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Beyond Swag Part 3: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) provides a live view of our environment whose elements have been augmented by computer-generated input such as sound, video or graphics. The technology itself has been around for about 50 years and, at least in the print and promotional products industry, has had some false starts. There is reason optimistic about AR's future in the marketplace and in our industry.

You Already Know AR

If the introductory sentence does not paint the picture of what AR is, get woke with the examples below. You're more familiar with AR than you might think.

  • Heads-up displays for military and commercial aviation
  • Most News and Weather broadcasts
  • The 1st & Ten line on NFL games (the yellow line)
  • The short-lived glow puck
  • Google Glass
  • Pokémon Go for your iPhone
  • QR codes

QR code example

Yes, even QR codes, while not as transparent a platform, are indeed markers for augmented reality. Side note: Thanks to apps like WeChat, QR codes are incredibly important in Asian markets. How important? Important enough for Apple to build a QR code scanning feature into the iPhone's Camera app. Go ahead, open the Camera app and point it at the code above to see this in action.

ARKit icon

This brings me to my optimism about AR's future. A few weeks ago, Apple released iOS 11 and, with it, ARKit. ARKit is a framework for app developers to create AR experiences with user's iPhone or iPad acting as the viewport. This is a big deal because, overnight, Apple has created one of the largest opportunities for developers since the introduction of the App Store. Augmented Reality on iOS devices will be big because:

  1. 381M devices became AR capable at the launch of iOS 11
  2. By year end, it is predicted that 505M ARKit enabled devices will exist in the wild
  3. This number is expected to climb to over 800M by 2020
  4. Bonus reason: Apple says it will be big, therefore it will be.

How confident is Apple that Augmented Reality will be a big deal in the marketplace? So much so that Apple CEO, Tim Cook declared that AR will be as important to brands as websites:

Last month, Ikea and Anthropologie released new versions on their apps that allow customers to see how a new chair or lamp might look in their living rooms – and in the latter’s case, even sample different fabrics and colours. “Over time, I think [these features] will be as key as having a website,” Cook said.

Not long after he said that, Amazon released features in their iOS app that use augmented reality to scan package labels to see it's contents and if you think that is where the retail giant will stop with AR, you should know better.

Imagine the possibilities for our own industry! Moving beyond the swag to create branded experiences that utilize a platform that at the very least is novel and at most – useful. I expect us to use AR for our own purposes as well. We all know how useful a virtual image can be when selling a product. Imagine "dropping" that branded product onto your client's desk and letting them customize the product to their liking. You had better offer a big shiny Buy Now button next to it because they will be ready to buy! Bonus points if they pay with Bitcoin.

Shut up and take my money!

I'm pretty stoked to see what our industry does with AR. A few years ago, at ROBYN, we had the opportunity to dip our toes in the water with some self-promo campaigns. We also marketed AR services to our clients. We didn't get a whole lot of interest then, but we did put together a pretty cool "video postcard" direct-mail campaign for a local church's summer camp.

ar video postcard

Did we bill for this service? You better believe it! Now, admittedly, this is a pretty simple example of AR. There are no 3D models and it's not all that interactive. But our client loved it and, honestly, it was pretty simple to pull off. Even better – we were able to offer a call to action (register for camp) and metrics on how effective the campaign was! That's hard to do with a pad-printed pen.

Point you in-house creative to layar.com and try it for yourself.

In Conclusion

I hope you've been inspired by these last three posts. Technologies like AR, voice interaction and personalized video offer many opportunities for those of use in the marketing space. New technologies allow us to:

  • Meet audiences where they are
  • Provide analytics and measurable ROI
  • Create personalized experiences
  • Cultivate an emotional response with interactivity

Please, don't panic. Sign up for for free trials, crack a manual, experiment a little. It might be easier than you thought!

I hope that you have success (and fun) helping your clients embrace branded experiences that go beyond the swag.

Copyright © 2017 Eric Granata