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05 February 2013

Augmented reality is a reality!


By Chris Minas, Nimbletank

Many have hailed augmented reality (AR) as a passing fad with no real beneficial use bar novelty value. This however comes as a surprise to marketers who see AR as a vital tool to generate brand excitement and believe it will become a mainstream technology in the near distance future.

To financially ailing industries such as music and publishing, this couldn’t come at a better time. By incorporating AR technology they will once again be able to provide the customer with desirable extras they’d struggle to find elsewhere. Already, AR technology can allow readers to hold their phone in front of a printed page and see extra content on their handset. The opportunities are endless and we just need to look to huge brands such as Nokia and Google to understand the full potential the medium offers.

Nokia City Lens AR App

Nokia is at the forefront of this latest trend and last year introduced the ‘Nokia City Lens AR app’ to its Lumia Windows phones. The City Lens allows the user to move the Lumia’s camera to instantly see a 360 view of latest offers including bars, restaurants and shops. Tapping on an item will reveal a more detailed address and rating becomes available. The user is also able to call or navigate to a place whilst sharing details via SMS for meeting up with friends.

Since launching in 2011, mobile-based AR platform Aurasma has gained 10,000 partners and 4 million downloads worldwide. Aurasma uses image-recognition technology to detect images, symbols, and objects in the real world and then mixes the physical image with an animation, video or audio. Aurasma also enables users to socially share content and place their own content as ‘Auras’ for other users to experience via location detection within the app, adding to the overall experience. Recently, the pop-band McFly worked with Aurasma to create an app which allowed users, through scanning the front and back covers, the ability to unlock a host of exclusive content, including a special acoustic session from the quartet.

The platform is also proving to be popular with big brands such as GQ, Reebok and Kelloggs, who are reaping in the rewards. Interestingly, Top Gear, who has been using Aurasma for a year, already has up to 50 per cent of its readers watching extra content through this method.  Once engaging with the consumer, brands like Top Gear can look to take it beyond ‘added value’, either through advertising or a click-through to a purchase. IPC Media has taken full advantage of this with Look magazine and last month had a page titled ‘Celebs wear high street too’, which enabled readers to buy the items of clothing via AR. 

Many believe that the launch of Google’s ‘Project Glass’ will propel AR into our daily lives. The glasses will be packed with motion sensors for navigation and GPS sensors through 3G and 4G connections. The glasses will stream information to the lens and allow the user to send and receive messages through voice commands. Though some see these glasses as interfering in the consumer’s day to day life, surely it will simply be an enhancement and an easier tool to use. 

AR is a great technology for brands to embrace in order to engage their customers in a new and exciting way. With the right approach it can be used as another tool to enhance revenue streams and bridge traditional and new media channels. This will help to bring static, print or outdoor media to life in a way that can be measured by the accountability of the web. With the improvement of device capability and AR growing as a software platform, brands are now able to launch these innovative products whilst driving the concept much nearer to the mind of the consumer than ever imagined. Before we know it consumers will be expecting each one of their devices to connect to things, providing visual search tools, enhancements and information through AR. Inevitably in the near future, AR will be seen as an irreplaceable tool for our day-to-day lives.

Editor's note: We picked the following three case studies as eye-catching examples of augmented reality being leveraged by brands effectively: 

  1. TESCO virtual fitting room
  2. Island Records and Samsung
  3. Black Eyed Peas 3D 360 

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