The Augmented Reality (AR) race is well on its way. Companies like Apple, Magic Leap, Google, and Microsoft are working hard to seamlessly bring the digital world into the real world. Without a doubt, AR will transform our everyday interactions; however, there are some challenges which need to be addressed to make the AR experience truly immersive.
A few factors currently limit the real potential of AR. One, the computing power that is required to create a seamless experience. Imagine you are walking on Broadway (in New York City) - doesn't seem like a complicated task, but let's look at it from the AR/Computing perspective.
Your AR glasses or lenses have to:
- Process the environment (buildings, streets, people, weather, noise, etc.)
- Monitor and interpret your input (e.g. eye and hand movements),
- Project Visuals (e.g. display information about buildings you are walking by)
- Interpret data (e.g. make recommendations)
All of this information has to be processed in real time, and today's mobile phones are just not capable of computing so much information in real time. Sure, you can still create an AR application that will run on today's smartphones, but most of these applications feel gimmicky.
For a truly immersive experience, the AR app will need to output in 4k (3840 x 2160) resolution - the point where pixels are not detectable to a human eye. As a reference, Apple's ARKit currently supports imagery in 1080p (1920×1080).
Another challenge is wireless speed. 4G is sufficient for most day-to-day tasks like browsing, social media, videos, playing music and so on. However, it is not enough to make AR immersive.
The good news is, 5G is just around the corner, and it has the potential to solve this limitation because theoretically, 5G is 20 times faster than 4G. This should be enough to handle 4K resolution in real time, and also move some CPU processing needs to the cloud.
Today’s AR Implementations
We have already seen some successful implementations of AR with Disney, Nintendo, The Weather Channel, IKEA, and L’Oréal, but they are just scratching the surface of what will be possible in the future. For example, IKEA’s “Place” app is great, but we cannot call this a “truly immersive” experience.
However, in a few years when the experience becomes truly immersive than the technology shift will be more radical than anything we've seen before (e.g. transition from print to radio, radio to tv, and from tv to internet).
Advice to Business Leaders
Augmented Reality (AR) will transform the way we do business, so it has to be treated as any other risk/opportunity that has the potential to change your business radically; following advancements in AR and being informed is critical. With the combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), we are moving into a new world at a speed that we haven’t experienced before, so having your finger on the pulse is essential.
The first online purchase took place in 1989. Thirty years later and it’s hard to imagine a world without Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Priceline, Paypal, Airbnb, StubHub, and so on. In our opinion, AR will transform how we consume content and purchase products/services in less than half that time.
Advice To Marketers
Marketers often get excited by new technology, so the temptation will be there to jump into AR right away (in the early phases). However, just remember that you are taking a stance of an early adopter, so in many ways, you will serve as a guinea pig and will need to have a significant budget to support your AR endeavor.
With that in mind, if your marketing budget is already tight then shifting resources from proven channels and campaigns into AR will be difficult to justify, unless you see AR as a competitive advantage and are prepared to back it financially.
Lastly, we know that great marketing starts with a story, and technology is just a tool to support it; therefore, you should never start your marketing brainstorming with "How do we take advantage of AR?". Instead, start with the story you are trying to tell, and then find the technology or channel that will best support it. If the answer is AR, great, but if it isn't, don't force it.
Augmented Reality (AR) is still in its infancy (think where the internet was in the early 90s), so the long-term impact of AR is hard to predict, but it's safe to say that AR will transform our lives and marketing as we know it today, creating new and exciting opportunities for those who are not afraid of change.
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