December 21, 2011 Augmented Reality to become your reality in 2012

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality is a term we’ve been tossing around a lot recently – not only as a potential marketing tool, but really as a major player in marketing campaigns for next year.

Augmented reality is a virtual experience. In the simplest of terms, augmented reality superimposes a virtual layer to the real world. It uses a real object, space or location as a base for creating imaginary sights, sounds and information.

Take these recent examples of augmented reality in use to better illustrate its application -

  • Starbucks – recently launched an augmented reality app that allows winter characters on coffee cups and coffee bags to come to life through your smartphone. They have 5 different characters that provide the AR experience. How successful has it been? I can’t tell you how many customers have used the app, or even know it exists, but J.R. Atkins, Aria’s Chief Client Strategist, noted a lack of awareness among Starbucks employees. He said, “It took 3 weeks of showing Starbucks people the App and how it works before I found 1 employee who knew what I was talking about. I’d estimate about 1 in 20 employees know about this.”
  • Krystal – Fast-food restaurant Krystal brought augmented reality to their customers earlier this year as part of a promotion for their Krystal Freeze. Similar to the Starbucks app, customers would point their smartphone to Krystal packaging to see 4 different incarnations of the Krystal penguin jumping and dancing.
  • Toyota – this iPhone app allows users to superimpose the new FT-86 coupe into their photos and share online.
  • DeBeers – allows you to “virtually try on” diamonds from their Forevermark brand. My personal favorite is this desktop augmented reality experience.

How can augmented reality be used in marketing?

The problem with augmented reality to date is the motive behind its application. Most companies and brands are using AR from a brand-centric or product-centric viewpoint. I mean, I think it’s fun and cute that Starbucks can make a snowman dance around my cardboard coffee cup, but, really, that doesn’t benefit me in any way.

I was talking with Mikon, our Video and Production Head, this morning about AR, its uses, its pitfalls and its potential this morning, and he had some interesting thoughts on how he hopes the application of this technology will evolve.

“In terms of what augmented reality applications are lacking, I think wayfinding is what’s missing. We need to bring together people’s search for information in real time and in real space. Imagine looking down a busy main street and being able to know exactly what’s going on in that direction – movie showtimes, retail sales, happy hours, whatever. It creates a more efficient and consumer-friendly world.”

“As for the future of augmented reality, I think it will evolve to become more organic then needing an actual device, but for now it becomes a sort of enhanced compass.”

How does this affect tourism and destination marketing?

Augmented reality can and will significantly change the scope of destination marketing. Specifically for visitors and tourists, AR becomes a virtual tour guide, taking visitors through a downtown space, a museum, a sports arena, or any area. Want to know more about the landmark in front of you or the painting you’re looking at? Take an augmented reality tour.

  • Here’s a video showing an augmented reality tour of the Louvre in France.
  • One of the best examples is the Tuscany+ app. Launched in May 2010, Tuscany+ “allows the user to point an iPhone at any scene in Tuscany and balloons will pop up with information in four categories: sightseeing, with information from Wikipedia, Wikitravel, and the web team of Voglio Vivere Così; accomodation that finds hotels, B&Bs, and agritourisms with data from Google Local and an aggregation of online reviews; dining, which includes the ability to read comments posted by others; and entertainment, which lists nightlife spots including jazz clubs, pubs, etc.” More information can be found at their tourism website.

AR can also take consumers on a journey back in time, showing locations and venues as they’ve appeared in years and decades past.

Augmented reality can also significantly help in trip planning. Google Earth gives consumers a “real-world” look at any location, and travel sites are now taking that lead and creating AR for the vacation planner. Earlier this year TripAdvisor launched a free iPad app that provides a 360 degree, augmented reality view of destinations with information on hotels, restaurants and other attractions.

TripAdvisor iPad image

Here’s the street view going north from our office.

Tell us about your experiences with augmented reality in the comments below!

Additional sources: Padgadget.com, Singularityhub.com