Augmented Reality and How to Use It

Example use of augmented reality - Korean tesco grocery store

Tesco Korea brings the shop to the shopper with AR at this subway station.

Augmented reality certainly isn’t a new technology. Google Layars has been bringing AR to our handsets for years, whilst QR codes have led the way in bringing AR to the masses.

But it is only now that I believe we can step away from clunky technologies and annoying bar code style images that, for reasons I’ll never understand, people insist on pasting on business cards and brochures (OK, QR code  rant over) and actually begin to harness this technology to enhance our brands.

So what is augmented reality? Augmented reality is the technology which allows us to associate every day things with added data and information which allows us to enhance the world around us. It’s accessed through smart phones/devices and holding up that device to look at an object will retrieve any data associated with it and display that on the screen.

For example, Virgin concept stores use this technology well. Rather than filling the store with brochures, the travel company instead filled it with posters. They then give everyone who enters the store an iPad and invite them to hold them up to the poster images; the iPad recognises the AR data behind the image and automatically shows the potential customer a video of that destination, thus giving them a much more interactive and dynamic experience than they would have got through a static image alone.

And it’s not just travel companies making use of AR; check out this video of a Korean subway where Tesco have created a ‘virtual store’ using AR:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mqcb7RoN4Y

Using AR for Brand Marketing

Augmented reality through images is achieved using a technology called Aurasma (created by a company of the same name). Like QR code technologies, aurasma is free to use and it’s easy to associate any image with any data through the technology. This article from Geek.com explains further how this works:

http://www.geek.com/articles/mobile/aurasma-lets-everyone-view-and-create-augmented-reality-on-a-smartphone-20120720/

It’s easy to get excited about aurasma. The potential is huge; brochures, newspaper adverts, subway posters, greeting cards… aurasma can bring to life virtually any piece of media you desire. But like all ‘cool’ technologies, the key to its successful use lies in the ability of the brand to understand when it is useful and valuable to the user. Depending on the target market, brands will also need to understand how technically savvy their user is and therefore how much guidance they’re going to need in making use of AR – will they need instructions or will they understand what they need to do without them? Understanding the user is, as always, essential.

And it’s not just the AR technology that needs to be considered. The linked content is also of vital importance; Virgin’s concept store would, for example, fall flat on its face if the brand attempted to link potential customers to a half hour documentary on the benefits of visiting Africa. But they will succeed if they’re able to produce a short 1 minute snapshot which allows the customer to feel what its like to be on safari and travel across the country and relax on the beach… by creating setting-appropriate, engaging content, Virgin have the opportunity to really change the travel agent experience.

As AR has been around for a while, there are plenty of examples of it in use but it is my opinion that wider spread use of the technology will continue to grow – it’s how we use it that will determine its success.

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