Augmented Reality as a technology has been around for a long time in academic circles and in esoteric uses such as military displays and industrial environments. Over the past couple of years, with the increase in computing power in smartphones and tablets, the technology has become more available for everyday use. Wouldn’t it be great if consumers could see how your products would look and fit with their existing decor? Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR)—overlaying information and images on a live view of the real world—does exactly that.
So how does it work? The most common way to trigger an augmented view of a product is to use a tracking image—basically just a piece of paper that the user puts on the floor where they want to see a virtual representation of the product. They then launch a mobile app that utilizes the live camera feed, point it at the tracking image and the virtual object appears.
To online retailers, the advantages of MAR are obvious; despite the use of images, videos and other rich media experiences it is still very difficult for a consumer to get an accurate idea of how the product looks in reality. But even for more traditional retailers it’s a great way to engage their customers. Imagine going shopping for a chair—you find a few that you think would look great in your home but you’re not quite sure which one to go for. You pick up brochures—these also function as the tracking image—for both of them, go back home and lay the brochures on the floor where you would have the new chair. Then you just launch the app, and you can see the chair from any angle through your mobile device, sitting on your floor as if it was already there!
Combining this core functionality with social media, by providing the ability to take ‘photos’ of the virtual products in your home and sharing these on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, creates even more engagement. All of a sudden, instead of just visiting your store, the consumer has spent considerable time interacting with your products and even involved their social circles in the experience.
With efforts like Google’s Project Glass, Augmented Reality is breaking into the mainstream. So even though current users of this technology are the early adopters, it won’t be long before even the less savvy consumers are able to benefit from this exciting new retail experience.
Mikko Martikainen is the CEO of Sayduck—a startup providing a mobile Augmented Reality-based platform for showcasing products from furniture and home decoration brands and retailers. Prior to co-founding Sayduck he ran his own visual effects consultancy serving the advertising sector in London.