A fake reality? The digital marketer’s introduction to AR


It’s no secret that human beings have been getting playful with reality these past few years. Both the film and the gaming industries have made massive strides in virtual reality (VR). But enhancing our understanding of the world around us has always been a fascination of ours. Visual technologies, hallucinogenics, sensory deprivation — the list goes on.

And now innovations in digital technologies are bringing a new set of toys to the playpark. We can now start constructing artificial realities. One of the ways we’re doing that is through augmented reality (AR), and it presents some very exciting opportunities ahead.

What is AR, exactly?

You’ve probably heard of VR before, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if AR has passed you by. Think of it as a kind of halfway-house between physical and virtual reality. The grab is that, rather than constructing an entirely new artificial reality (VR), augmented reality seeks to supplement the real world with virtual content; normally taking the form of a live overlay of content.

The important thing to note is that the virtual and real world elements do not interact; the virtual content can respond to real world information but the real world isn’t affected by the virtual element. This would be called a hybrid reality: merging real and virtual elements that coexist and respond to each other in real time. But that’s seeming pretty far off right now. AR, on the other hand, is very much here.

Where are we seeing AR?

Well, we’re already seeing successful examples in the entertainment and gaming industry. Last year, the Pokemon Company released one of the most pertinent examples of AR. You’ve probably heard of Pokemon Go or played it yourself; players use their camera phones to find and track Pokemon hiding in public places. It was lauded as one of the best examples of AR at the time and credited with getting gamers out of their homes and into world around them. So, is AR simply the next big thing in gaming and entertainment? Well, not necessarily.

Recently, Ikea have released Ikea Peek: an app that also taps into your camera phone. The app uses the camera feed to render life size 3D models of Ikea furniture into your space — letting you check if the furniture works in your space before you make a purchase. And that’s not all; last year they revealed a new design concept for the kitchen of 2025. One of their showstoppers was a table fitted beneath an intricate sensor and projector system; the table would recognise the ingredients placed on the table and suggest recipe ideas and combinations by projecting a live overlay onto the table. Now, admittedly, this kind of thing is a few years off the production line but you can see how this would have lasting appeal to those with the budget to splurge.

Fascinatingly, we’ve also seen examples of VR and AR being used in the healthcare. Bravemind, funded by the United States Military, use VR as part of their PTSD treatment and psychotherapy programs. Returning veterans are fitted with a headset and exposed to simulations of wartime environments, exposing to gunfire, explosions, and smoke to re-acclimate them to conflict zones.

Similarly, Accuvein is an AR app that projects an overlay over the skin to help clinicians identify veins for injection. Brainpower, on the other hand, has developed a Google Glass-esque system to help autistic children acclimate to their surroundings. These brilliant examples are just a few the possibilities AR holds for numbers of industries.

What does this mean for digital?

So, for folks like us, this represents a bit of an opportunity. With powerhouses like Facebook, Google, and Apple all investing in AR, we can predict there will be a lot of increased interest over the next few years. Now, since Curated is all about that cross channel synergy, let’s have a think about what each channel can do to skill up on AR in advance:

Content

If we’re looking to write value-driven content surrounding AR, our knowledge of both B2B and B2C perspectives of AR needs to be on point. This is brand new, state of the art stuff we’re talking about; we need to be highly competent at creating content targeted to decision makers within the industry as well as content that pitches AR to someone with absolutely no prior knowledge of it. Communicating the appeal, vision, and digital benefits of AR in accessible language is the name of the game here. And this means knowing the advantages and limitations of AR on an intimate level.

Digital PR

Pitching for AR has been a tricky one up until now because the tech just hasn’t been there. In order to get useful insights or headline material, we need results we can rely upon. Well, times change and now we’re seeing some really useful insights off the back of AR based research and development. Medical breakthroughs like those achieved by Brainpower and Bravemind grab instant attention. Look for similar, beneficial, angles; as we said earlier — human beings are already very interested in reality manipulation, you just need to pique it.

Social

This is an easier one. Since a lot of apps are a popular platform for AR then it’s becoming an incredibly easy thing to market. Keep encouraging users to share experiences and use your platform to create discussions around new products. AR is a visceral, shareable and interesting thing, so utilising it can only serve to enhance your social presence. Make the most of it!

Paid

Staying ahead in paid will mean rethinking your bidding strategies to make the most of those cost effective keywords. Since this is an emergent product, monitor the space to watch for terms and phrases emerging around AR and get your foot in the door early. This is how we make sure that when AR really kicks off, you know exactly where to allocate your budget before anyone else.

And there we have it: our basic introduction to AR, and hopefully, it’s shed some light on one of the most exciting emerging sectors to come out of the last few years. We’re still monitoring the power of AR ourselves, and we’re yet to really see where it’s going to make the biggest impact for digital marketers. But if you’d like a little more information on how you can skill up before we’re marketing AR in earnest, feel free to get in touch!

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