An Introduction to Augmented Reality Apps

With last year’s launch of Pokemon Go, one of the most talked about tech buzz words of 2016 was augmented reality apps. But does augmented reality have potential outside of games and gimmicks? What are the potential commercial uses for this exciting new age technology?

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality can be used in two ways depending on the device it’s implemented on. Augmented reality apps on a smartphone or tablet, like in Pokemon Go, offer a way to interact with virtual elements overlaid on images of the real world using your device’s camera. These types of augmented reality apps allow the user to choose where they point their phone or tablet to see the overlays.

Smartphone and tablet based augmented reality apps differ from the type of AR and VR (Virtual Reality) technology offered by devices like Oculus Rift and Google Glass. On devices such as these, the user is fully immersed in either a virtually augmented version of what their naked eyes see or a completely virtual experience.

What about Virtual Reality?

While many people have discussed the exciting potential of virtual reality technologies like Google Glass, Oculus Rift, and the more recently released Microsoft Hololens, consumers have yet to adopt these devices en masse. The fact is, most of us are not financially or emotionally prepared to wear expensive, eye-covering pieces of tech. Humans rely heavily on eye contact in our communication, and we’re creatures of vanity who aren’t willing to adopt dorky glasses even if the payoff is virtual reality.

Can I use it for my business?

“the key to making the most of augmented reality apps for your business, is to immerse your customer in an altered reality where your product can shine”

As Pokemon Go has shown us, augmented reality apps via smartphones and tablets still holds significant potential for large-scale adoption. What make augmented reality apps engaging is that it immerses the user in an altered world. Pokemon Go wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun if all playing it took was sitting on your couch tapping your screen. People have already created Pokemon Red & Blue emulators for that. The magic of it is that it merges the Pokemon world with the real world, something the nerdy seven-year-old inside of all of us millennials has wanted for years. So then the key to making the most of augmented reality apps for your business, is to immerse your customer in an altered reality where your product can shine.

Imagine yourself standing in front of the iconic Disney World castle — crowds of sugar-hyped children and their exhausted parents bustling by you, the smell of Mickey-shaped waffles filling your nose, your smartphone in your hand showing your avatar standing in front of the same castle. Tap on your favourite rides nearby to see wait times and search for your most beloved characters in order to track them down for an autograph. Check out nearby restaurants and get notifications if any of your friends happen to be in the park that day too. As you travel around the park your avatar follows your movement, and for each ride you visit you rack up points towards an extra FastPass to skip the lines. This type of immersive experience can add a new and fun aspect to a trip.

In this vein, augmented reality apps have huge potential to enrich tours of museums, cities, national parks, amusement parks, and even real estate sales. How exciting would it be to view a potential new home with your own furniture in it via your smartphone or tablet? Or to traverse the Hermitage and see Katherine and Peter at their massive, gilded table settings or standing by their favourite paintings in their mind boggling large art collection? Augmented reality apps have the potential to make the experience of simply walking through a building that much more real and that much more thrilling.

Augmented Reality Apps

Augmented Reality Apps

Showcase Your Business

Looking in a different direction from tours, augmented reality apps offer an entirely new way to showcase products. Everyone who has ever shopped for a dining room coffee table or couch knows the pain of standing in the showroom wondering “how will this fit in my home?” The dimensions tell you it will physically fit, but will it look right? Augmented reality apps could help ease the pain of roommates and couples arguing in the Ikea showroom, offering them the freedom to see products in the setting in which they will use them. And it isn’t just limited to furniture, paint color, or other home furnishings. The possibilities for product showcasing via augmented reality apps range from helping people to try on new glasses using their front-facing camera to flipping through new rims for their vehicle.

In the future, augmented reality and virtual reality technologies using eye-covering devices like the Oculus Rift, Google Glass, Microsoft Hololens, and the HTC Vive could allow a significantly wider range of corporate implementations. From more integrated remote meetings to holodeck style training in the repairs of complex machinery, augmented  reality and virtual reality are opening up an entirely new universe of technological applications. But in the until the concept of facial wearable devices reaches beyond a select few wealthy nerds in the Bay area, it is best to focus on what augmented reality apps can look like on the devices people are really using.

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