Augmented Reality

July 24th, 2013

Enhance the customer’s experience using augmented reality.

In today’s world of smartphones, tablets and social sharing, there always seems to be another tech trend of the week, month or year that everyone is talking about. Our phones are increasingly equipped with more cameras and sensors that allow us to capture and interact with the world wherever we are – and augmented reality (AR) is providing so many more possibilities.

AR allows any real world object (like a logo or a building) to be transformed into an interactive experience when a phone’s camera is pointed at it. For example, scanning the Coca-Cola logo could turn your simple can of pop into an onscreen experience with video, additional information and even games. Pointing your camera at Grand Central could overlay a schedule of train departure and arrival times and even present the Wikipedia article on the location.

The Wikitude app is a great example of AR. Out in a new town and wondering what is nearby? Just hold your phone up to your surrounding and see the information for nearby restaurants, hotels and bars, seamlessly laid out on your screen and complete with reviews and maybe even the opportunity to book a room.

Retailers have also been experimenting with AR in an attempt to enhance the shopping experience. Ray-Ban—a popular sunglasses company—offers a “virtual mirror” that allows you to “try on” sunglasses at your computer. Using your webcam, you can see what you look like wearing any of their products, complete with the freedom to move and turn your head. Esquire recently published an AR issue that allowed readers of the magazine to shop the brands featured in the issue’s ads.

Smartphones are not the only devices that allow people to experience AR. Three major manufactures (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony) have devices either integrated or available as add-ons that allow you to experience and control your console with your voice and body.

Microsoft has been positioning the Xbox 360 and its online service Xbox LIVE as the center of your home entertainment needs, integrating with video services like Netflix and Hulu. Recently, Pizza Hut joined the Xbox family – not with a game or some other type of rich media, but rather an app that allows you to order pizza directly from your television. Using Xbox’s Kinect sensor, customers can build their pizza with both voice control and using their hands to gesture at the screen. They can add and remove ingredients to their heart’s content. Purchasing is integrated directly into your Xbox LIVE account, so there is no need for a credit card or any other “real world” annoyances. Build your pizza with your hands and voice and then switch right back to your game.

AR is an exciting new technology and its creative possibilities span every medium that exists, but it is not without its hurdles. To engage in AR, users need to download special apps to their smartphone, or have purchased additional hardware (like a webcam or Kinect sensor for the Xbox). Because of this hardware barrier, the growth of AR will mostly be seen in the mobile space where a user already has all the hardware they need to interact. But, despite these technological hurdles, AR provides brands the incredible potential to offer people a very unique way of becoming more engaged with their products and services.

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