Virtual reality is all the rage right now as several headsets have hit the market in recent months with varying degrees of success. People and brands seem to be enamored with the idea of virtual reality but, until the cost decreases and the technology improves, it’s just that: an idea. These headsets are, for the most part, not plug and play yet as they require either a souped up desktop computer that most average consumers lack or an expensive video game console.
However, there is one device that a lot of us carry around religiously that is more than capable of delivering a fresh, interactive marketing experience: the smart phone. According to Pew, 68% of Americans have smartphones. And while those phones aren’t really beefy enough to deliver a true virtual reality experience, they can alter your reality in other ways.
That’s where augmented reality comes into the picture.
Mark Zuckerberg touched on that idea during Facebook’s 2016 Q2 earnings call. When asked about Pokemon Go, he instead mused about the future of augmented reality and how it will gain acceptance in the marketplace:
… The biggest thing that I think we can take away from this as we invest in augmented reality in addition to virtual reality is that the phone is probably going to be the mainstream consumer platform [where] a lot of these AR features first become mainstream, rather than a glasses form factor that people will wear on their face.
Ultimately, I find myself agreeing with Apple CEO Tim Cook; VR is an interesting technology that will have some pretty cool applications but there really is no substitute for human interaction and AR would keep those real interactions going while augmenting them with additional experiences.
Here is Cook talking to Buzzfeed about AR last month:
Augmented reality will take some time to get right, but I do think that it’s profound. We might … have a more productive conversation, if both of us have an AR experience standing here, right? And so I think that things like these are better when they’re incorporated without becoming a barrier to our talking. … You want the technology to amplify it, not to be a barrier.
Snapchat has hopped on the AR train with an update that just dropped today. The update added filters for the rear-facing camera that Snapchat calls “World Lenses.” They act like the selfie filters but are overlaid in the real world.
Facebook jumped into the game when the tech giant acquired FacioMetrics on November 17. FacioMetrics was founded as a response to the “increasing interest and demand for facial image analysis – with all kinds of applications including augmented/virtual reality, animation, audience reaction measurement, and others.”
Obviously it’s applications are goofy now but the idea is that sometime soon augmented reality could replace screens as we know them by projecting the digital world into the real world. Apple recently submitted a patent for augmented reality maps. According to the abstract:
A user points a handheld communication device to capture and display a real-time video stream. The handheld communication device detects geographic position, camera direction, and tilt of the image capture device. The user sends a search request to a server for nearby points of interest. The handheld communication device receives search results based on the search request, geographic position, camera direction, and tilt of the handheld communication device. The handheld communication device visually augments the captured video stream with data related to each point of interest. The user then selects a point of interest to visit. The handheld communication device visually augments the captured video stream with a directional map to a selected point of interest in response to the user input.
Virtual or Augmented, our reality is set to change.