immersive and interactive experiences. There are three primary types of augmented reality: SocialAR, NativeAR, and WebAR. Each type offers distinct features and applications.

SocialAR

Social AR, where our AR Social Filters reside, is the application of AR on social media platforms. The integration of AR on these platforms allows users to create and share augmented reality experiences, promoting user engagement and interactivity. Social AR is designed to be easily accessible and shareable. It typically operates within the social media apps themselves, such as Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, eliminating the need for additional applications. Users can apply AR filters in real time, capturing photos or recording videos with augmented elements. They can then share these AR-enhanced creations directly within the social media platform.           One of the key characteristics of SocialAR is its emphasis on user engagement and interactivity. Social AR filters often respond to users’ movements, gestures, or facial expressions, creating a dynamic and immersive experience. Users can interact with the augmented elements, such as by tapping on the screen to activate virtual objects or triggering animations through specific actions. Social AR fosters creativity and personal expression, allowing users to customize their content and showcase their unique style. An AR Social Filter, simply put, is a digital overlay that augments our physical reality, typically used on social media platforms to transform or enhance real-world imagery. By leveraging AR technology, these filters add a layer of interactive and entertaining elements to users’ photos or videos. AR Social Filters can transform users’ appearances, add virtual objects or effects to their surroundings, or apply interactive elements to their content.

WebAR

Web AR brings augmented reality experiences directly to web browsers without the need for dedicated applications or downloads. It allows users to access AR content by simply visiting a website, making it highly accessible and convenient. Web AR leverages the capabilities of modern web browsers, enabling users to experience augmented reality on a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, or desktop computers.

NativeAR

NativeAR refers to augmented reality experiences that are built into dedicated applications or software specifically designed for AR interactions. Native AR takes advantage of the advanced capabilities of mobile devices or dedicated AR hardware, offering more complex and immersive AR experiences compared to SocialAR. However, it typically requires users to download and install specific applications, limiting the reach and accessibility compared to SocialAR’s integration within popular social media platforms.  

THE HISTORY OF AR SOCIAL FILTERS

While Augmented Reality itself has a long history, dating back several decades, the integration of AR into social media platforms took place more recently. The first significant milestone in the history of AR Social Filters can be attributed to Snapchat, a popular social media platform. In 2015, Snapchat introduced “Lenses,” which were the earliest form of AR Social filters. These lenses allowed users to apply real-time effects and overlays to their selfies, transforming their appearance with features like animated masks, filters, or 3D objects. This introduction of AR Social Filters on a mainstream social media platform revolutionized the way people interacted with their own images and videos. Zendaya using Golden Butterfly Snapchat Filter Image By Zendaya https://www.instagram.com/zendaya        Jimmy Fallon using Rainbow Mouth Snapchat Filter Image by Jimmy Fallon and NBC https://www.instagram.com/jimmyfallon https://www.instagram.com/nbc        Selena Gomez using Cheetah Ear Snapchat Filter Image By Selena Gomez https://www.instagram.com/selenagomez Snapchat’s success with AR Social Filters inspired other social media platforms to follow suit. Facebook, Instagram, and later TikTok, all integrated AR capabilities into their platforms, enabling users to create and share augmented reality experiences. Each platform developed its own set of filters and effects, providing users with a range of options to enhance their content and engage with their audiences. Over time, AR Social Filters became an integral part of social media culture. Users eagerly awaited the release of new filters and trends, and AR Social Filters became a means of creative expression, entertainment, and communication.   

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The mechanics of an AR Social Filter are grounded in computer vision and machine learning. The technology recognizes specific features in the real-world image (like a face or background) and overlays it with a digital object or effect. The filter dynamically adjusts with the movements in the video or changes in the image, creating an immersive and interactive experience for users.

Hardware

The hardware components used in AR Social Filters include a camera and a display. The camera serves as the primary hardware element, capturing real-world images or videos that form the background for the AR overlays. The display is responsible for presenting the augmented imagery to the user.  It showcases real-world imagery seamlessly blended with digital objects or effects, creating an immersive AR experience. The camera and display work together in smartphones, webcams and monitors, and tablets. They enable users to interact with AR Social Filters and bring augmented content into their physical reality.

