How Web AR is Heralding a New Age for Augmented Reality

Posted On: 14 January 2021
Author: Chelsea
Read Time: 9 Minutes
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How Web AR is Heralding a New Age for Augmented Reality

Web developers have eagerly anticipated the potential of AR to transform our everyday lives for the past decade. The fusion of what is real and what is imagined creates limitless opportunities for engaging, entertaining and even educating users. However, it is only in the past few years that AR has begun to have a meaningful impact on the daily lives of everyday people. Now, with further advancements to how we access and interact with it, the future of AR looks more accessible than ever.

Until recently, users have had to download apps or use software such as Quick Look to enjoy AR. Dedicated apps provide developers with the most creative freedom and users with highly advanced experiences. However, downloading apps adds friction to the user journey. What if we could embed AR into standard web browsers?

Web AR is now bringing AR experiences to users in far simpler and more accessible ways than with other software. Whether you scan a QR code on a product in the supermarket, click on a website banner or access AR from a search engine, web AR utilises the existing software on your device to bring interactive AR to a greater number of screens than ever before.

What is Web AR?

Web AR brings AR experiences to users through a web browser. Rather than downloading an app, users simply need a smartphone or tablet with an internet connection. There are over 100 million devices -and counting! – that currently support AR. The vast majority of these smartphones and tablets also have access to web browsers. With the technical requirements already covered, web AR is hugely convenient for users and an area of enormous potential for developers and marketers.  

With web AR, developers can add engaging AR experiences to existing websites. Users are not diverted to an app store but can instead jump straight into the AR experience. Brands can enhance their platforms, improve engagement and add value, without building costly new software.

While AR apps can make full use of device capabilities, web AR programs have access to fewer device permissions and are limited by the capabilities of the browser. However, with such a seamless user experience, it still provides a quick, cheap and effective way to engage users. As the technology improves, its potential return on investment will only increase.

web ar

Why Choose Web AR over AR Apps?

At the moment, deciding between web AR or AR apps is a choice between a frictionless user journey or a more advanced AR experience. But web AR has several other advantages, aside from delivering a fantastic user experience.

  • Web AR delivers better long-term AR integration. The experience is packaged within the wider user experience. There is no standalone AR experience that can get lost in the ever-increasing number of apps people have on their devices.
  • For developers, building apps for multiple devices and operating systems can become a timely and costly process. While apps do provide the best user experience, this may not be a priority for every campaign. Web AR is quicker, easier and cheaper to create and maintain and perfectly suited to simple, yet highly effective, campaigns.
  • Web AR is instantly accessible and, apart from keeping browsers up to date, requires little to no effort from the user. AR app onboarding, on the other hand, asks a lot of the user. Customers first have to download a sizeable piece of software, potentially over 4G, then learn how to use it and make sure to keep it updated.

Web AR Limitations

As with any technology in its early days, there are, of course, some limitations with web AR.

  • Apps provide more memory and with extra memory capacity comes better visuals and advanced interactivity. Web AR is limited by the operating system’s web browser and web pages only provide so much memory. Overloading a page can slow down loading times and impair the user experience.
  • Web pages can only access specific parts of the user’s device. AR apps can take full advantage of all device capabilities.

This means that while web AR experiences are easier to access and require less of the user initially, they won’t deliver the most advanced experience. To combat this, brands will need to think of simple yet ingenious ways to engage users with the technology available.

augmented reality

What are the Potential Applications of Web AR?

We know that Web AR is an accessible and relatively affordable AR option, but what does this mean for real-life application? Where can Web AR be used and what can it deliver for brands and consumers?

  • Always-on Marketing

No matter where consumers are, they can use their phone to experience products. Either clicking links on the web or scanning QR codes on the weekly supermarket run, web AR delivers round-the-clock marketing.

  • Fast AR Experiences

At the tap of a finger, potential customers can be transported to immersive games, informative demonstrations and more. App downloads create user drop-off, as perceived long download times can result in a 90% reduction in audiences’ numbers. Removing friction from the user journey increases conversion rates.

