Thanks to the Pokémon Go craze of 2016, most people think of augmented reality (AR) as a sort of modernized scavenger hunt – an interesting but limited new technology with little to no application outside of the mobile gaming world. The truth is, AR has far-reaching implications in almost every contemporary field, from gaming to marketing, training, and simulation.
As more industries begin to dabble in AR and find out just how useful it could be to their advertising, human resources, and research and development departments, the need for skilled programmers and coders with master’s degrees in software development is expected to increase dramatically.
Augmented Reality Today
When someone mentions the term “AR” nowadays, the vast majority of people will immediately look to their smartphone or mobile device. For AR to work properly, it must have access to a suitably powerful processor, a feasible display or monitor, several different types of sensors, and input options.
“Typically a smartphone contains a processor, a display, accelerometers, GPS (global positioning system), camera, microphone, etc., and contains all the hardware required to be in an AR device,” the Interaction Design Foundation says in “Augmented Reality – The Past, The Present, And The Future” on its organizational blog.
A few forward-thinking marketing departments have already begun to adapt AR technology to campaigns aimed at tech-savvy consumers. Comic book films have paved the way for their upcoming theatrical releases with AR Snapchat filters, the Lego app shows an AR version of a complete Lego set when people look at the box through their smartphone camera, and manufacturers of accessories such as watches or glasses use AR to allow customers to “try on” different styles to see how the product looks.
AR is also being used in several revolutionary mobile apps and games to inspiring effect. Android platform authority Joe Hindy covers AR apps in his “10 Best Augmented Reality Apps And AR Apps For Android” on AndroidAuthority.com.
According to Hindy, Google Translate now utilizes AR to translate languages on the fly, simply by pointing a smartphone camera at a sign, page, or screen written in a foreign alphabet. Quiver takes the recent coloring book craze to new heights by transforming colored images into three-dimensional characters through AR. And AR can also be found in QR code scanners, star maps, instant messaging apps, games, and online directories.
Augmented Reality Tomorrow
Before AR technology can reach its full potential, it must become more than an afterthought on mobile devices. “For AR to become truly useful, somebody will have to make a platform for it that could host a variety of apps and services,” claims tech industry consultant Tim Bajarin in his 2017 Time article. “Why This Futuristic Tech Will Be The Future Of Computing.”
“It’s most likely this platform will exist first in smartphones,” he says, “then, years later, extend to some type of glasses or goggles, like a more fully realized Google Glass.”
Once AR finds a compelling, full-featured platform and it becomes clear that a vast number of consumers are becoming AR proficient, the potential of AR will begin to be fully realized. Every industry from architecture to education, sports, military training, and retail commerce will benefit by embracing AR.
Total Immersion™ itemizes the various industries that will see increased AR activity in the near future in its t-immersion.com blog post, “The Future Of Augmented Reality.” These industries include:
- E-Commerce – Many companies will be integrating AR into their websites and mobile apps. In retail, this will result in applications that seamlessly “clothe” a user in sunglasses, jackets, footwear, and jewelry via the camera in the person’s smartphone.
- Digital Marketing – AR technologies will continue to improve the way customers engage with brands. Marketing AR will likely be seen in packaging, on street signs, through gaming apps, and through interactions with other products.
- Geolocation – The ability of mobile devices to inform us of our surroundings be greatly improved over time. AR could benefit everything from real-time travel advisories to restaurant suggestions.
- Educational Resources – Researchers are already attempting to find new and beneficial ways to use AR in training situations. The military and healthcare industries, in particular, are developing powerful AR training simulations.
A Few Remaining Obstacles
The trick is tracking just how well a technology still in its experimental stages boosts sales. Since AR is a new technology, very little data is available so far to back its usefulness in marketing.
“AR gives you a more immersive platform to tell a story directing people to deeper content, game-like features, and bringing the consumers into the experience,” explains the Forbes Agency Council in its 2017 blog post, “11 Creative Uses Of Augmented Reality In Marketing And Advertising” on Forbes.com. “We are all trying to determine the ROI (return on investment) of AR. If we connect it with the brand story and our owned properties, then we can start to show value through engagement and brand affinity.”
Aside from AR’s economic uncertainties, the technology must clear several technological hurdles before it can be fully realized. In his 2016 paper, “The Most Important Challenge Facing Augmented Reality,” Intel principal engineer Ronald T. Azuma lists several areas of improvement for AR:
- AR must have more precise tracking across large environments, indoors and outdoors, day or night.
- A wide field-of-view optical display (glasses or goggles) must be used to fully integrate AR into daily life.
- The AR platform must incorporate an innovative hands-free interface.
- AR object recognition and incorporation of real-world objects into the AR digital space must be improved for the augmented reality experience to be seamless.
Improvement in all of these areas will take time, but the world seems to be driving toward a future where augmented reality is a part of our daily lives. While still in its infancy, AR can easily be seen as a major part of our future society.
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