Software

AR Social Filters leverage a range of software components to deliver captivating augmented reality experiences. These filters are developed using specialized AR development platforms that equip developers with the essential tools and frameworks needed to create immersive AR applications. Within the software ecosystem, computer vision algorithms play a vital role by analyzing real-world images or videos, identifying specific features, and facilitating accurate overlay of digital objects. Additionally, machine learning models enhance the filters’ dynamic adjustment and interaction capabilities, enabling them to respond seamlessly to user actions. Together, these software components work harmoniously to bring AR Social Filters to life, providing users with engaging and interactive experiences in the world of augmented reality. Meta Spark Studio, Lens Studio, and Effect House are among the top software tools used to create AR Social Filters. They offer a wide range of features, ease of use, and integration with popular social media platforms

Meta Spark Studio

  Meta Spark Studio Image by Meta https://sparkar.facebook.com/ar-studio/ Meta Spark Studio is a widely recognized AR development platform specifically designed for creating AR experiences on Facebook and Instagram. It provides a user-friendly interface and a comprehensive set of tools and features to build interactive and immersive AR filters. Meta Spark Studio enables developers to leverage various capabilities such as face tracking, gesture recognition, and 3D object integration, allowing for the creation of captivating AR Social Filters.

Lens Studio

  Video of Lens Studio Interface by Snapchat https://ar.snap.com/lens-studio Lens Studio, on the other hand, is an AR development platform developed by Snapchat. It empowers creators to build AR experiences and filters for use within the Snapchat app. Lens Studio offers a range of templates, 3D modeling tools, and scripting capabilities, enabling developers to craft unique and interactive AR filters. With Lens Studio, creators can incorporate face tracking, environment mapping, and other advanced features to enhance the user experience and bring their AR Social Filters to life.

Effect House

  Video of Effect House Interface by TikTok https://effecthouse.tiktok.com/ Effect House is a significant software platform in the AR space. It is TikTok’s proprietary AR development platform designed for creating AR effects and filters on the TikTok platform. Effect House provides a suite of tools, resources, and templates for creators and developers to build unique and engaging AR experiences. With its extensive library of 3D objects, animations, and effects, creators can design captivating AR filters that enhance TikTok content and engage with the platform’s massive user base.  

INDUSTRY USE CASES

AR Social Filters find widespread application across various industries, revolutionizing how businesses and individuals engage with augmented reality. These filters have proven to be valuable tools in marketing and advertising.  By integrating AR Social Filters into their strategies, industries are unlocking new avenues for user engagement, enhanced experiences, and innovative approaches to problem-solving.

Fashion and Retail

In fashion and retail, AR filters allow customers to virtually ‘try on’ products such as clothes, glasses, or makeup before purchasing. This enhances the online shopping experience, increases customer confidence, and potentially boosts sales .Retailers have found that using AR technology can lead to a 94% increase in conversion rates and a 20% increase in consumer engagement Outside of try-on’s AR Social Filters can also provide the fashion industry fun and engaging way for customers to connect with the brand, such as Steve Maddenverse Big Head Girls filter.  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 ’90s and early ’00s. The filter quickly gained traction, accumulating over 675,000 impressions and more than 17,900 uses in just seven days.

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)

In the Consumer Packed Goods (CPG) sector, AR Social Filters allow companies to enhance their marketing strategies and engage with costumes in innovative ways. By integrating AR technology, brands can create immersive and personalized experiences that educate and inform consumers about their products An example of this is Kiehl’s Retinol Micro-dose Serum Filter, which showcases the product in a unique and engaging way. Through the Instagram filter consumers were able to take a quiz that broke down their concerns, and ultimately revealed why the new Micro-dose Retinol Serum was right for them. An AR Instagram filter like this one has a high chance of engagement as 62% of Instagram users gain interest in a brand once they have see it in a story. Additionally,  70% of Instagram users watch stories daily and 40% post stories daily.

Food and Beverage

AR Social Filters have transformed the way food and beverage businesses engage with their audience, providing entertaining and valuable experiences. These filters offer a range of possibilities for brands to showcase their products, educate consumers, and create unique interactions. One notable example is the Tic Tac Spearmint Jungle Snapchat filter. This filter transports users into a retro video game jungle environment, where they can “chew” to swing from vine to vine. This immersive filter not only entertains users but also allows them to engage with the brand in a playful and memorable way. and data shows that users are 1.5x more likely to interact with gamified Snapchat AR filters.

Entertainment

Entertainment industries are also capitalizing on AR Social Filters. From interactive game filters to movie and TV promotions. Studios and streaming platforms create filters that allow users to become characters or participate in interactive experiences related to their favorite content. These filters enhance fan engagement, generate buzz around new releases, and provide a fun and shareable way for users to connect with their favorite entertainment franchises. An example is the Grey’s Anatomy Memorial Hospital TikTok filter. Inspired by the popular medical drama, this filter transports users into the iconic Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Users can become a part of the staff with their own ID badge and feel connected to their beloved characters. Tiktok AR filters have grown increasingly important, due to Tiktok’s rapid growth, with data showing a 100% user growth rate from 2020 to 2022. That growth also means that now Tiktok reaches 17.9% of internet users 18+, and 64% of TikTok users have tried AR filters on the app.  