  • Cross-platform formats

AR apps require developers to build for both iOS and Android systems. While cross-platform development is becoming much easier, web AR is a much simpler way to deliver experiences regardless of device operating systems.

How Brands are Using Web AR Already

Brands have been quick to capitalise on the potential of web AR. Games and interactive animations are being adopted to boost consumer engagement and brand recognition. It is also being used to assist with product visualisation, displaying information interactively to keep users engaged. Brands have a huge array of opportunities with web AR and the number continues to grow as the technology develops.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Interior Experience

Jaguar Land Rover elevated the humble banner advertisement to something truly unmissable with the addition of web AR. Users simply click on the banner and are virtually positioned inside the new SUV model. Here, they can angle their device to get a full view of the car’s interior, while outside the car windows are their real-life surroundings. Following the experience was a call to action to reserve the vehicle before it went on sale or book a test drive.

Share a Coke with AR filters

As part of their #Refreshwherevs campaign in South Africa, Coca-Cola wanted an accessible campaign that delivered a fun experience for the trendy, younger generation. Customer’s scan the QR code on the can with their device’s camera to link to the experience. Users can choose from several Coca-Cola filters, take selfies and save them to their phone to share on social media. The filters are frequently updated, with new ones becoming available after every purchase.

Motorola RAZR’s Immersive Staff Training

web ar examples

Motorola used a new web AR experience to educate their staff on the impressive features of their new flip phone model. Through their phone camera, team members can view a virtual phone model in their physical surrounding and flick it open to learn more. The interactive options provide further information on the new model’s camera, design and speed so the team can learn all there is to know in a way they can’t forget.

Google’s AR Educational Resources

ar browser
Source: Google

Google’s AR search feature has been around for over a year, but it provides the most tantalising view into the future of search engines. Users can search for an animal, object or place and view the object in AR straight from the search engine results page. All that is required is a compatible device and an internet connection. Simply click ‘View in your space’ to see a scale model, which you can zoom and move to learn more.  

Working Towards a Fully Immersive Web

Making AR more accessible is one part of the process to build what Google has termed the ‘immersive web’. This describes the whole spectrum of virtual world experiences hosted through a web browser. It covers everything from the virtual reality experienced via headsets to AR experiences on mobile devices. The full scope of immersive computing can be seen as a sliding scale and each point on this scale delivers something different for the user. The ultimate aim is for all of these experiences to be accessed solely via the ubiquitous web browser.

augmented reality
Source: Google

Will the Immersive Web Drive Bigger Sales for Businesses?

Making AR and VR more accessible to consumers generates higher returns on investment.

The success of Apple’s built-in AR tool, Quick Look, demonstrates the value of AR technology that doesn’t require a download. Our AR Quick Look for WooCommerce plugin enables online shoppers to view 3D previews of products sold on WooCommerce sites. 

Interior furnishings company Build.com, have incorporated AR into their website. Customers can view products in their home via their smartphone screens and interact with the features to test how they work and move in the space. The return rate for shoppers who used the AR feature is 22% lower than shoppers who bought the same product but didn’t use the tool.

Any AR Investment is a Smart Financial Choice

AR apps no doubt still dominate the market. By 2022, it is predicted that consumer downloads of AR apps will surpass 5.5billion. The quality of the experience and advanced interactivity are the hallmarks of a successful AR app and have set the bar high for web AR experiences. However, web AR is even newer to the market than AR apps. It will be interesting to view comparable statistics when they become available.

Web AR removes the onboarding required by apps, delivering a frictionless user journey that avoids the download dropoff. Businesses should choose to invest in web AR or AR apps based on their requirements. Either way, any AR investment is a smart financial choice.

The future of AR will see an improvement in web AR capabilities, combining the ease of use with advanced interactivity provided in dedicated apps. The future of browsing looks set to be far more stimulating and interactive than it is currently, and businesses will need to make smart use of the technology to remain interesting and relevant to consumers.