By Nick Paradise and Richard M. Coad, MDB Communications
Augmented reality or “AR” is an interesting new addition to the digital marketing world. With AR, a live view of a physical, real-world environment is augmented with computer-generated sensory input like sound and graphics. (This is in contrast to virtual reality, which simulates the real world in a digital environment.)
AR is common in the world of sports. You’ve seen the yellow “first down” line on football games. The real world elements are the players and the field. The yellow line is augmented for viewers. In ice hockey, an AR colored trail shows direction and location of the puck. Swimming telecasts often add a line across the lanes to indicate the position of the current record holder as the race proceeds.
Growth in smartphones and App phones has resulted in some interesting applications of AR. Like using your iPhone to watch the cars in a calendar photo move. Or try Word Lens. Hold up the iPhone’s camera to a piece of text and it translates English to Spanish, or vice versa. For you golfers, there’s the Golfscape AR Rangefinder, an App that helps you determine distances before you hit the ball.
Several years ago, marketers began using interactive AR applications. At the 2008 auto show, Nissan introduced a concept car called Cube. They handed out a brochure which, when held against a webcam, showed alternative views of the car.
In August, 2009, Best Buy produced a circular with an augmented reality code that allowed users with a webcam to interact with the product in 3D. And in 2010, Walt Disney announced the first augmented reality outdoor campaign. Lucky users of Android and iPhones who were standing near one of the outdoor film posters could play the movie trailer for Prince of Persia and play an augmented reality game just by using their browser. They could collect 50 Movie Minute value points as a reward for playing the game.
Elsewhere, Ray Ban, a successful sunglasses company, tested a type of augmented reality on their website. By using a webcam, consumers were able to try on a pair of sunglasses and see what they looked like, without ever leaving the comfort of their own homes.
Hallmark brought AR to greeting cards. A special card allowed the recipient to hold it up to a webcam and watch the greeting come to life.
Last year, USA Today partnered with the NFL to give fans a glimpse of the new Cowboys stadium before the Super Bowl. Anyone with a smartphone could download an application that would give them a sneak peak of the stadium, even the locker rooms, without ever stepping foot in Dallas.
Lynx, a fragrance company located in London (known as Axe in the U.S.), laid posters on the ground of the Victoria railway station directing travelers to look up to a giant video screen. When they did, they quickly found they were not alone. Not only did they see an image of themselves, but a “fallen angel” similar to the ones in Lynx's TV ads. Travelers kept looking around trying to figure out how an angel was appearing next them on the video screen, but not in person. Others tried to play with their angel. Some even snapped a picture or recorded a video. Most importantly, the experience captivated people.
To promote their new Accent sedan, Hyundai created an augmented reality projection on the side of a building. What made it unique and took the idea to the next level was the addition of an actual car suspended on the face of the building and a driver who walked down the wall to get in it. The video behind it made the car appear to be driving through scenes reminiscent of the movie “Inception.”
With the rise of global marvels such as Facebook, Youtube, and Google, it's hard to say whether augmented reality will continue to grow or ultimately be shunned by our increasingly digital world. However, with AR, it’s possible to blend physical and digital worlds for the first time. For marketers, this new magic gives them the ability to connect with customers further, longer, and in more depth than ever before.
Nick Paradise and Richard M. Coad are with MDB Communications, Inc.