Augmented Reality Applications

by CharotteHannah

Fantastic Article – relates to how the digital world is ever evolving.

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I had the privilege to think about not one but two types of augmented reality (AR) over the past few weeks. First, I considered the emerging field of AR mobile applications for a client; second, I witnessed another very real type of AR at the sharp end of the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht race. As one of the toughest offshore yacht races in the world, where competitors get very little sleep, this environment is a vivid example of extreme, or augmented, reality.


Watching the Deloitte As One team come into Hobart’s carbon fiber- and Kevlar-riddled docks, I couldn’t help but admire the achievement of skipper Chris Lewin and crew: They not only finished competitively but also coached 18-year-old Jessica Watson’s crew on the Ella Bache so that the team finished in a better position (second) in the same yacht class. If you haven’t heard of Jessica yet, it’s only a matter of time — she is an up-and-coming yachtswoman, and she skippered Another Challenge, the youngest crew in history to complete the Sydney Hobart race. Likewise, if you haven’t heard of AR applications, you are sure to soon.

So while contemplating the very real challenges faced by Jessica and Chris, I mulled over the potential future of AR applications for one of my clients. This is a real area for innovation globally: How can businesses merge the real world and the environment on your phone screen? There are some good examples out there, such as in the gaming world, where the real world interacts with the game you are playing. Some AR applications relate to tourism and shopping, helping relay information and locations of those hard-to-find restaurants and points of interest to your iPhone. Perhaps most interestingly, firms like Lego have introduced in-store experiences where, by scanning a product at a kiosk, the buyer can see 3D images of the toy as it is built, much to the delight of kids and their parents.

So what is next for AR, and does it have a corporate application that can justify the investment and really “augment” the customer experience? There is little doubt that the power of mobile is growing — nearly 10 percent of all transactions of the US$820 million worth of shopping on Black Friday 2011 (the annual Christmas shopping frenzy in the United States) were completed via mobile devices, up from 3 percent in the previous year. Customers want to shop on their handheld devices, and they are doing so in large numbers — particularly in the Australian market, which is second only to Singapore when it comes to smartphone penetration and use.

Amazon is leading the way in mobile shopping — its strategy is no less well considered than Jessica’s race plan for the Sydney Hobart. Releasing its shopping app ‘Flow’ just before Christmas was a calculated move. Don’t be fooled into thinking Flow is just another bar-code–scanning app — more excitingly, it can recognise objects your iPhone’s camera is pointed at. If the product is on the Amazon store, then you can buy it. Amazon has the luxury of developing and customizing this kind of code, allowing it to cannibalise competitor sales. The need to be always at your desktop is ending, and mobile shopping is enabled in a much more interactive way than bar code scanners currently offer.

Translating the potential for a large telco is challenging, but a business case doesn’t take long to define: AR store location is an easy first step and bolsters a niche presence for early adopters in the space. Next, enhance the retail experience with AR so that customers can view products they come across while out shopping with their friends. All they need to do is ask their phone to recognise the device, and bundles and offers could appear on the phone — just imagine how a competitor’s phone would be fair game for an immediate comparison of value and data costs. The only limitation for a telco is that it may not have enough variety of products to offer, but if it believes in its brand proposition, placing such a powerful marketing tool in customers’ hands must be attractive.

Customer choice, immediacy and connectivity are all delivered by augmented reality — only time will tell whether it attracts investment.