How can businesses use augmented reality?
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How can businesses use augmented reality?

How can businesses use augmented reality?

Nickolas Menescal

The term augmented reality or AR may still confuse people who are less tech-savvy. But whether you know the term or not, it’s very likely that you have already experienced the phenomenon. From mobile games to marketing campaigns, AR now has a solid place in many businesses, and all we need to experience it is a camera and a screen. Today, businesses and companies can use augmented reality to entertain their customers, to improve their product packaging, to propagate information and educate users more easily, and to enhance product development.

Through gadgets like phones, tablets, and soon enough glasses and even contact lenses, digital elements can be overlaid on top of the real world – creating magical moments that would otherwise be impossible. With this technology the possibilities are endless.




The prospect of AR


The term AR was first coined at the start of the 90s, and since then there’s been a slow ingression of AR in our daily lives. Throughout the 2010s, with smartphones becoming more widely accessible and apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Pokémon Go increasing in popularity, we could notice AR cementing its place in the modern world. It’s clear that this technology has developed a lot since the term augmented reality was first coined, but it’s even clearer that this market is going to prosper like no other in the near future.

 
Screenshots from Pokémon Go – an interactive game which popularized the use of augmented reality in the gaming industry.


 
The AR market is predicted to be worth over $18 billion by 2023 – a massive expansion compared to its current worth of $3.5 billion. This growth will affect sectors of almost every industry. From internal communication to targeting consumers and product development, every segment of a business today uses some kind of technology. It allows us to work faster and more efficiently.

In our vastly digital world, it is hard to envision any kind of business that doesn’t seize the technology available to us. Imagine a company in 2020 that doesn't make good use of social media to promote their services or products: they’d be definitely missing out. It’s vital for businesses to keep up-to-date with current technological developments – not only to make the most of the benefits and advantages they offer but also to keep up with the competition.  

Soon enough, the businesses not using AR in their models and strategies will be the ones missing out; as any experienced marketeer and trendsetter knows, it is very important to stay ahead of the curve. 




Where to include augmented reality in your business? 


A company’s relationship with new technologies such as AR is crucial to both its back and front office. The most commonly known uses of AR in businesses are found in the front office, which primarily deals with the public and has more direct contact with clients.

The most noticeable way a business can use AR is for promotional purposes. The interactive aspect of AR is proven to increase user engagement, with 50% of users spending more than 2 minutes interacting with an advert. Some examples of promotion using augmented reality include try-on advertisement, interactive product placement and AR murals on busy urban streets. 


Today, one of the most popular uses of AR in the front office of businesses comes in some form of entertainment. Many of us will have encountered an AR advertising campaign disguised as entertainment, such as Taco Bell’s hilarious and unforgettable Snapchat filter. This serves as an example of another smart way to implement AR in a business: entertain your clientele. It’s hard to discuss the popularization of AR and even AR advertising without mentioning Snapchat – for years, they’ve brought us interactive games and campaigns for movies, restaurants, drinks and many other businesses through their AR filters. 



Another example of a business successfully using AR for entertainment purposes comes from the infamous non-profit Roskilde Festival, one of the largest and most popular music festivals in Scandinavia. Through their app, the festival let their followers place artists and bands in their own homemade stages (or wherever they pleased) through the screen of their phones and tablets. This was an entertaining and clever response to the cancellation of their event due to the 2020 pandemic.
 
Roskilde Festival’s Instagram story promoting their new AR filter, which places artists and bands wherever you like.
 
 
The cultural sector is already seeing an increase in engagement and the benefits of AR. Stolen pieces from museums can now be placed back inside the gallery from which they were stolen, and theaters can now provide captions or subtitles for people who require them without needing to install large, distracting screens on the side of the stage.

 
Frame grab from Keiichi Matsuda’s short film Hyper Reality (2016), which exemplifies how augmented reality could be used to enhance product packaging.
 
One use of AR that definitely has a lot of room to grow is AR product packaging. With augmented reality, the dissemination of information becomes much more intuitive. The technology facilitates the use of guides, manuals, and instructions on the back of product packages, making these easier to grasp. 

AR’s ability to inform can be utilized in many contexts. Think of organizations with educational purposes, like schools, universities, or museums. An immersive and interactive way of learning would be far more beneficial and productive than using long texts and 2D pictures. Think also of public transportation, which could display the map or route you need to take when you simply point a camera at it. This is an aspect that will change both the front and back office of businesses: how information is propagated.



In the back office of a business, which is the administrative sector of the company, AR can be effectively used to train employees. Take into consideration companies with heavy and expensive machinery where simple mistakes can cost fortunes or even lives – industries like the automotive, medical, aerodynamics and many others. Learning by making mistakes virtually, and not in reality, could save a lot of money and time. Product development and improvement through AR and 3D modelling is also another area in businesses' back offices that will most definitely be exploring the advantages of augmented reality.




AR will change the world as we know it


“I believe that AR in general and AR wearable display systems with computers built-in is the future of computing; mobility, hands-free. The whole world opens up when you can connect the digital world to the real world.”
 
 - Paul Travers (founder of Vuzix, a company pioneering VR/AR displays and software). 


Despite its slow beginning, AR is quite literally going to change how we see the world. This technology and market will greatly expand in the next few years, and businesses will need to find ways to keep up with this phenomena. AR’s advantages and possibilities are numerous, such as increasing user engagement, saving money and time, improving and innovating entertainment, facilitating education, the dissemination of information, and countless others. Augmented reality is the future and it will change almost everything.

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