We’ve been talking about augmented reality (AR) for a long time now. When Layar first launched and offered a browser based platform for developers to build AR experience, it looked like it would be a regular part of our lives in no time. The continued excitement behind AR suggests that maybe that reality is getting closer, but it’s still unclear how deeply AR experience will impact our day-to-day mobile experiences.
Trends that AR has going for it
- Smartphone adoption - Right now smartphone’s make up about 35% of all mobile devices. That should surpass the 40% mark in the next year, which is what some agency leaders view as the tipping point for “trigger” technology (any connector between your physical world and a digital experience through your mobile device including NFC, image rec, 2D barcodes, and voice).
- The experience matches the expectation - Consumers expect something cool with image recognition or 2D barcodes. Augmented reality is with out a doubt an exciting experience which makes it appealing to marketers gives consumers the “payoff” they need to re-engage.
- Smartphone ad spend - Ad spend on mobile increased 75% last year, and some statistics suggest that wasn’t enough. Display advertising will suck up a lot of those spend increases, but as marketers realize they need to approach mobile differently (think local and personal) than PC they will look for new ways to enable their audience.
What AR has going against it
- AR is tied to a trigger - Whether that trigger is image rec, 2D barcodes, NFC and so on consumers have to get used to seeing something in their physical environment that suggests “Hey, there is something more here.”, taking the appropriate action, and then being delivered the kind of experience that will make them want to do it again in a different context. There are a lot of potential breaking points that marketers will have narrow down for AR to make it our our mobile device in a big way.
- Consumers haven’t decided how they WANT to use AR - This is still tied to the first point, but the fact is that until adoption gets to a point where the early majority signal how they prefer to use 2D codes, image rec, and what they want the resulting experience to look like, marketers are going to have a hard time meeting their needs. Even then, AR is just one option for a digital experience and may not make sense in enough scenarios to ever make a big impact.
The most promising scenarios for AR
Often times technology is pushed because its new and interesting. That might raise some eyebrows, but it won’t result in broad adoption. If something new is going to take off, it has to satisfy a need that consumers are asking to be solved. Marketing can surface a need that consumers perhaps aren’t aware of, and therefore aren’t actively asking for, but they can’t manufacture one. So to determine which scenarios look the most promising for AR, we should think about people are already using their smartphones. The more I’ve researched the topic, the more clear it is that consumers look to their mobile device as a tool to discover the world around them. This is most obvious when we look at trends with mobile search and how we use our smartphones when shopping. With that in mind, I pulled together a few uses of AR that satisfy a need by improving existing solutions in the mobile space.
Vision of an Augmented City
Google Goggles: Visual Search and AR for Android
Layar’s Mobile AR Browser
The utility of all three applications provide by making it easy and fun to get more information from your surroundings in actionable way, and thus influences behavior, gives incentive for both the consumers and marketers to get behind to get behind them. In the long run, that means similar scenarios should be around for a while.