THE POWER OF AR SOCIAL FILTERS

The beauty of AR Social Filters lies in their versatility. They’re not just about adding dog ears to a selfie or changing the color of your eyes. They’re powerful tools that can transform industries, enhance user experiences, and bring about a paradigm shift in how we interact with the digital world.  So, whether you’re a consumer enjoying a new filter on your favorite social media app, a business exploring new ways to engage with customers, or a developer pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with AR, one thing is certain – AR Social filters are here to stay. They’re transforming our digital interactions today and shaping the augmented reality of tomorrow.  

What Is the Metaverse

The concept of a “metaverse” has been around for decades, but in recent years, it has gained increased attention and interest as a new frontier for technology and human interaction. With the continued development of its technologies, the metaverse is becoming increasingly sophisticated and realistic. For businesses, the metaverse presents a new way to connect with customers, collaborate with colleagues, and innovate in ways that were previously impossible.  

WHAT IS THE METAVERSE?

The metaverse is a fully immersive digital world where users can interact with each other and the environment in real time, using avatars, 3D graphics, and advanced interfaces. It is not just a single platform or technology, but a network of interconnected virtual worlds that can be accessed and experienced by users worldwide. The metaverse offers a wide range of experiences, from social interactions and gaming to education and commerce. Users can create and customize their avatars, explore virtual environments, interact with other users, and conduct transactions using virtual currencies. In this virtual space, the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds are blurred, providing new opportunities for social interaction, entertainment, and business development. Although the metaverse is still in its early stages, it is rapidly evolving, and companies are investing heavily in its development. As technology continues to improve, the metaverse has the potential to become a central hub for human interaction and commerce, opening up new possibilities for the future of the internet and the way we interact with each other.  

THE HISTORY OF THE METAVERSE

The concept of the metaverse originated from science fiction, specifically Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, which depicted a virtual reality space called the Metaverse. In this virtual world, people could conduct business and interact with each other in a fully immersive environment. The novel’s portrayal of the Metaverse had a significant impact on the development of virtual reality and online gaming. Image of Second Life provided by IGN https://www.ign.com/articles/second-life-creator-doubts-facebook-metaverse Image Source In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the metaverse began to take shape in online gaming communities and virtual worlds. Second Life, which launched in 2003, was one of the first virtual worlds to gain widespread attention. Second Life allowed users to create their own avatars, explore virtual environments, and interact with other users in real time. It quickly became a popular platform for social interaction and creative expression. Minecraft Classic Image Provided By IMDb https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2011970/mediaindex?ref_=tt_mv_close Image Source In the years that followed, other virtual worlds and online gaming platforms emerged, each with unique features and capabilities, including World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Minecraft, among others. The development of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology in recent years has led to the creation of more sophisticated virtual worlds, expanding the possibilities of the metaverse beyond gaming.  

HOW DOES THE METAVERSE WORK?

The metaverse is a complex system that enables user interaction with the virtual environment through a combination of software and hardware. It operates on a set of protocols governing data sharing and transaction processing. Key technologies employed in the metaverse include virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and cloud computing. While often confused with the metaverse, VR and AR are merely components of it. VR provides a fully immersive experience, while AR overlays digital content onto the real world. In contrast, the metaverse transcends these technologies by establishing a persistent virtual environment accessible from anywhere. At its core, the metaverse operates as a decentralized network utilizing blockchain technology. This ensures secure and transparent transactions, vital for establishing trust and reliability within the virtual economy. AI complements this infrastructure by generating intelligent virtual agents capable of interacting with users, providing information, and assisting with various tasks. The metaverse relies on the computing power of cloud technology to create and sustain its immersive virtual environment. Furthermore, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum hold the potential to facilitate seamless virtual transactions, enhancing the metaverse’s functionality and economic ecosystem.  

METAVERSE SOFTWARE 

The metaverse requires a combination of software and hardware to function properly. On the software side, several platforms provide access to the metaverse. These platforms represent a diverse range of metaverse experiences, from user-generated content creation to immersive social interactions. Each platform offers unique features and opportunities for users to engage, create, and explore within their respective virtual worlds.

Roblox

Roblox Image Provided By Wired https://www.wired.com/story/on-roblox-kids-learn-its-hard-to-earn-money-making-games/ Image Source Roblox is a prominent metaverse platform that allows users to create and play games within a virtual world. It boasts an extensive user-generated content ecosystem, enabling developers to create their own experiences using Roblox Studio. With over 200 million monthly active users, Roblox has a thriving economy where players can buy and sell virtual goods.

Fortnite (Epic Games)

Fornite Image Provided By Fortnite https://www.fortnite.com/ Image Source While primarily known as a popular battle royale game, Fortnite has expanded its metaverse-like elements through in-game events, collaborations, and a virtual social space called Party Royale. Fortnite’s immersive experiences, live events, and creative mode allow users to interact, socialize, and engage with various forms of entertainment within the game’s virtual world.

