The term “augmented reality” refers to reality that has been enhanced with interactive digital components. The most widely used AR applications these days rely on smartphones to display the digitally augmented world: users can activate a smartphone’s camera, view the real world around them on the screen, and rely on an AR application to enhance that world in a variety of ways through digital overlays:
- Images, digital data, and/or 3D models are superimposed.
- Including real-time navigation
- Adding labels
- Changing the colors
- Changing the appearance of the user or their surroundings using “filters” on Instagram, Snapchat, and other apps
AR can be displayed on a variety of devices, and the list is growing: screens, glasses, handheld and mobile devices, and head-mounted displays
Understanding what AR is requires an understanding of what it is not.
AR, unlike virtual reality, does not provide a fully immersive experience (VR). While virtual reality requires users to put on a special headset and enter a completely digital world, augmented reality allows them to interact with the physical world around them.
Common Augmented Reality Applications
So, what is the current application of augmented reality? A lot more than just assisting people in tracking down pocket monsters. In fact, nearly every industry will have found ways to use AR technology to improve processes and outcomes by 2020. Typical applications include
Training and education
Dynamic, AR-based instructions enable people to learn new skills more quickly and easily than traditional methods (like instruction manuals). As wearable devices such as AR-powered smart glasses, AR contacts, and AR headsets become more widely available, the potential for augmented reality training will be enormous.
has been used to improve entertainment for many years. Tupac Shakur’s hologram appeared on stage with Snoop Dogg at Coachella in 2012. CAA signed a fully CGI avatar who also happens to be an Instagram influencer this year. To adapt to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, the band Real Estate offered a “Quarantour,” which was an AR-powered tour to replace the live shows that had to be canceled due to global quarantines.
AR elements are now used in dozens of other games. The popularity of AR games is unsurprising, as gaming was one of the first obvious applications for AR and VR capabilities that many people saw.
Augmented reality apps allow you to virtually try on or try out a variety of merchandise before purchasing: Sephora’s app allows you to view cosmetics in AR on your face; IKEA allows you to “see” furniture in your home; paint brands allow you to virtually view colors on your walls; and Warby Parker allows you to “try on” glasses frames without visiting a store location or ordering samples.
Prior to the pandemic, these offerings served to enhance in-store experiences or make life easier for busy shoppers. They’ve now enabled many brands to sell to customers who are confined to their homes. AR applications for eCommerce are on their way to becoming the norm.
Smartphones now enable the majority of these augmented reality experiences. However, the advancement of more advanced AR devices (such as Apple’s AR glasses or Microsoft’s Hololens) may allow for even more applications.
AR’s benefits are rapidly spreading to new industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, telecommunications, education, and public safety.
Consider viewing IKEA furniture via AR in the comfort of your own physical environment, ordering it online, and then receiving it with assembly instructions projected directly on the pieces in the box, courtesy of your AR-enabled glasses. The possibilities are limitless and exciting.
A Closer Look at Augmented Reality Selling
While all of the augmented reality use cases mentioned above are intriguing, the one most relevant to most businesses—especially at a time when businesses all over the world have been forced to close their doors to foot traffic—is AR-powered selling.
Check out these articles for more information on how augmented reality can improve a brand’s selling capabilities:
- Why Are Business-to-Business Teams Using 3D Configuration and Augmented Reality?
- Configurable Augmented Reality: The Next Generation of Virtual Selling
- 6 Companies Using Augmented Reality (And How You Can Too)
What Do Brands Need from Augmented Reality Technology?
The promise of increased sales with the help of augmented reality is appealing, but it raises an important question: what technology does a company require to add augmented reality features to its existing website?
The answer will vary depending on the brand, but the short version is that thanks to new software on the market, adding AR to a website today is much easier, faster, and more accessible than it was even a couple of years ago.
If you’re intrigued by the potential of AR to improve your bottom line, keep the following guidelines in mind:
- AR functionality should be housed on your website rather than in a separate AR app. Customers are not interested in downloading an app just to use AR features. To benefit from the sales boost that AR features can provide, remove any unnecessary barriers to their use.
- AR-creation software can help you save time, energy, and money. A few years ago, any brand that wanted to use AR had to build it from the ground up. Today, software like Threekit allows you to create AR content using a SaaS model. This makes the path to augmented reality easier, faster, and more accessible.
Create augmented reality for smartphones. Again, if you want to reap the benefits of AR, you must increase the likelihood that your customers will use it. This entails developing AR experiences that work with the technology that the majority of people have today, which is smartphones (such as iPhones and Android).
AR Commercial Opportunities are Expanding
Even when the experience takes place within the confines of the customer’s living space, augmented reality has the potential to improve many aspects of the customer experience. It combines the real and virtual worlds in real time, with all of the visual capabilities of in-person shopping and the convenience of staying at home.
In an age of increased reliance on eCommerce, this means that augmented reality (AR) is a powerful visualization tool that brands across industries can use to improve their customer relationships and, ultimately, their bottom lines.
Don’t just take our word for it, though. The following statistics show that the impact of AR in business is only growing:
- 61% of consumers prefer retailers that offer augmented reality experiences.
- 71% of shoppers say they would shop more frequently if they could use augmented reality.
Using augmented reality technology in eCommerce can boost conversion rates by 40%.
The Future of Augmented Reality
You may also be wondering what the future of this technology holds. The truth is that augmented reality has a bright future ahead of it as technology advances and a growing number of businesses adopt it.
According to one estimate, the global market for AR, VR, and mixed reality (MR) will reach $30.7 billion in 2021, with a total of around $300 billion in 2024.
AR and the Metaverse are two of the most significant developments in the near future.
AR technology and digital content will only improve over time. The use of augmented reality (AR) allows for integrations involving everything from graphics and sounds to haptic feedback and smell to combine digital and real-world worlds. AR can also increase interactivity by combining mobile devices with AR glasses or AR headsets.
The metaverse is a significant advancement that Meta (Facebook’s recent rebranding) will soon introduce. It is regarded as the next level of the internet, and it will further integrate the physical and virtual worlds.
The metaverse will allow people’s online avatars to interact with one another in nearly every way, acting as a kind of enhanced social media platform. People will be able to use the metaverse through augmented reality experiences, virtual reality simulations, and other technology to:
- Work must be completed in a virtual environment.
- Participate in events
- Purchase and sell non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other virtual products.
- Try on clothing and accessories, as well as much more.
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