As a futuristic buzzword, augmented reality is surrounded by wonder and big money. Who’s winning the race to mass uptake? We gathered AR data to find out.
Augmented reality, often confused with virtual reality and sometimes called mixed reality, is “a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated or extracted real-world sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.”
AR has been around for a long time – you could argue that watching a weather presenter pointing out the sunny spots on what is essentially a green or blue canvas behind them is one example. Meanwhile, anyone who has played Pokémon Go or used Snapchat to alter their facial features has had an experience of what augmented reality can do, albeit a simple one.
But the technology is also dreamed of in far more futuristic circumstances, like superhero-like smart glasses or teaching science by having dinosaurs run around the classroom. We thought we’d take a look at AR data from Twitter to see which brands’ visions of the future of AR are getting people excited.
We took a look at mentions of augmented reality on Twitter so far this year.
#AR is often featured alongside other futuristic trendy new tech-related hashtags like #Drones, #Fintech, #Blockchain, #BigData and #ArtificialIntelligence, with lots of people sharing their thoughts on future trends in bulk.
Examining trending brand names throughout the year, we found AR developers Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Snapchat, Magic Leap and Apple cropping up again and again. Apple appears to be the top-mentioned company that develops AR.
Apple’s ARKit that helps develop AR experiences for iPhone and iPad is a huge part of this conversation. People are really excited about the kinds of things you can make – check out madewitharkit.com, it’s got some great examples.
For all the money it’s been awarded, Magic Leap didn’t get as many mentions in the AR conversation as we’d have imagined.
We also noticed that IKEA popped up as a trending brand.
Their IKEA Place app uses augmented reality to help you see how furniture will look in your home. It really shows off the possibilities AR provides for brands, bringing products to life from the comfort of the consumer’s own couch.
Right now, there seems to be a real excitement around AR among consumers and the popularity of IKEA’s Place app is a good example of how new technology can be used to engage people with your latest promotion.
The challenge for brands investing in AR will be to keep the momentum going.
“As with any emerging technology, the experiences need to be compelling enough once the novelty has worn off,” says Graham Thomas from the BBC’s R&D department.
Pokémon Go, predictably, isn’t as popular as it was when it was first released (although you can’t blame that solely on a lack of development in the game’s use of augmented reality). Meanwhile, the format for watching weather presenters in front of green screens is fairly uniform and still appreciated while the novelty has worn off. If brands are going to jump into AR, they should focus on creating a meaningful, useful experience – not just a shiny app that’ll be deleted after the first couple of uses.
Meanwhile, AR creates an excellent opportunity to go too far.
Fans of Black Mirror will recall episode two, ‘Playtest’, in the latest season. We found it to be the scariest of all the episodes, according to the reactions people reported on Twitter.
The episode follows the story of a guy who goes to help test a new video game experience in which he walks around a house experiencing visual horrors as the game learns his deepest fears.
At the beginning, he plays a whack-a-mole test game – one that has now been recreated.
Of course, implanting hallucinations that match someone’s deepest fears is probably a while off yet and probably wouldn’t get through some regulation somewhere…right?
But as experiences become more and more immersive, creeping people out is not advisable. Whether that’s with real horror content that the user didn’t sign up for or over-personalization.
Smartphone-based apps that incorporate AR seem to be the most obvious way that people will get involved with AR as it develops.
The popularity of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger for enhancing social interactions by altering facial features or games like Pokémon Go that bring mythical creatures in the real world are excellent examples of how AR has come to be accepted and enjoyed by millions.
But breathtaking AR in the form of smart glasses or other longer-lasting bodily fixtures could be a while off. As Apple CEO Tim Cook admits, “the technology itself doesn’t exist.” Yet.
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