The Sandbox

The Sandbox Image Provided By The Sandbox https://medium.com/sandbox-game/what-is-the-sandbox-850de68d893e Image Source The Sandbox is a blockchain-based gaming platform that empowers users to create, share, and monetize their gaming experiences. It utilizes voxels, a 3D pixel art style, and offers a user-friendly game-maker tool that allows creators to design interactive experiences. The Sandbox also operates on a cryptocurrency model where users can own and trade virtual assets using its native currency, SAND.

Horizon Worlds (Meta)

Horizon Worlds Image Provided By Meta https://www.meta.com/horizon-worlds/ Image Source Horizon Worlds, developed by Meta (formerly Facebook), is an immersive social metaverse platform. It aims to provide a seamless and accessible virtual reality experience for users. Horizon Worlds offers tools and resources for creators to build their own worlds and experiences, emphasizing social interaction, creativity, and exploration.

Decentraland

Decentraland Genesis Plaza Image Provided By Decentraland https://decentraland.org/blog/announcements/genesis-plaza-relaunched Image Source Decentraland is a blockchain-based virtual world that allows users to create, buy, and sell virtual land and experiences. Powered by the Ethereum blockchain, Decentraland enables users to develop and monetize their virtual content using its scripting language. It also has its own cryptocurrency called MANA, which is used for buying virtual land and trading virtual assets within the platform.  

METAVERSE HARDWARE

On the hardware side, the metaverse requires devices that can display and interact with the virtual environment. These devices range from smartphones and computers to VR and MR headsets. VR headsets provide a more immersive experience, while MR headsets overlay digital information in the real world.

Virtual Reality Headsets

VR headsets are a key component for experiencing the metaverse in an immersive manner. Devices like the Meta Quest, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR offer high-quality VR experiences, allowing users to explore virtual environments and interact with them using motion controllers.

Meta Quest

Meta Quest 2 Image Provided By Meta https://www.meta.com/quest/products/quest-2/ Image Source The Meta Quest is a standalone virtual reality headset. It offers a wireless and all-in-one VR experience without the need for a PC or external sensors. The Quest features built-in tracking sensors and motion controllers, providing users with freedom of movement within virtual environments. With its high-resolution displays and intuitive user interface, the Quest delivers a compelling and immersive VR experience for gaming, social interaction, and other metaverse activities.

HTC Vive

VIVE Pro 2 Image Provided By VIVE https://www.vive.com/us/product/vive-pro2-full-kit/overview/ Image Source The HTC Vive is a PC-based virtual reality headset known for its room-scale tracking capabilities. It utilizes external base stations that track the user’s movements and position in physical space, allowing for precise and immersive VR experiences. The Vive offers high-resolution displays, comfortable headsets, and motion controllers for intuitive interaction. It also supports a wide range of VR applications, from gaming to architectural visualization, making it a popular choice for metaverse enthusiasts.

PlayStation VR

PS VR Image Provided By Playstation https://www.playstation.com/en-us/ps-vr/ Image Source PlayStation VR (PSVR) is a virtual reality headset designed for use with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 gaming consoles. It provides an accessible entry point to VR for console gamers. The PSVR features a comfortable headset, motion controllers, and an external camera that tracks the user’s movements. While the resolution may be slightly lower compared to PC-based VR, the PSVR offers a range of immersive gaming experiences and integrates seamlessly with the PlayStation ecosystem.

Mixed Reality Headsets

Mixed reality (MR) headsets, such as Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One, blend virtual content with the real world in a more interactive and immersive manner. By combining real-world mapping with virtual elements, Mixed Reality headsets enable users to interact with and manipulate virtual objects within their physical environment. 

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 Image Provided By Wired https://www.wired.com/story/microsoft-hololens-2-headset/ Image Source The Microsoft HoloLens blends virtual content with the real world. It features transparent lenses that allow users to see and interact with holographic objects superimposed on their surroundings. The HoloLens employs advanced sensors, cameras, and spatial mapping technology to provide an interactive and spatially aware experience. It is widely used in enterprise and industrial applications, offering unique opportunities for metaverse experiences that merge virtual and physical elements.

Magic Leap

Magic Leap 2 Image provided by Magic Leap https://www.magicleap.com/magic-leap-2 Image Source Magic Leap is an extended reality company that has developed the Magic Leap One headset. It is designed to provide a seamless and natural experience by superimposing digital content onto the user’s real-world environment. Magic Leap employs a combination of sensors, cameras, and waveguide technology to create realistic and interactive experiences. The headset includes a controller for input and navigation, allowing users to interact with virtual objects and applications in their surroundings.

