There are over 200 different meanings for the acronym “AR,” and in this era of tech-speak, we want to make sure you know exactly what everyone’s talking about when you hear startling statistics like the fact that “68.7 million people will use AR at least once per month in the U.S.” or that the global AR market is expected to grow to about 198 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.
We’re talking about Augmented Reality (AR), which is not so far off from Virtual Reality (VR), but a unique technology worth understanding.
What is augmented reality?
Augmented reality is exactly what it sounds like. It’s technology that uses the real world, changing or enhancing it in some way. AR allows for interactive environments, which can be reimagined for everything from gaming to brand experiences to e-commerce product demonstrations and beyond.
How is augmented reality different from Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality involves the creation of an entirely different reality that someone might experience and interact with. Augmented reality takes the real world as you perceive it and changes it in some way. Maybe it’s an overlay of graphics or other visual elements. Maybe it’s sound or even touch.
However, the big difference to understand is that augmented reality always has the real world as its foundation.
How is AR being used today?
There are countless examples of augmented reality in use today, and you may not even realize that you’ve already interacted with AR experiences. Knowing the term and the technology are two different pieces of the puzzle, after all.
- Have you ever used Facebook’s or Instagram’s camera effects, overlaying graphics onto your photos? That’s AR.
- Have you ever played Pokemon Go, Harry Potter Wizards Unite, or gone geocaching? In these games, virtual characters and objects are being superimposed on your view of the real world by apps manipulating what you see through your phone’s camera lens. This is AR, and it’s only the beginning.
- Google Maps has AR street-view where virtual street signs point you in the direction of different roads, and pop-up bubbles share details about nearby businesses.
- New AR ear buds can translate conversations real-time.
- Wayfair’s AR shopping experience allows you to see their furniture inside a room of your own home, and Sephora created its own ground-breaking AR experience to let you see its makeup hues on yourself.
It’s revolutionary. It’s pretty awesome. It’s all augmented reality.
How should your business be thinking about AR?
If you are in retail, augmented reality can:
- Personalize the way customers interact with your store
- Bring the real-life browsing experience, once only known in brick-and-mortar shops, to someone not physically present
- Enable potential customers to test out products before buying
In other industries, augmented reality can:
- Act as a virtual assistant, creating an experience that explains complexities or shares processes in an easy-to-understand way
- Turn brand storytelling into brand experiences
And this is only the beginning. Who knows where AR will go in the coming years, but the important detail for this moment is understanding exactly what it is and how your business needs to pay attention to its possibilities.
What could you do with your own powerful AR experience? The potential is astounding.