How Augmented Reality Will Change Our Digital Experience by 2025
How Augmented Reality Will Change Our Digital Experience by 2025
As investments go, augmented reality is one of the most exciting emerging technologies. Getting a handle on AR and making the best use of it across digital platforms is becoming essential for future-focused developers and businesses. The technology has been around since the 1960s when the first virtual headset was created, but it remained firmly in the realm of science fiction for everyday people. With modern-day usage of smartphones and 4G increasing, it’s potential is set to grow exponentially in the coming years. By 2025, analysts predict that the US healthcare sector will be generating approximately 5 billion dollars in revenue from VR and AR. Within the gaming sector, analysts predict it will generate $12 billion.
Wearable AR technology has huge potential to simplify manufacturing processes and improve efficiency. Beyond the corporate world, the engagement opportunities possible in the retail and advertising sector with AR are enormous. Providing innovative instore and online experiences has already proved to increase conversion rates and revenue streams.
Integrating AR into your web design, online consumer interactions and advertising is a future-proof investment. In this article, we discuss exactly what AR is, the progress that has already been made by the biggest names in tech, and what it all means for everyday companies and consumers.
Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) is the technology that allows you to render 3D virtual objects in a real-world setting. Frequently confused with Virtual Reality, there are key differences between the two:
- VR is based purely on what’s in a computer device. A VR headset immerses a user in a digitally fabricated world. The worlds are rendered to look like real life but aren’t anchored to any real-world setting.
- AR overlays virtual objects and information onto real-world scenes in real-time. AR bridges the gap between reality and virtual reality. It allows users to see computer-generated images layered on top of their actual surroundings.
VR transports a user to a completely virtual world; AR enhances the real-world environment with virtual additions layered on top.
Real-World Use of Augmented Reality
The best way to demonstrate the potential of AR and how it works is with real-world examples. The scope for AR integrations into our lives is astonishing. Users can interact with AR using wearable devices, smartphone apps, desktop sites and mobile sites. Experiences that have become commonplace today, such as social media filters and online gaming apps, all use AR technology.
Instagram and Snapchat Filters
Social media giants, Snapchat and Instagram, were quick to take advantage of AR technology. With Snapchat filters, users have long been able to overlay animations of everything from dog ears to jazzy glasses onto their selfies. Creatives on Instagram can also develop their own filters. A great way to promote your filters is to use them whilst streaming on Instagram Live and within Stories.
Far more than just a gimmick, AR filters on social media are a goldmine for advertisers. American food manufacturing giant, Kraft, developed a Snapchat filter as part of their ‘It’s changed. But it hasn’t’ rebranding campaign. The filter functioned as a game, encouraging users to try to catch as many augmented macaroni pieces in their mouths as they could. In just 24 hours, the lens reached 20 million Snapchat users. The result was a 13% lift in purchase intent for the food brand.
Snapchat’s Community Lens Library provides the ideal opportunity for organic marketing. Snapchatters can easily search the Library for trending keywords, share images with friends and organically drive campaigns. If implemented well, it can result in an impressive return on investment with thousands of views, captures and shares, all without the need for expensive paid promotion or influencer involvement.
Google Lens lets you search what you see. It can detect an object in front of a smartphone camera, figure out what it is, then suggest further actions such as scanning, shopping, translating and more. There are thousands of ways it can help people in their everyday life. Users can scan a menu to access online restaurant reviews. You can capture a sign in a foreign language to have it translated digitally. When you see a piece of furniture or clothing you like but aren’t sure what it’s called or where to buy it, searching with words can be tricky. Google Lens serves up similar items for sale from just an image.
As part of Google’s broader ‘Google for Education’ project, they are now introducing Google Lens into educational settings. For example, when a child is struggling with a maths equation, they can click a picture of it and Google Lens can offer potential solutions.
In 2016, Pokémon Go exploded onto the mobile gaming scene. Using augmented reality, Gamers discover and collect new Pokémon as they explore real-world locations. GPS technology triggers smartphone notifications when users are near a Pokémon. Users could then use their smartphone camera and touch screen to catch the Pokémon. PokéStops were located at real-world areas of interest such as art installations and historical sites, increasing gamers’ interaction with their surrounding environment.