Smartphones and Tablets:

While not dedicated metaverse devices, smartphones and tablets play a significant role in accessing metaverse applications and experiences. Mobile devices often feature AR capabilities, allowing users to engage with augmented reality elements and applications, making them accessible entry points to the metaverse.  

INDUSTRY USES OF THE METAVERSE

One of the most significant benefits of the metaverse for businesses is the ability to create immersive brand experiences. This not only provides a unique and engaging experience but also allows businesses to showcase products in ways that were previously impossible.

Fashion

The fashion industry is embracing the metaverse as a platform for innovative and immersive experiences and is expected to grow by $6.61 billion from 2021-2026. Fashion brands can create virtual showrooms and fashion shows within the metaverse. Users can customize and try on virtual outfits, explore virtual boutiques, and make virtual purchases. Virtual fashion collaborations and limited-edition virtual items can also be introduced, creating unique opportunities for brand engagement. Adidas Metaverse Fashion Week Image Provided By CJ Fuentes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZsHLWXeXYo Image Source In 2022 Decentraland hosted the first annual Metaverse Fashion Week.  The event was held again this year in 2023 and featured brands such as Adidas, Coach, Tomy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, and more. The brands’ experiences ranged from Adidas hosting a runway show debuting 16 digital pieces,  to Coach’s virtual showroom inside a giant floating spaceship of their iconic Tabby bag. Coach Tabby in Decentraland Metaverse Fashion Week Image Provided By Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephaniehirschmiller/2023/04/02/metaverse-fashion-week-how-retail-got-real/?sh=4be4838f91a1 Image Source  By embracing virtual fashion, designers can push the boundaries of design, experiment with innovative concepts, and offer unique digital fashion experiences to a broader community.

Food And Beverage

The food and beverage industry can leverage the metaverse to create immersive and engaging consumer brand experiences. Through the metaverse, brands can connect with their target audience, increase brand awareness, foster loyalty, and generate new revenue streams. Virtual product launches and tasting events within the metaverse offer brands an opportunity to reach a wider audience and generate buzz ​​José Cuervo Metadistillery Image Provided By By Rojkind http://rojkindarquitectos.com/work/metadistillery-jose-cuervo/ Image Source In Decentraland Jose Cuervo has created their Cuervo Metadistillary. It is a metaverse experience that brings the essence of the tequila production process to life in a virtual environment. Users can explore the virtual distillery, learn about the history and craftsmanship of Jose Cuervo tequila, make their own custom cocktail, and socialize with others.

Retail

In the retail industry, the metaverse offers new opportunities for virtual shopping experiences. Virtual shopping experiences can offer personalized recommendations, interactive product showcases, and social shopping. The metaverse provides a dynamic platform for brands to showcase products in realistic settings, generate excitement, and bridge the gap between online and offline shopping, fostering customer engagement and loyalty. It is expected that e-commerce value in the Metaverse will be $2-$2.6 trillion by 2030 West Elm Home Design Roblox Experience Image Provided By West Elm https://press.westelm.com/westelmhomedesign Image Source On Roblox, West Elm hosts their West Elm’s Home Design Experience. The experience enables users to virtually explore and design their dream homes using the brand’s products and designs. Customers can customize virtual spaces, experiment with furniture layouts, and visualize how West Elm’s items would fit into their real-world environments. This interactive approach enhances the shopping experience by allowing customers to make informed decisions and reduces guesswork.   

THE FUTURE OF THE METAVERSE

The metaverse holds immense potential to reshape how we interact, collaborate, and experience digital spaces. It promises to redefine the boundaries of digital interaction, unleashing a new era of interconnectedness and possibilities for individuals and businesses alike. With the collective efforts of technology companies, content creators, and industry leaders, the metaverse is poised to become an integral part of our digital future.  

What Is Virtual Reality?

With Virtual Reality’s increasing time in the spotlight, most people probably have some surface-level understanding of what it is. However, different types of VR experiences and how they are being used in business, education, and entertainment are unclear for many. While many people still view VR as a technology of the future, it is already being used successfully across industries.  

What Is VR?

Virtual reality is a computer display technology that places the user within a completely digital world. That world can be something that has never existed in physical space or something that could never exist in physical space. This approach is common in video games and some social and cultural use cases, but it isn’t the only approach. Less imaginative virtual worlds are often used for remote work, education, or social use cases that give participants an immersive way to access an experience without being overwhelmed by complicated controls. “Digital Twins” – exact virtual replicas of physical spaces – are also used for workplace training, tourism, architecture, engineering, and construction, and other uses. By combining a real location with VR artistry, a physical place can be reimagined throughout its history – or its future. This approach is common in gaming, entertainment, and design planning. Students can visit a virtual version of Imperial Rome. Gamers can play adventures set in historic time periods or visions of the future. Designers can envision site construction or renovation.

