Back to insights

Why Augmented Reality is more than just a game

By Marcus Lambert

Pokémon Go has proved to be an incredible phenomenon in 2016. Over 100 million people have downloaded the game in only two months. Experts are desperately trying to unpick the secrets of why it has been so successful. Meanwhile, critics warn interest is already waning, and the popular game is past its peak.

However, rather than examining the meteoric rise and fall of Pokémon Go, it seems that many are missing the most revealing aspect of this incredible journey. Only three months ago, the average user had little knowledge about Augmented Reality. Sure, Microsoft launched the exciting HoloLens dev kit, but outside of the tech community, it seemed nobody knew or even cared about #AR.

Even the overwhelming number of tech websites formed a large orderly queue to predict that 2016 was the year that Virtual Reality would finally live up to its potential. Completely immersive #VR experiences via a headset seemed to excite geeks more than #AR that concentrated on overlaying content in the real world.

Mass user adoption is crucial for any form of technology to succeed regardless of what any technologist or journalist suggests. When over 100 million users downloaded the Pokémon Go app, it catapulted #AR into the mainstream. Now everybody gets it.

Interest in the Pokémon Go game may well already be starting to show signs of gradual decline. But its #AR that is already fast becoming a game changer. While #VR requires a substantial investment to enjoy the promised immersive experience, the exciting aspect of #AR is that all you need is a smartphone.

Enthusiasm about the potential for augmented reality is taking hold in just a few months and even put virtual reality in the shade. Most people associate #VR with gaming, and this offers a very limited potential to mainstream audiences.

Snapchat currently has over 150 million daily users who spend an average of 25 to 30 minutes on the app each day. The most attractive aspect of the social network is the use of augmented reality technology to overlay animations on users photos called geofilters. Once again the technology requires no explaining or expensive equipment and audiences get it straight away. There are rumors that they are looking to build a set of smart sunglasses that could reapply filters in real time.

However, when you look beyond the realms of video games and social media, it’s easy to see the tremendous opportunities waiting to explode. Apps such as Rooomy are already allowing shoppers to visualise how a new sofa, TV, coffee table and carpet will look in our homes before purchasing them on a whim.

Trips to any shopping mall can be notoriously stressful. The simplification and personalisation of everything are already raising customer expectations at an unprecedented rate after a diet of instant gratification from the likes of Uber and Airbnb. But, once again AR technology has been waiting patiently in the wings to bring retail into the 21st century.

Have you ever walked into a crowded shopping mall needing to purchase a handful of items, but not knowing where to start? Some retailers are experimenting with #AR technology that overlays directions to the store you are searching for. Even after arriving at the store, it will then direct you to the exact item.

We could also wave goodbye to walking out of a large store feeling disorientated and forgot where we parked our car. Apps such as Carfinder AR will even overlay directions to the exact location to save you from any further embarrassment.

Customers are evolving along with technology. There is growing evidence that we are sending images of potential purchases to friends from our smartphone to seek their approval rather than trusting online reviews.

Makeup brands are currently testing augmented reality that allows users to see exactly how that Marc Jacobs’ Forbidden Berry shade will look on their faces. The ability to see exactly how clothes or even make-up suit our style and ask friends advice within a few minutes is already driving customer expectation for some millennials.

Unlike #VR, Augmented reality has the potential to affect almost every aspect of our lives and daily routine. By merely looking down at our smartphone screen we could have the ability to visualise changing the decor of our home or revamp our wardrobe with navigation how to get there too.

Only a few months ago this was unthinkable. The biggest battle for #AR to succeed was getting mainstream audiences to understand the technology and its possibilities. The success of Snapchat geofilters and Pokémon Go have brought #AR into the mainstream, and this has changed everything.

At the end of 2016, we will probably look back at the Pokémon Go trend as just another online fad. But look beyond the game and you will find a watershed moment. The technology behind a game and app to make funny photos has been widely adopted by users worldwide almost overnight.

Over four years ago an article featured in Wired magazine looked into the opportunities around an #AR catalogue for Ikea. The simple idea was probably put on hold because consumers wouldn’t understand the technology or deem it too much hassle. The biggest change in the last few months is that #AR has now been catapulted into the mainstream.

We have all be given the gift to see a glimpse into our future and the part #AR will play in it. The only question that remains is how your business will take advantage now it has become a reality?

We are the digital experience company for business brands.

In today’s connected world, experience is brand.

So we help you create better experiences for your customers, employees, partners and stakeholders. Ones that work in empathy with them to achieve their goals, engage and delight them, and build brand loyalty.