What is AR? | h2o | Creative Communications Ltd.
Augmented reality does exactly what it says. It adds extra features to bridge the gap between our everyday reality and the digital realm.
AR, augmented reality, marketing, digital marketing
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What is AR?

What is AR?

When I first heard the term ‘augmented reality’ (AR), I envisaged a Matrix-esque vision of an apparent utopia, whilst in reality, the user is wasting away in a dark room somewhere. AR is actually far less scary and potentially life-threatening.

If you sit in meetings nodding vaguely when someone mentions incorporating AR into your marketing strategy without really knowing what it is, or how you would go about doing that, do not fear. h2o’s animator and all-around technological wizard Simon Byrnes will shed light on the technology, how it’s been used so far, and the potential future applications.

Augmented reality does exactly what it says. It adds extra features to bridge the gap between our everyday reality and the digital realm. Obviously, this isn’t possible without an electronic device, unless you have access to some potent but illegal substances (which we do not recommend).

Currently, the most popular method of viewing AR is through the camera of your smartphone. Google glasses and headsets also exist at the minute however, more technology is currently in development (we’ll talk about this a little bit later).

The smartphone camera can add a huge variety of augmented-ness to your reality. You probably use a number of AR apps already — Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and Pokemon Go (of course you’d never admit to playing it, neither did we…).

                                                               We didn’t play Pokemon Go either…

Although we love keeping you up to date about the latest advances in technology just for the sake of it, it’s also important to look at how AR can be used as a marketing tool. The possibilities for marketing and engagement are as varied and full of potential as is the technology itself.

Starting at a low-key level, during the height of the Pokemon Go craze entrepreneurial individuals set up snack and drink stops at prominent locations in the game such as Pokestops and gyms. This took advantage of the fact that AR combined with geolocation delivered a steady stream of customers to their location. An added bonus in the Pokemon example was that these customers had probably been walking around for quite some time and could use some refreshment and sustenance before continuing their quest to become a Pokemon Master.

This example is so simple, it is literally a lemonade stand. However, it acts as a convenient demonstration that marketing and AR go together like… a Pikachu and a refreshing can of Coke.

Apps like Snapchat and Facebook’s latest Snapchat-like mutant are more high-budget examples. It’s been well documented that when Snapchat floated on the stock market it was valued at $22 BILLION. You may think that this is a huge amount of money for an app that essentially lets you turn your face into a cat, or put some sunglasses on. But the opportunity for brands to reach consumers is limited only by their imagination (and budget). For example, imagine the level of exposure a brand such as RayBan would get if they launched their latest design as a filter on Snapchat. This would allow users to see how good they look in the new design. Adding in a link to the sales page or a competition to capture user data would create a great campaign — See, we can do serious marketing!

Being able to restrict AR to a specific location is a fascinating possibility as it presents brands and marketers with the opportunity to create content that is tailored to the features of a single location. Businesses and brands can capitalise on the local market by offering special offers based on geolocations.

Adventurous businesses could potentially create a treasure hunt, encouraging consumers to travel to locations to ‘collect’ AR items to earn a discount or reward at the final location. Again, the sky’s the limit for AR use for brands. If you’re a bit stumped, get in touch with us, we’re brimming with ideas.

To quote a former phone company, the future is bright for AR. The technology is arguably in its infancy. It is currently limited by being predominantly restricted to smartphones. There are exciting developments in the pipeline though.

Businesses such as the super-secret Magic Leap are allegedly working on a head-mounted retinal display unit that beams light directly into the user’s eye. Microsoft has also got in on the act with their HoloLens headset that ‘allows the user to experience 3D in 3D.’ However, unless you are targeting consumers that are able to fork out over £2,000 for a headset, we’d recommend you focus on smartphone AR for the minute (we expect prices to drop to more reasonable levels once the technology matures and becomes more mainstream though.).

Before you rush to develop your own AR app (or get in touch with us to work with you…), we have some important advice about how to do this successfully. Don’t feel like you have to jump on the AR bandwagon straight away to keep up with everyone else. As we’ve already mentioned, this technology is just starting to get traction in the marketing industry. It is important that your app or advert provides value or entertainment for the target market. You don’t want to do AR for AR’s sake. Think about all the dodgy 3D films that came out when the technology first appeared. For many of these films, the third dimension was their only redeeming feature. Make sure you don’t fall into this trap and plan your AR carefully to dovetail into your strategy — not just because its novelty can disguise poor content.

If you’d like to incorporate AR into your marketing strategy but aren’t totally sure how to achieve this, we’d love to help. Tweet, call, email or just drop by, as you can probably tell, we’re very excited about augmented reality.

Megan Tyce
megan@h2o-creative.com