A Brief History of Virtual Reality

Head-worn VR goes back to the late 1960s, but the “modern era” starts with the Oculus DK1 in 2013. The device was large, expensive, and had limited use cases but won big with developers, researchers, and yes, some early adopters.  Later that year, the Oculus Rift came out to become one of the first accessible Virtual Reality headsets. Two years later, Facebook (now Meta) purchased Oculus. In another two years, HTC released VIVE, with VIVE later to become its VR division with all headsets bearing the name. That same year, Sony launched the original PlayStation VR 1, Varjo was founded( though its VR 1 wouldn’t come out until 2019), and, Pico released “Goblin” – the first stand-alone VR headset. Products have been discontinued, names have changed, other companies have come and gone, and other companies are out there with their own products. But this is the basic timeline.  

Do I Need a Headset?

A virtual reality headset is required for the greatest sense of immersion in a Virtual Reality experience and some experiences only exist within VR headsets. However, a number of VR experiences also work on desktop or even on mobile devices. Some users find these devices more comfortable as well as more accessible than dedicated VR headsets. If you do decide on using a headset for full immersion, you should know that there are a large variety of Virtual Reality headsets currently on the market. Different headsets offer different abilities and limitations, and come in at different price points.

Tethered VR Headsets

Tethered VR headsets are wired to either a powerful PC or a game console. These headsets are capable of more robust experiences, but also cost more money, require expensive computers, and might be unsuitable for some applications because of the wired connection. The headset serves as a display as well as a tracker of the head, hands and controllers, and in some cases where a user is looking. Because most of the heavy computational lifting is done on the connected console, these headsets are able to offer more full-featured experiences and better graphics. The best example in gaming is currently Sony’s PlayStation VR 2. Gamers with this system have graphics nearly unparalleled in the consumer space, as well as advanced software like eye tracking. However, the headset costs $40 more than the only gaming console with which it is compatible – the PlayStation 5, which costs over $500. An image of the VIVE Pro Eye headset, from release https://www.vive.com/us/newsroom/2019-12-05/ One of the best examples in industry is the HTC VIVE Pro 2. VIVE is known for their unparalleled tracking options, and comprehensive headset design including impressive onboard audio hardware. However, the $800 headset relies on a whole network of additional hardware including a highly-capable computer, external tracking units, and an optional wireless adapter.

Stand-Alone VR Headsets

Stand-alone VR headsets are designed to work completely on their own, although most can plug into a computer to access more content. These devices tend to be more affordable and easier to set up, wear, use, and ship. However, experiences for these devices are often less fully featured and less graphically impressive. Because the device serves as the display as well as the computer, these headsets are more likely to have inhibitive memory limitations and shorter battery life. Most stand-alone headsets come in special editions with expanded memory and are compatible with adapters like external battery packs. However, they still don’t stand up to tethered headsets for some uses. Meta Quest 2 with KKCOBVR battery pack in front of nested controllers on white background. The Meta Quest 2, starting at $400, is currently the headset to have for lightweight VR gaming and many social and remote work applications. While the headset does have limited memory and graphics capabilities, it’s more than enough for remote collaboration at work and it has a growing ecosystem of accessible games and fitness applications as well as productivity apps.

3DoF Headsets

Almost all modern headsets operate in six degrees of freedom (6DoF). Older headsets had more limited sensors that didn’t support modern controllers or tracking inputs and offered only “3DoF” – a user can look around within a 3D virtual environment but can’t move freely within it. These headsets have waned in popularity as the ability to offer more complex VR experiences has expanded. However, these headsets were sufficient for some use cases including viewing 3D images and videos. Further, they are less expensive and easier to use. As a result, they have held on in some enterprise and entertainment settings. The Pico G2 4k with accompanying remote As of this writing, the most recent 3DoF headset is the Pico G2 4K. However, Pico recently announced an upcoming third generation of their 3DoF enterprise offering demonstrating the continued utility of this often overlooked model.

Specialized Headsets

Some headsets come with even more sensors for use in assessment, diagnostics or academia, or are specifically calibrated for certain specialist applications. Finnish manufacturer Varjo is probably the leader in both categories. The $7,100 Varjo XR-3 Focal Edition is a modified version of one of the company’s existing enterprise headsets with an adjusted focal plane to optimize for near-to user interactions. The headset is specifically designed for simulation use cases including flight training. The $25,000 Galea combines the Varjo Aero headset with neurological sensors developed by OpenBCI. The VR headset will be capable of measuring a wearer’s gaze, heart rate, skin response, brain activity, and more. The headset should be in the hands of early-access groups this summer for use in human studies and advanced software computer development.

