It’s hard to believe that the technology solutions we’ve seen in science fiction movies some 20 years ago – digital signs appearing from nowhere, online shops and video phones – have come to life. Now you can virtually furnish your house (IKEA catalogue), try on various hairstyles and brand-new clothes (ModiFace and Webcam Social Shopper), explore the human body (Anatomy 4D) and take an excursion with a penguin guide (Penguin Navi, Tokyo Aquarium). The impossible became possible with the introduction of augmented reality.
What is augmented reality?
The term was coined almost 25 years ago by Thomas Caudell in reference to head-mounted displays Boeing used for wire engineering. As its meaning has naturally expanded, today AR is defined as the integration of graphic information (pictures, animation, 3D effects) into videos or user environment.
Augmented reality software is created with the help of such 3D programs as Metaio and D’Fusion. It requires native development and camera-equipped hardware (smartphones, tablets and PCs). The apps utilize GPS and AR marker data to position visuals in the right place and direction. We won’t go too technical about the AR concept; what REALLY matters is whether augmented reality software can be beneficial for your business.
Augmented reality: the benefits are real
- The purpose of implementing AR solutions is to improve user experience and reduce customer support expenses. As of now, vendors provide augmented reality apps for B2B (programs to track customers in certain areas) and B2C (apps for booking appointments, locating ATMs, property search and insurance). The benefits of AR for financial organizations include better lead generation, customized service, optimization of support costs and large cross-sales opportunities. Here’s the proof. Royal Bank of Canada has employed the ATM locator solution – to very positive customer feedback (as of 2014, 90% of RCB active mobile users downloaded the application). St George Bank (Australia) launched an iPhone property search app which allows users to get real-time data on houses for rent/sale; similar solution has also been provided by Halifax;
- You’ve probably heard that Google Glass is used in operating theatres to instruct doctors and broadcast videos across the globe. Well, the AR opportunities aren’t limited to surgery. There’s also AccuVein, an application that helps nurses detect veins on the first stick; the solution has already been used on 10 million patients from the USA. Current Studios, for example, developed an application to determine whether a patient is ready for MRI (it checks the ability to lie still for a long time, which is not common in kids). The use of AR in healthcare can definitely improve treatment and reduce medical expenses;
- As mentioned above, Boeing utilized AR hamlets back in 1990. Ever since, the augmented reality has been implemented in various training programs. ARnatomy, for example, helps medical students learn countless names of bones and muscles. The Layar app automatically connects to web content, providing extensive information on any subject. Chromville Science is a complex application that develops pupils’ creativity and sustains motivation. Kids aren’t easy these days, and it takes more than textbooks and charisma to win their attention, so the benefits of AR for education are pretty clear;
- We’ve already mentioned Webcam Social Shopper and IKEA catalogue, so you understand how the AR e-commerce and retail solutions work. By 2018, e-commerce (m-commerce, to be precise) will generate $626 billion worldwide. The figures are great as they are; do online stores really need AR enhancements? It turns out, they do. Banana Flame, a British website that adopted the Webcam solution a couple of years ago, saw a considerable increase in conversion rate (up to 50%). The ModiFace app vendors cooperate with over 100 world’s leading beauty brands including Unilever, L’Oreal and Sephora. According to Accenture’s 2014 AG survey (performed with 400 respondents, USA), customers agreed that an AR app would increase the likelihood of buying a product (88% – clothes, 86% – furniture and home accessories, 61% – games). There’s also a strong demand for color-matching augmented reality software;
- Games comprise 16% of AR apps’ projected $120 billion revenue (2020). Quite a few notable augmented reality games have already hit the virtual shelves, including Ingress, SpecTrack and ARSoccer, and more is to come. Augmented reality is here; what further proof do you need?
AR trends and challenges
Augmented reality app usage is associated with certain obstacles. First, AR programs require great expertise in custom application development and can cost up to $300 thousand. Second, the existing AP software fails to provide multi-user experience. Finally, there are privacy and security issues to be solved.
Still, IT experts are pretty sure of AR’s bright future. Retailers are expected to massively adopt AR technology to meet customer expectations. There’s even a newly-coined term, visual commerce, which describes the current state of sales and marketing and will certainly shape e-commerce further development. With IT tycoons investing in augmented reality companies, it’s only a matter of time when the AR technology impacts every business out there. Are you ready to follow the trend?
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