A photo of Google co-founder Sergey Brin published on The Guardian newspaper caught my attention:
Photo Credit: Noah Zerkin
The principle technology behind Google Glasses is augmented reality (AR). Simply put, it is contextual digital data that overlays the actual visceral image experienced by the individual. In most cases, such contextual data comes in the form of still images, videos, and/or location-based information such as the distance to the nearest available restaurant.
What is clear is that the usage of AR is primarily driven by mobile handsets with camera lens. The lens allows images to be captured and displayed on the handset’s screen, which then “augments” the image with contextual digital data that are relevant to the individual. This “contextual digital data” used to be simple images such as map arrows that point the mobile user to the direction of her intended destination. Another example would be real estate agents “overlaying” high-resolution images of the under-construction property when users use AR technology to view the site.
Hence, the key to AR success is the relevance of contextual images that “overlaid” what is displayed on the handset’s screen. Relevance is the conduit to conversion as the user is either instinctively or “called-to-action” by deliberate AR fixtures such as a billboard, newspaper advertisement, mannequins at window displays in shopping malls, etc. The presumed intent behind these deployments is to offer visceral experience through images, video, or animation that leads the mobile user toward a conversion objective.
Inevitably, data points provided by users’ mobile device define this relevance. Here are some of the more important data points that brand owners must consider before any AR deployment:
a. Geographical location
The geographical location of the user is determined by the GPS offered by most smartphones. This location data point allows the AR campaign manager to harness the brand’s available assets such as retail shop, service center, or nearest public areas where the outdoor activities are operated by the brand owner. Such data points aim to influence users to move to a specific location where call-to-action can take place. Hence, the geographic location contextual data encourages users’ mobility.
b. AR fixture
The fixture refers to the physical and tangible asset that is being tagged for AR deployment. These assets could be in the form of a newspaper, magazine, billboard, or posters where users can direct the camera on their handsets to trigger the delivery of AR contextual data. In this instance, AR platform Aurasma brings “The Amazing Spiderman” to Uniqlo’s stores where these data points aim to encourage call-to-action or attract users’ intervention to activate their AR applications to experience the contextual data. Therefore, the design of the AR fixture is vital to the success of this data point.
c. Hardware information of mobile device
In most cases, most AR deployment will require the computing expertise of digital agencies to create the immersive user experience described above. This may inadvertently discourage brand owners or entrepreneurs to take advantage of this tool.
Thankfully, there are now online AR content creator tools that democratize the development process that allows anyone with rudimentary digital knowledge like taking digital photographs, screen capturing off a smartphone, uploading to cloud services like Dropbox or Box.Net, etc. (the things which we digital natives take for granted!) to create an AR deployment on their own terms.
One such tool is from Layar, the pioneer of AR technologies, which is offering its Layar Creator tool with simple drag and drop features to encourage the use of AR. I used the tool to create an AR deployment in less than 10 minutes in a café when I authored this column.
AR technologies remain an untapped marketing tool in today’s fragmented digital media space. Campaigns are measurable, and conversion success quantifiable to ensure the ROI of AR. While AR deployments used to be the domain of computing assets owned by digital agencies, the availability of online tools such as Layar Creator allows brand owners to manage the end-to-end AR deployment with minimal fuss. Clearly, brand owners and agencies should include AR as one of the digital media channels to drive sales conversion.