VR Controllers and Adapters

In addition to specialized headsets, specialized controllers can increase the sense of immersion in a VR experience for entertainment, simulations, or athletic training.  A trainer uses VR accessories, including a gun adapter, for increased immersion. Image from KAT VR blog https://www.kat-vr.com/blogs/news/kat-walk-mini-s-vr-arcade-training-treadmill-coming-in-july-2021 Gamers and law enforcement or defense personnel have access to attachments that turn the controllers into a reliably tracked simulation gun. Casual gamers or professional athletes working on their form can turn their controllers into golf clubs or pickleball paddles. Surgeons can use replicas of medical instruments to realistically practice complex procedures.  

Virtual Reality Industries and Use Cases

Some use cases of virtual reality like training, onboarding, and remote collaboration, could benefit literally any industry. However, there are some industries that have particularly adopted VR and that VR is particularly well suited for.

AEC and Design

During a previous technological shift, the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry showed us how useful 2D computer visualization could be with their massive adoption of Computer Assisted Design (CAD). With the power of virtual reality, these files take on a whole new dimension. Automotive and product design follows a similar pattern. Entire models can be designed in VR (or an existing CAD model can be turned into a virtual environment). This makes it easier than ever for designers to get a feeling of what a building, vehicle, or product could be before so much as 3D printing a mockup.
Image (c) Varjo https://varjo.com/solutions/design-and-engineering/
(c) Varjo
One company, Treble Technologies, even uses 3D models to replicate the acoustics of a space. Through this technology, designers don’t just know what a building will look like before it’s built, they know what it will sound like.

Fashion

Physical fashion designers can benefit from VR in all of the ways that other kinds of designers can – through remote collaboration and immersive modeling. Enterprising companies are also using extended reality technologies to show fashions to retailers and wearers without the cost of physical fashion shows. However, with virtual spaces and virtual representations of users comes the need for virtual fashions. Some fashion companies, like House of Blueberry exist solely in VR and create exclusively digital fashions – even teaming up with physical fashion brands to do it.

Food, Beverage, and CPG

Most common food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) XR activations happen in AR on the mobile phone because mobile phones are much more widely used than VR headsets (for now). However, a growing number of these experiences are increasingly immersive worlds, like CocaCola’s recent Dreamworld activation, or a more recent activation that created a personalized “metaversion” avatar from a series of interactive prompts. The author's uniquely generated "metaversion" - one of Coca-Cola's interactive XR activations.

Retail

With the emergence of virtual real estate, a growing number of retail companies are establishing presences in virtual worlds. While these may or may not sell physical goods, they are a good way of spreading brand representation to an emerging medium in a potentially impactful way. An author's screenshot of PINKO's virtual storefront by Emperia, featuring shelves of physical bags represented by 3D models. Companies don’t necessarily need to buy virtual land either. Emperia works with companies to create virtual showrooms that integrate with a retailer’s existing online presence and online payment strategies.  

Future of the Industry

VR software is continuing its history of becoming more user-friendly and more visually impressive, while the hardware becomes smaller and more affordable. As big names like Sony and Meta increasingly produce better content on more accessible devices, adoption is continuing to grow. Meanwhile, advancements in how content is created for immersive worlds on consoles, apps, and the web make it easier than ever for new and aspiring developers to leave their mark on the virtual world.

What Is Augmented Reality

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.   

WHAT IS AR?

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.  

A BRIEF HISTORY OF AUGMENTED REALITY

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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.  

TYPES OF AUGMENTED REALITY

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

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

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

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.  

TOP AR SOFTWARE 

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

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

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

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.   

INDUSTRY USES OF AR

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

Education 

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.

Tourism

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.  

AR AND THE FUTURE

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.  

How AR Impacts Shopping in the Fashion and Retail Industry

Extended Reality can replace a lot of things, like most in-person work meetings, or product design. But, it will never replace the runway or the changing room. Right? Buying clothing can be a hands-on process that can feel very intimate. And, for some situations, that’s not likely to change. But, consumer fashion is increasingly being helped by augmented reality, from virtual clothing try-ons to virtual fashion shows.  

The Role of AR in Retail

Augmented reality has a growing role in the fashion industry, from clothing design to completely virtual clothing. But, for the average shopper buying a physical garment, what good is AR? AR (displaying virtual elements in a user’s physical environment through the use of smart devices like phones) allows the shopper to get a fair understanding of a garment without having direct access to that garment. Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll talk about things like fashion shows viewable from anywhere, or trying on a clothing item before it’s even in the store. AR technology means viewers don’t have to travel to a fashion show to see the latest looks – they can do it from home.  They can see what a clothing item would look like on them without going to the store, seeing if it’s in stock, and trying it on. These factors, and many others, reduce cost for manufacturers and even result in more satisfied customers less likely to return items they buy. It’s true, augmented reality might not let you see exactly how different light would dance off of a reflective bauble, or let you feel the material on your skin. At least, not yet. Still, it’s never been easier to get to know a garment without having it in your hands.  

