Much of the conversation today concerning augmented reality centers on technological advancements that help enhance the experience for the user whether a consumer playing a game, or an industrial field technician working in a hands-free environment. Many brand managers suffer from “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) when it comes to innovative technologies they think they should know more about, and how to apply it to their brand. The questions at hand are: has the platform of augmented reality already passed the tipping point for commercialization of consumer and other applications? And, what can a brand do to jump-start their efforts into AR?
I recently moderated a panel session at Digital Hollywood in Los Angeles called, “The Next Generation of AR/MR-Transforming Digital Interactions; Content, Devices, Platforms.” The panelists, many of whom were with ad agencies with AR platform experience, focused on how AR can help enhance a brand’s value proposition.
Here’s what they had to say.
We’re not quite there. Yet.
Greg Potter, from S&P Global Market Intelligence predicts “we won’t reach the tipping point of consumer commercialization until AR glasses become mainstream and are worn outside of home.” “And this can’t be accomplished until 5G and edge computing enable the technology, given the computing power needed for headsets,” added Clay Weishaar, Creative Director for Ridley Scott Creative Group. 5G is needed to help mixed reality to be continuous and scalable.
There is disagreement as to which technology platform will be the one to take AR over the tipping point to brand commercialization. Patrick Aluise, founder, Alchemy Innovation, predicts the first scalable form for mass use will be your smartphone. Why? “The enormous investment that Apple is making in providing ARKIT and ARCore, the developer tools used to create these experiences on your phone.” And what does every person leave the house with? Their keys and their phone. AR is a behavior that will be taught through consumer’s phone.
Robert Lester, Associate Creative Director at Glow, a New York ad agency, looked at the question from a creative content challenge prospective. “Although Snapchat and Facebook are great examples of consumer success showing the transformative potential of AR, there is still a lot of conceptual thinking needed, he said. “ For example, discovering how our bodies interact with time and space dynamically, and how content narrative play outs around you to make the experiences scalable across a broad audience, is a challenge.”
Jump In and Get Your Feet Wet
Start with Social AR. There are many consumer friendly platforms available to get you familiar with the possibilities. “For example, it’s a great time to play around with Facebook and Snapchat Lens Studio and get user feedback,” said Lester. “Then you can decide: what can we do next?”
“Four million people are using Snap Lens everyday for an average of 2-3 minutes,” Weishaar commented. “It’s a huge opportunity.”
Ariella Lehrer, President of HitPoint Studios spoke of her experience in developing AR projects for clients. “The biggest obstacle,” she said, “is getting consumers to download a branded app specifically for an AR experience. It’s very, very hard.” Her advice? Integrate AR into an existing popular application.
“Developing your application with leading edge technologies, such as AR might get your app featured in the app stores, a strategy that has not been lost on some entertainment clients,” Lehrer adds.
“Look at what your brand already has in terms of resources. Just start doing something,” says Lester. “Reach out to a partner, and don’t be too prescriptive, too soon. Let it be a collaborative process with the other partners to get a richer experience.”
Take stock of your brand’s content and unused assets- how can you take these assets and parlay them into additional “second-screen” AR brand experiences. The goal in general is to extend the brand experience beyond the first interaction.
Some of the popular software platforms that developers use are Unity and Unreal for AR development. Considered the gold standard, Weishaar envisions the day when users will be able to export their Unity and Unreal content to Snapchat and Facebook to access the millions of people using these platforms.
Advancements in technology are making an overabundance of data available to developers. There is a challenge in how we acquire information about the user and how we are using that data inside the consumer experience.
“Magic Leap’s headset is sensor rich device that captures a lot of information,” says Lester. “How do you mange that data? Object recognition of hands, objects, etc. What do you do with the information? It’s important to get the UI and UX down correctly.” “The set of inputs have so much more opportunity in a headset versus a phone,” he adds.
Think Differently for Content Creation
It’s open season for content producers to brainstorm new ways to use this exciting platform and the underlying technologies that make it all possible. From storytelling to commercialization, the space is wide open. Google Maps and Apple are investing heavily in the technologies that will make it all possible.
Robert Lester had a very good piece of advice. “Reframe the concept of storytelling to storymaking. There are two default characters in the story; the user and the space itself. And let go of how fast you think the story needs to develop,” he says.
“You need to think in 3 dimensions, like theatre in the round,” commented Patrick Aluise. “There is more space to fill. It’s a lot more like immersive theatre than flat media, making it a challenge to get the emotion across. Film medium is so powerful, it’s a challenge to tap into the emotion and story.”
“How do you get people to come back to your experience again and again?” questioned Lehrer. “It’s challenging to make content replay-able in AR/VR. It’s a one-time experience. The advancements of the AR cloud help with persistence in the world. “
What We Can Expect Next
“You will see advancements in multi-player and multi-user technologies in sports and other gaming applications; from bars to stadiums,” says Lehrer.
She is looking forward to the release of Niantic’s Harry Potter game, which she hopes will include multi-player AR and user generated content in the game, such as creating a virtual object for others to find.
“The continued development of Web AR gets around the issue of users not wanting to download an app,” she said. “Instead, consumers pull an experience down from the cloud. This will open up a new of marketing AR opportunities.”
Availability of the tools– “It’s getting easier for creators to get into the engines and platforms for free. Thirteen-year-old kids are going to be making mind-blowing stuff,” says Lester. “Thinking spatially is native for kids. We want to harness the creativity and create opportunity for people to experiment. It will move the entire conversation along.”
Hardware continues to advance with headsets that will feature volumetric capture and phones that have holographic capabilities, or multiple cameras, allowing anyone to create 3D object using photogrammetry. “In the future, the device will be more aware of its physical environment, said Weishaar. Magicverse, the system of systems bridging the physical world and the digital world, in the Magic Leap One headset “will allow an AR overlay anywhere. It will be a game changer.”
It’s Not Too Late
If the tipping point is the indicator, and past the tipping point signals commercialization, then we have a way to go for AR applications. We are just beginning to create awareness of augmented reality as a social tool with the likes of Snapchat and Facebook. The challenge for brand marketers is how to use the AR platform to extend a brand’s experience beyond the first interaction. It’s time to jump in and get creative.
Panelists: Gregg Potter, Analyst, Media & Communications, S&P Global Market Intelligence, Clay Weishaar, Creative Director, Ridley Scott Creative Group, Patrick Aluise, Founder, Alchemy Innovation, Ariella Lehrer, President, HitPoint Studios,Robert Lester, Associate Creative Director, GLOW.