With over 1 billion downloads to date, it’s evident that there is a ravenous appetite among gamers for AR technology. For creators with the imagination to tap into this market, the potential is enormous.
PokémonGo is an example of Persistent AR in action. Now, developers can persist virtual objects in the same location. Essentially, an AR experience can be kept in the same place by saving the world mapping data. It can enhance the experience of any space and can even be added to by the users.
Another example is the WallaMe app, where you can virtually draw on walls and leave messages for other users. Take a picture of a wall near you, add images, freehand sketches or messages, then share this creation with friends or make it public. The augmented reality wall can then be viewed by others when they are in the location where you created it.
Apple has been investing heavily in AR technology since 2015 when they acquired German AR company Metaio. Metaio was one of the first companies to start developing ultra-immersive AR experiences. It required powerful image processors, high-definition cameras and location hardware – all available to anyone with the latest iPhone. Apple’s acquisition of Metaio laid the foundations to bring AR to the masses.
Since then, Apple has created the ARKit. ARKit is a development platform that app developers can use to build engaging AR games and applications that add value to the consumer experience. It brings AR technology to everyday consumers.
Augmented Reality Potential in Advertising and Retail
Advertising in AR is still a fairly new field and far less regulated than most advertising options. Companies that have ventured into this space have been handsomely rewarded. L’Oreal’s 2018 YouCam Makeup app, which allowed users to virtually try on makeup, received 3.5 million downloads in its first year.
AR is quickly becoming commonplace in online shopping. Home-focused retailers have been quick to adopt AR technology across their online stores to deliver a ‘try-before-you-buy’ option for customers. Allowing people to see exactly what a piece of furniture will look like in their home and whether it will fit is a key factor in reducing online returns and converting potential customers. Both Argos and IKEA have incorporated this feature into their apps with remarkable success. With IKEA Place you can virtually place around 3,200 IKEA products around your home. Luxury retailers such as Gucci have even used the technology to let potential customers virtually try on new trainers with their app.
The Fall and Rise of AR Glasses
Google Glass was one of the first major attempts to bring AR wearable technology to the mass market. Launched in 2015, they were somewhat ahead of their time. The product was plagued by privacy concerns and damaging criticism from Silicon Valley. Google took the product off the market, regrouped and redirected their attention at corporate use. It is here that AR wearables have found a home.
Wearable technology that provides users with accurate information without breaking workflow has been a huge hit in the corporate world. It’s an efficient, time-saving solution that brings data to the user. Huge firms across manufacturing, logistics, aerospace and healthcare have all adopted the technology.
Google has recently made its latest AR headset, Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2, available for direct purchase for $999 per unit (~£772). The headset is small, light and wearable, perfect for precision manufacturing and hand-free work. Using voice commands, you can instantly connect to co-workers, collaborate through live video streaming and access training and instruction manuals. Current Glass customers include Samsung, DHL and Volkswagen.
Microsoft, Apple and others have joined Google to produce various wearable technology. The U.S. military is now using Microsoft’s HoloLens2. However, the eye-watering price point of $3500 and chunky design has slowed large-scale uptake.
The potential for this technology to streamline operations on factory floors, laboratories and beyond is currently only limited by price and user-habits. As users become more familiar with AR and the technology becomes cheaper, it will transform day to day life.
Augmented Reality in Everyday Life
As the technology becomes more available, every developer, designer and business owner will eventually need to use augmented reality to better engage potential customers. As users are becoming more familiar with AR, the expectation for immersive user experience increases, especially among online shoppers. Developers are creating AR plugins and software at reasonable prices that will bring AR to the masses.
Across manufacturing, retail, healthcare and more, augmented reality will soon pervade every element of our day-to-day experiences. Now is the time to bring it into your web design. We will delve further into the potential of AR throughout this series and provide tangible examples of how you can use it within your business.