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
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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