Even the most advanced technologies, all came from humble beginnings. It took the mobile phone years before it evolved into the life-changing smartphone we all depend on now.
So, the question on everyone’s lips is ‘what’s next’? All eyes currently on what’s happening in the realm of Augmented Reality (AR).
As pioneering companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon begin to embrace AR, this peripheral technology is fast transitioning into the mainstream.
“AR has the ability to amplify human performance instead of isolating humans”
- Tim Cook
Often confused with VR — the two are not the same — AR and VR are more like cousins rather than nemesis. The difference between the two is quite simple: in VR, our physical reality gets replaced with a computer-generated one. In contrast, AR uses digital information and superimposes it on our physical world — you’ve probably all experienced it in gaming or things like ‘Snapchat filters.’
More than a novelty feature on a chat app, AR is being talked about in the same vein as the invention of the iPhone.
Tim Cook, talking in an interview with the Independent views AR as more than a product but rather a core technology. He goes on the observe “the smartphone is for everyone, we don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives.”
According to a report published by Deloitte, almost 90 percent of companies with annual revenues above $100 million are already applying AR or VR technology in their businesses. And, the financial picture is also looking rosy. The global market for VR and AR is estimated to reach $94.4 billion by 2023.
Of course, brands are jostling to capitalize on its potential for their future business success.
Let’s dive deeper and look at the implications of AR and how it can potentially change how we interact with the world around us.
How is AR going to change our world?
We’re living in a world of big data — large structured and unstructured data sets surround our every movement. What happens to this data is a big topic in itself. Designers and tech innovators have been long thinking about how to use the information and make sense of it.
Where does AR come into this?
In short, data is two-dimensional. It exists on computer screens. The physical world is technicolored three-dimensions. How can these two worlds align? By using AR.
Basically, AR technology acts as the interface connecting the digital the physical realms together. In doing so, creating a whole new paradigm. In this new sphere, data and complex analytics translate into interactive images and animations that overlay into our real world.
It’s a type of hyperreality that Jean Baudrillard could only dream off. And, the potential application of such technology is endless. Increasingly, you don’t have to be a gamer to use AR. Of course, business giants like Amazon and Facebook are starting to seriously explore how they can use AR tools in more meaningful and consequential ways.
Here are some innovative ways how some companies are using AR to change and improve our lives
AccuVein uses AR technology to take the guesswork out of vein location. It converts the heat signature of a patient’s vein into an image superimposed on the skin — no more hit and miss injections.
To help trainees assemble aircraft wings accurately, Boeing has turned to AR with much success.
GE is using AR to help increase worker efficiency. By using an Xbox and a Kinect motion tracker employee are able to complete complex wiring faster. Instructions are projected onto individual parts and motoring sensors enable live feedback.
As AR leaps out of the world of gaming, its applications are endless from communications, business, and construction.
One area that’s really feeling the impact is marketing and branding.
Why should Brands care about AR?
Because AR enables complex data to interface with the real world, it allows us to absorb more information than ever before. There’s so much potential in how this technology can be used to influence our decisions. So, if you’re feeling social media fatigue, AR is going to revamp the marketing world. Brands will be able to promote themselves and their products in a way they’ve never been able to before.
For instance, rather than experiencing objects as two-dimensional images, AR will allow consumers to walk into online shops and actually try out the products. But more than just seeing if the hat fits, AR will give customers X-ray vision — not just showing them the product but, giving them a 360-degree tour of it, in an instant.
What are the benefits for a Brand?
Greater audience engagement — interactive AR videos will enable brands to engage directly with their audiences helping them experience products and discover new features they wouldn’t normally see.
Brand awareness — brands will be able to generate hype and word of mouth by creating awesome AR experiences for their customers. And, the technology happens in real-time, so the speed of instant sharing will take on new meaning.
New and innovative UGC — this is going to take your Brand to the next level. By integrating live information collected from the customer will help you take immediate action before they’ve even left the store.
Customer confidence — by engaging with products interactively, customers will have a more-accurate experience and more realistic expectations making them far more confident about their decisions.
“Augmented reality is the ‘boy who cried wolf’ of the post-Internet world — it’s long been promised but has rarely been delivered in a satisfying way.”
– Om Malik
How can UX designers step up to the challenge
This sounds pretty exciting, but what’s does this mean for designers who are on the frontline. For instance, was ‘Pokemon Go’ a success because we’ve all heard of and are familiar with the Pokemon brand?
On the flip side, the potential and power of AR to change all aspects of lives is only starting to be realized. If you need some perspective — the evolution of mobile technology took ten years to become what it is now.
AR is a completely new medium. The biggest challenge for designers is to start thinking in three-dimensions. How is the user going to interface with the application? What kind of movements are they going make? Will there be other people near them or objects? What will they be doing? It’s a conceptual leap. Designers need to put themselves literally into the user’s mind.
Only time will tell if AR is going to become a game-changer like the iPhone or will it end up on the rubbish dump along with the Hi-Fi? But it’s clear this technology has potential, which is why there’s a growing buzz. Once it enters our ‘every day’, anything is possible. What’s clear is we’re about to start experiencing the world in a very different way, and who knows what that might mean for the future.