Every so often, new and shiny marketing objects come along and become the subject of a great deal of hype about how they will change the world. The phenomenon is so typical, that Gartner developed a methodology to represent where each new promising technology is in the "hype cycle."
Of course, some new technologies don't deliver, and yet others prove to be transformational. Usually, however, changing the world takes longer than initially thought.
Marketers are now talking (again) about how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will change marketing, so it's timely to take a step back and put a practical spin on what is likely to happen and what is simply hype.
AR is the superimposition of digital data and "objects" into a real-time camera view of a live environment. This technology has been around for a long time, but has only recently begun to be significantly applied to marketing.
There are two basic versions of this technology: Overlay AR and 3D AR.
In the Overlay AR environment, the digital data or objects are not linked to the scale or specific layout of the physical world. The digital object is simply triggered by some event or data (such as a GPS coordinate.) A good example is the Pokémon Go app from Niantic Inc.; users can search for imaginary Pokémon characters, and when they "find" them the character appears superimposed on the video stream from their smartphone camera.
- The digital objects can be images, or they can also be other data (such as video; audio; numbers, such as outside temperatures and coordinates; or text data, such as names of buildings.)
- Often, an object is placed using GPS coordinates (as in the case of Pokémon Go) or it's triggered via some sort of visual cue, such as a QR code or a special image placed on a card.
3D AR is an innovation of Kaon Interactive (my company). A digital 3D product model is placed into the camera view of the physical space, with some key characteristics:
- The object is scaled to fit, with the appropriate dimensions, relative to the physical space around it (e.g., a small object that fits on a table, or a large floor-standing object, both of which have the correct dimensions relative to the table or the floor and walls).
- The object is placed in a position without the use of the visual cues or special cards, in a way that allows the object to "remain" in the same place even when the camera (the phone or tablet) is moved away and then brought back to where the object was placed. Think of it as object permanence, in a digital sense.
- The object is interactive: The user can open doors, remove parts, spin, turn etc. while it is being viewed as if in the physical environment.