Seeing the Realities of Augmented Reality

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Experts note that other apps were already paving the way for broad adoption of augmented reality prior to Apple and Google’s big announcements. Wallin cites Snapchat and Pokémon Go as examples. Snap Inc. in late 2015 launched Snapchat Lenses, a way to make photos more fun by allowing the user to drop in real-time special effects and sounds, such as turning an image of yourself into a dog. In April Snap introduced World Lenses, which it says can be used to decorate the world with brand-new 3-D content via the rear-facing camera on phones.

Pokémon Go, the location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic, was released in July 2016 and went viral almost immediately: In its first month, it earned $35 million from nearly 30 million users. Daily user numbers have since plummeted, from 28.5 million at its peak down to 5 million, a drop of more than 80 percent, according to comScore data. Few expected the app to catch on so quickly, and while the drop in use was significant, 5 million daily users still cannot be easily dismissed.

According to Wallin, both Snapchat and Pokémon Go have proven that augmented reality has “broad consumer appeal” and that the success of both apps is something that “the big companies are looking to replicate.”

Experts agree that Apple ARKit and Google ARCore are game changers in making augmented reality technology broadly applicable. “Developing something like ARKit or ARCore by yourself would have been expensive and difficult to support across a wide variety of phones since each phone has different cameras and sensors, all of which must be carefully calibrated to produce good results,” Wallin says. “ARKit and ARCore [give] businesses and marketers the ability to offer their own fully branded augmented reality experiences on a reasonable budget.”

Wallin also emphasizes that ARKit and ARCore rely solely on the phone’s camera and built-in sensors, as opposed to external ones, which increases the number of potential use cases and lowers the barrier of entry.

Additionally, David Berkowitz, chief strategy officer at Sysomos, a social media analytics company, notes that “mobile devices and bandwidth are now reliably powerful enough to run fast, smooth augmented reality experiences.” Furthermore, “the renewed rollout of unlimited data plans from major carriers further reduces friction for consumers.” ARKit and ARCore, he adds, could potentially reach 1 billion people or more, making scale finally possible.

Pullens agrees. “Businesses and marketers should know that ARKit and ARCore likely won’t just be a fad, so it’s time to start thinking about how this technology fits into their business models,” he says. “With Apple and Google going all-in on the augmented reality landscape through innovations like ARKit and ARCore, it finally gives a much-needed technological lead for this landscape. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Apple and Google are placing all this investment in AR with the underlying intention to abandon this route within a few years. It’s here to stay.”


Some companies have already devised creative ways to use augmented reality technology for marketing purposes. Berkowitz cites fruit juice drink brand Oasis as one such company. In December 2016, Oasis introduced limited-edition packaging in the United Kingdom in which its bottle labels were designed to resemble faces; younger consumers could use apps like Snapchat to superimpose their own faces on the labels. Users could then submit their face swaps on the company’s Facebook page for a chance to win a bottle with the limited-edition label.

Although Berkowitz notes that the Oasis campaign was a little bizarre and beyond the comprehension of most older consumers, he holds it up as an example of a company catering to its target audience.

The arrival of ARKit and ARCore gives marketers a path to more easily leverage AR technology. According to Aliberti, the technology “will provide new ways for brands to engage with customers and opportunities for entirely new marketing campaigns.” At the same time, AR can make customer experiences “more compelling, engaging, and relevant,” he says.

“Leveraging augmented reality early can help show that a brand is innovative and uses cutting-edge technology,” Wallin adds.

Wallin offers a number of examples where the technology would make sense for marketers. A big one is online shopping, which he says can be enhanced by enabling customers to see virtual representations of products that they are interested in buying. They could, for example, view furniture in the room where they intend to put it or virtually try on watches or glasses to see how they would look.

The technology can also be used to “make everyday objects more exciting,” he says. As an example, animation, including images of dancing characters or juice explosions, could be overlaid on drink cans and triggered when a person points his phone at the can.

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