What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality, the hottest tech buzzword

What is it?


Software companies are hopping on the AR Bandwagon – but what is it?  From Wiki: “Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment whereby the objects that reside in the real-world are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.” In short, computer-generated information is laid on top of real-world experience.

For example, in the PokemonGo app, the user can use see and hear Pokemon, like Pikachu, through their screen while seeing the actual landscape in front of them. These animated creatures are not present in reality but are shown and heard as a simulation. The sensory information can either add something to reality, known as Constructive AR (like the Pokemon), or it can mask reality, known as Destructive AR. Augmented Reality should not be confused with Virtual Reality: AR alters a user’s perception of reality and VR replaces reality with an entirely computer-generated environment created by software companies.

 software companies developing destructive AR

An example of the destructive type of experience: a hole in the ground where the app displays underlying piping. This information wouldn’t have been available to the user’s eye without this technology.


Why is AR so popular now?


The first functional AR systems were invented in the early 1990s and used largely in the entertainment and gaming businesses. In 2012, it became integrated into electronic devices and being developed by software companies with increasing frequency. It was and is still used in toys to enhance their entertainment and play value.

The advertising market is becoming more cluttered and many people opt out of receiving marketing messages: AR brand experiences provide new ways to engage consumers. A study by ad tech firm YuMe and research firm Nielsen found that AR and VR elicited 27% higher emotional engagement than a 2D environment, and 17% higher emotional engagement than a 360-degree video on a flat screen. AR can be used to interact with customers and understand more about their behaviors and preferences. Software companies and brands that understand the possibilities of Augmented Reality driven advertising have even started creating their own social media platforms.


What are Some Apps that use AR?


Snapchat: Social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram are incorporating AR technology to keep users engaged. Snapchat is a social media application that allows users to send pictures and short videos to other users. Snapchat uses AR through filters: users can add things like dog ears, cat whiskers, and animated backgrounds to their photos and videos.

Pokemon Go: Launched in July 2016, Pokemon GO’s downloads reached 50 million installations before the end of the month. This app guides users on walks around cities to collect Pokemon (animated animals). The app imposes Pokemon images onto your Smartphone screen.

Google Maps:  a location finder which features transit, car, bicycle, and walking transportation directions. AR is showcased in Google Street View with 360-degree video of locations around the world. Users can search for a location and view and navigate around the location with AR 360 degree video.

Quiver: (formerly known as ColAR Mix) brings children’s coloring books to life with animated images that spring directly from the pages. Several free coloring books are available on the Quiver website to download and print. Once the pages are colored in, children can use a smartphone camera to record the page and view an augmented moving image. The app also features accompanying music with the animated images.


What are some practical uses for AR?


Travel:  New AR apps allow users to get a glimpse of the “hotel experience” prior to their stay. Through apps like Radisson Hotels’, customers are able to take virtual tours of hotel rooms and get a 360 view of rooms, suites, meeting facilities, restaurants, and pool areas.

Home Improvement:  Some retail stores have released AR marketing apps that provide customers with an interactive experience. For example, Home Depot uses AR to allow customers to see paint colors in their home before purchasing paint. Customers choose a paint color and then hold their smartphone or tablet up to a wall and the paint color will appear on the wall. The Home Depot app also allows users to test doors, windows, light fixtures, furniture, and more.

Car Finder:  Augmented Car Finder is an app designed to guide users to their parked car. Users can set their car location when parking, then when the user is returning to their car, the app will show augmented arrows guiding them to the location. Users can utilize this app technology for any object, including seats in a theatre or concert, or lost keys.


What does the future hold for AR and VR?


Software companies are banking on the prediction that the value of AR and VR, virtual reality, is predicted to hit $150bn by 2020.  The evolution of the two technologies has resulted in personalized, mixed-reality experiences for consumers. As AR and VR continue to evolve, they are expected to impact the marketing industry in many ways. Below are a couple of examples of what the future may have in store for AR.
Product Trials:  Makeup Genius is a mobile app that allows customers to scan a product in the store and then use their smartphone camera to try on augmented L’Oréal Paris products. The app has already been downloaded more than 16 million times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbBJfrkZRDI

Healthcare:  AR could change the way doctors are trained, where doctors can be trained, and who can become a doctor. Proximie, co-founded by Dr. Nadine Hachach-Haram, is a current AR platform that allows surgeons to connect with medical professionals around the world and guide them through procedures. Other uses involve the surgeon wearing an AR headset such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, allowing them to see digital images and other data directly overlaid on their field of view.
 software companies AR for healthcare

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