June 16, 2017

Augmented Reality: Is It The Next Big Thing?

Augmented reality whale

Do you remember when, last summer, the world stopped so everyone could play Pokémon Go? What about augmented reality, the technology behind that app sensation that was going to change your digital strategy forever? Whatever happened to that?

Though we all may have forgotten about it, augmented reality (the technology that combines digital images into the real world) didn’t actually disappear when Pokemon Go fell from fame. This is also the tech behind that snapchat filters that turns you into a dog with an excessively lolling tongue, and it is back in the news again.

Tech giant Apple recently announced that it will be joining Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Snapchat in the already fiercely contested augmented reality battlefield. The iconic brand has now created its own augmented reality toolkit, named ARKit, to help developers design and build apps using AR technology, specifically for iPhones and iPads.

Why Does This Matter?

Some augmented reality apps may already be mainstays in your everyday life, such as Google Translate, which lets you point your phone camera at a sign and translates it for you, or the IKEA Catalog app which allows you to place virtual IKEA furniture around your home.

Apple’s news is likely to inspire the creation of many similar AR-focused apps. Perhaps we will finally get an app which gives you a restaurant’s menu and Yelp reviews just by pointing the camera at it – if this isn’t already a thing or isn’t currently being made then I take full ownership of the copyright. You all heard it here first.

With what appears to be a very bright future on the horizon, those in the know are promoting augmented reality from the title of “next next big thing” in tech to the “next big thing.” The original runner-up, virtual reality, is struggling a bit right now.

The Next Big Thing for Your Digital Strategy?

Last summer, everyone was losing their minds over the potential uses of augmented reality for digital strategy after the initial success of Pokémon Go, and then the trend died down a bit. Yet, if augmented reality is soon to become a mainstay in the app store, it’s hard to not let your marketing brain go absolutely crazy over all the possibilities, especially considering some recent success stories:

  • Pop legend Shakira released a new album this May and used an augmented reality treasure hunt to help promote it. Users interacted through a specially designed mobile website, visiting local hotspots to unlock exclusive album content, behind-scenes footage and even a surprise concert by Shakira herself. And the stats don’t lie. The campaign was a great success with almost 200,000 people engaging with the platform in the first two days.
  • The bane of all Mexican food lovers’ existence, Taco Bell, partnered with Snapchat on Cinco de Mayo in 2016 to create an augmented reality lens within the app that turned users’ heads into a taco. There was some not-so-subtle branding with a large Taco Bell logo taking up the bottom left corner of the screen, but more importantly there were some oh-so-funny pictures. And it shattered Snapchat’s record for most views in a day, reaching a whopping 224 million. That’s 12.5 day’s worth of snaps, in a single day.

So with a new wave of augmented reality apps arriving soon, maybe we should start to get a little excited. But a final word of warning. Let’s give augmented reality a chance to grow and really reach its full potential before we completely saturate our digital strategy with AR everything. We don’t yet know where this technology is going to take us, but it’s going to be somewhere pretty extraordinary. Let’s make sure that we get there before we dub augmented reality the big thing in marketing.