Virtual Fashion Shows

Fashion shows are one of the industry’s standard methods of introducing the world to their new products. These are the first opportunities for people outside of the designer’s studio to see what a garment looks like on a person, how it flows and moves. However, conventional fashion shows are typically restricted to people in the fashion industry. Even if the average person could find the time and money to travel to one, they probably wouldn’t be allowed in the door. AR helps to bring fashion shows to the people. By replacing the catwalk with a capture studio, experienced designers can make high-quality virtual versions of fashion models. Apply a little techno-wizardry, and these models do their walks wherever a viewer points their mobile device. If the viewer is only interested in a few looks in the collection, they can view those fashions without sitting through the whole show.

See it in Action

Bloomingdale’s  created an AR fashion show for its 150th anniversary. ROSE created it using designs exclusively available for the celebration. The fashion show was visible in Bloomingdale’s stores, or in the homes of over 400,000 shoppers who received an AR-activated catalog. You can still view the experience by scanning a QR code on Bloomingdale’s website. Bloomingdale’s reported a 38 percent increase in shopper engagement and a 22 percent increase in conversions. A lot of those conversions were thanks to a click-to-buy feature that allows shoppers to purchase looks from within the experience just by tapping their favorite fashions.  A similar activation by ROSE and KHAITE led to a 400 percent increase in sales. Further, users browsed an average of 16 looks spending over four minutes in the experience. An experience for Selfridges that was only available in-store caught an average 51 seconds dwell time. Compare that to the amount of time that shoppers spend looking at mannequins.

Becoming the Model

Watching a fashion show can be fun. But, what about being the model? ROSE worked with Steve Madden for an initiative in “the Maddenverse.” This time, it was an Instagram effect that turned users into a stylized Steve Madden virtual avatar. In this case, the idea wasn’t to realistically represent clothing that the viewer could actually buy but rather to give them a fun opportunity to engage with the brand itself. But that’s a topic for another day.  

Virtual Try-Ons and Samples

Seeing an outfit on a model is nice, but when people buy an item, they’re going to care more about how that item looks on them. This can be trickier with augmented reality, but it’s possible. Creating a virtual version of a garment can allow a prospective buyer to see how it works with them. They can see how it matches other items in their collection, their skin color and makeup choices, their hairstyles, and even places where they anticipate wearing the garment like their home or their favorite restaurant. AR tryon in eCommerce may present another “hurdle” – it’s an extra screen tap – but many shoppers find it fun. Further, they’re statistically less likely to return items that they purchase after engaging with them in AR. In fact, ROSE worked with Adidas to create a virtual model of one of their shoes that buyers could “unbox” on social media before the physical shoe shipped. Creating a virtual clothing item can be a lot of work. But, increasingly, that work is already done. Designers and manufacturers frequently start with a digital model because it’s easier to see potential changes than with physical prototypes. In some cases, these design models can be adapted for virtual try-on cases.  

The Future of Virtual Try-On

We’ve discussed some things AR clothing doesn’t do too well. For example, faithfully replicating reflective surfaces, or the way that a fabric moves – or even how a garment will actually fit. Fortunately, all of these are aspects of the technology that are improving year-over-year. While you’ll (probably) never be able to feel an AR garment before you have the physical version, effects like how a piece of clothing reflects light in your environment are improving. In terms of fashion try-on, it was largely pioneered for jewelry in particular but we’ll likely see the approach extended to other materials as well. If you’ve tried virtual tryon before, you have probably had one or two unsatisfactory experiences. Either the jacket that you’re trying on doesn’t move at all, or those earrings that you’re trying on make it look like there’s an earthquake. These technologies are improving too, but there are two big hangups. These effects are powered by physics engines. Different platforms can use different physics engines, so it can be hard to get a quality experience without optimizing for each app and website that you want to publish on. Further, the more advanced the models and effects are, the heavier the experience is. To reach customers where they are, you’ve got to publish on the apps and devices they use. Sometimes that can mean making compromises. Fortunately, this is also being solved by the move toward cloud and edge computing that takes some of that burden off of a user’s device. After all, movie-quality virtual clothing couldn’t be real-time rendered too well within Snapchat. And even that tech is tricky to pull off realistically. That’s one of the reasons Hollywood loves costumed and masked characters so much. That kind of work is closer to VR than AR.  

The Final Frontier of “Virtual Clothing”?

Right now, we’re talking about virtual clothing as a way to drive purchases of physical clothing. However, in recent years, there has been growth in the idea of virtual clothing that stays virtual. That can mean clothing for avatars or virtual clothing that appears in photographs and videos on social media. Whether or not you might ever be interested in buying and selling digital clothing, breakthroughs in this field will likely help to improve the technology as it appears in other use cases as well.