There’s a fairly good chance you’re reading this on your smartphone right now. And if not, there’s an even better chance a smartphone is within 30 yards of where you are now. It wasn’t long ago that the idea of augmented reality existed in science fiction only. But with the ever-growing technological advances found in everyday devices such as our smartphones, AR is a trend swiftly making its way into our home, office, classrooms, and brands.
Why AR’s becoming a household word
Let’s take a trip back in time, to the summer of 2016. A little game hit the market with very little expectation other than to capture the imagination of the loyal Pokémon fans and maybe a few others. What happened took the nation by storm, and for a few weeks, it was the most played game on the planet. Notice I said “a few weeks.” Yes, there’s a cautionary tale to the whole experience of Pokémon Go, and many others have written about it. However it did create a fascinating proof of concept: the wide-scale awareness and usage of augmented reality by way of our cellphones.
The arrows in its armor
For those who need to catch up, augmented reality is not virtual reality. Where virtual reality creates a world for you to exist and experience, augmented reality lets you experience things in your own world without them physically being there. Many readers might read this and start thinking of the now infamous Google Glass that came out years ago and virtually went nowhere. With that in mind, it might be good to remember that there were many things wrong with the first augmented reality product (mainly how dumb it made people look), and also that there was a time when we thought electric cars were dead, too. Google Glass might have failed, but others are picking up the slack and creating amazing products to entice users into believing that what they thought was a just a gimmick might actually be useful in their daily lives.
The firm Magic Leap, in fact, has been in a $542 million funding contract with Google (not including millions more from other investors) for years now, and we’ve still not seen the fruits of their labor. But judging by its concept video, it’s probably going to be amazing.
The future is now
Where does this future of cellphone and headset AR devices leave digital marketers? The future has never been more exciting. Think of it as an unexpected marriage between the print world (physical, real, tactile) and the digital world (limitless, constantly updating). For example, IKEA realized that sometimes its customers were coming back to return a product because it didn’t fit — either physically or stylistically — in the customer’s home. The Swedish furniture giant decided to tackle the problem with something they already had: their catalog. Inside the catalog, they dedicated certain pages to work with their own augmented reality app, letting customers view through their smartphone or tablet how the furniture would look in their home. They’ve been doing this for years!
“Technology changes fast, and it’s because we want it to.”
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Today, other brands are using this tool to elevated levels of use: LEGO, Nintendo, Disney, and even Crayola. Notice that I said AR is a “tool.” That word was used strategically as a reminder that AR isn’t a new form of marketing, but rather a channel in which marketers can now develop new interactions with their desired audience. How it’s used will be the most exciting aspect of the tool.
Let’s make it happen
That’s what makes the future so exciting: when technology creates a new way of seeing the world. With this — as well as the expansion of exciting technologies like virtual reality and even holograms — we’re getting a glimpse into a world where future generations will find it archaic that we used to get all our information by having to look it up on a computer. There will come a day when we have fully integrated the world of marketing and information directly into our lives without the use of visible technology, and it’s not as far off as we might expect. Just think of the last time you used a pay phone. Technology changes fast, and it’s because we want it to.