Imagine a future not too far in the distance where, with a twitch of an eye, you flip on a television screen to watch you favorite shows – only the screen is not attached to a physical “box” plugged into in the wall.
Through a lense over your eye, you can project a video screen onto a flat surface anywhere in your immediate environment – a wall, a door, the ceiling. You can watch TV without the TV, and change the channels with your brain.
That’s the world Facebook imagines.
“Think about how many of the things you use [that] don’t actually need to be physical,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview with journalists from his office at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters earlier this year.
“You want to watch TV?” he said to reporters. “You don’t need a physical hardware TV, you buy a one-dollar app ‘TV’ and put it on the wall.”
At Facebook’s F8 developer’s summit in April, Zuckerberg described a world where the real and the unreal meet in a parallel universe known as Augmented Reality. (AR, as it’s known, is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view and giving the viewer an experiential blend of the two. It’s the same technology that fueled the Pokémon Go craze.)
For a long time VR, or virtual reality, has been the cool, new fad everyone wants in on. But from a social-sharing-experiential standpoint, VR has its limitations. For traditional advertisers, VR has yet to prove its effectiveness in increasing a brand’s market share or getting consumers to buy a product.
Augmented Reality on the other hand, has shown it can catapult a brand into international stardom, as the world saw with Pokémon Go. For brands looking to capture attention, I believe AR is something they should definitely be looking at.
The world’s largest social media company, with more than 2 billion users worldwide, is betting big on AR. During Facebook’s first-quarter-2017-earnings call, Zuckerberg explained ways he thought AR could be used in commercial applications.
“One of the examples I showed at F8 was around using object recognition and computer vision to be able to point your camera at something and then tap on it and get a card of information and maybe even a buy button,” he explained.
Let’s play with that idea for a minute.
The ability to point your phone – or in Zuckerberg’s world, eyeglasses – at something, tap on it and click on a buy button is revolutionary.
Imagine you’re at a backyard barbecue with friends drinking a Sprite. And let’s say everyone whips out their phone and points it at the bottle in your hands. The camera phones are all equipped with AR technology that everyone can experience. Then let’s imagine a hologram of NBA all-star Kevin Durant pops out of the bottle and says to your friends, “Hey man you really want to drink a Sprite.”
My guess is everyone at the party will be talking about Sprite and Kevin Durant for the rest of the night. And chances are, for your next party, you’ll be buying cases of Sprite.
AR speaks directly to consumers on a personal level and does it in a way that’s interactive and fun. Unlike VR, AR allows you to share the experience with others. It allows you to enhance a product in a less intrusive way because you can tag things in the environment you’re already in. It also reinforces the public’s use for a certain product.
In my fictional Sprite example, it’s not hard to imagine people talking around the water cooler saying, “Wow, that Kevin Durant thing is popping up a lot. I should buy a Sprite.”
Let’s look at a more straightforward application. Let’s say you walk by a poster of frozen yogurt on a hot summer day. You tag the poster with your phone and right away a coupon for 20 percent off pops up with a little map showing you where the nearest yogurt shop is.
You didn’t have to log into your laptop and search for frozen yogurt. Or download a coupon. You didn’t have to don kooky goggles to feel like you had an experience. All you had to do was point your phone and there it was, instant gratification. AR feels more woven into the current fiber of society. Anyone can be out and about, and wherever they go, whatever they see, they can just point their phones or their glasses and partake in an experience of their choosing.
From a media perspective marketers can customize ads to target a particular demographic in a particular geographic location. AR allows advertisers to take what’s being driven by internet data and put it in a physical location. It’s not just about what they’re browsing on the Internet, but also where they’re going in real life.
StarBeast’s Chief Technical Officer, Christopher Clyne is thrilled about the possibilities of AR. He says, “With AR, the sky’s the limit in terms of application and creativity. Think of it as a personal Heads Up display, that provides instant information about your surroundings. It will enhance how we receive information from and interact with the world around us, as well as have great potential for video gaming.”
And that’s what makes AR so interesting. It blends the virtual world of the internet and the real world of physical space to create an experience that is memorable and can be shared.