27 February of 2014
by Faranak Mohri & Elif Cerrahoglu
Imagine that it is possible to try out a new IKEA sofa by virtually placing the item in your living room to see if it fits before you purchase it. Or think of window-shopping as in watching brand new shoes in a 360-degree catwalk on the latest London runway. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?
Augmented reality (AR) lets our dreams come closer in 3D. Whether it is viewing your favorite car with the Aurasma app from TopGear Magazine or looking for the perfect couch with the IKEA app; augmented reality enables an interactive view on a customer-brand interaction by bringing a static page or product to life. Sounds convenient, but is augmented reality really useful?
All at the touch of a button
According to ICT Director of Oslo and Akershus University College, Tommy Due Løvaas, augmented reality has a lot of benefits. He explains how information can be made available in a richer, different and entertaining way combined with other information. An example would be a map of a university campus, which shows different auditoriums, cafes and classroom locations based on a point-of -interest effect.
By 2013, well-known brands such as L’Oreal, Sony, Coca Cola, Nike and IBM have already invested in AR in order to have a new key marketing and product-promotion solution. Printing and game industry, education, tourism and many more can benefit from the endless possibilities of this ‘next big thing’. Consumer engagement and traceability are other beneficial impacts of augmented reality. These give the companies a better understanding of what their customers think and need. In addition, they offer the opportunity of measuring product popularity by tracing the client’s activities through the number of scanned QRs. Arox, a Turkish advertisement company, is an example of how AR has been successful in marketing and cultural promotion:
Or just a hype
At the same time, augmented reality is a relatively new technology with many different factors to consider when developing. Experiences in the digital world have shown that technology is often around for a while before the capabilities of the applications sync up with our actual life.“Accessibility to a reliable 3G or 4G network is necessary, but also fewer apps in order to use augmented reality. Besides that, it needs to be put into a clear use case. After all, if things are only gimmick they don’t last”, says Raoul Boers, Lecturer of Content Management and Digital Media strategy at Hogeschool van Amsterdam. Lack of data power is another issue. When you try to use some of those iPhone apps where you film your surroundings, they will overlay information about the places you see. The device and the server the app is communicatingwith are not powerful enough, not to mention lack of rich information. You could end up watching a little wheel turning, while your phone is trying to access the information for you. That is not only impractical, but also time-consuming.
Antony Calo, Commercial Director at StampaSud UK Ltd, a leading printing company, believes that AR costs more than it earns and it does not earn money yet. The problem is agencies that are after selling the effects instead of offering solutions. Until people who provide solutions get involved, AR will remain hype. “There is not that much point in driving an expensive Ferrari in town when you need a van. Successful van drivers can buy a Ferrari for pleasure later.” He also explains how creating consumer profiles, geographic marketing data, interacting with clients, having contests and extra assurances (CRM) are the solutions.
“I usually refer to augmented reality as my younger sister. Everyone wants to meet her. But it is yet to be seen if anyone will actually marry her!”
Microsoft’s research department has invested in achieving the needed technology in the upcoming years:
Dr. Richard Lachman, Director of RTA Transmedia Centre at Ryerson University of Toronto believes that for now, AR is often a “gee whiz” technology. It’s impressive, and the algorithms and hardware are truly amazing. But there are a lot of other technologies that need to evolve to make the user-experience more frictionless, more natural, more able to integrate into our daily lives rather than forcing that life into a strange and artificial set of behaviors. The future of augmented reality is unknown. It might be the dominating way we communicate with our surroundings. But its time has not come yet. AR is not just about seeing the world through a glass of a device. It is about touch and a real experience. It will only be truly useful when we don’t even notice it.