Demystifying Augmented Realty
When you think of AR, you get what it is. You see cool stuff on your phone. It is a fantastic way to get people excited about what you are offering. This is the broadest stroke people use when thinking about AR, but the devil is in the details of how to make that magic happen. There are so many ways to deliver AR, how could you possibly tell the difference between them? It turns out that not all AR is created equally. You cannot assume that just because a toolkit or platform delivers AR that you are actually getting what you need. There are many details to consider before making this important decision. Delivering on these details is what is driving the XenoHolographic platform.
How can people activate your AR?
The end result of AR is to deliver 3D magic on your phone, but what did the person need to do to see your AR? It turns out that there are different types of AR, and those differences are in how a person “activates” the AR experience. You need to decide how you want people to activate your AR experience and then pick the toolkit or platform that can deliver it.
There is a large wave of web-based AR activation coming. You already have a captive audience on your web site, so why not spice it up with a little AR right on the web page? This is the simplest form of AR activation. There is nothing the person needs to do to find the AR experience because they are already there on your web page. The person could be at home and looking at a 3D shoe on their living room floor.
This promise is intoxicating, but the details are important. How will you get your 3D content delivered to your web page? How will you manage this new type of AR content? How do you take 3D content and convert it so it can be used on the web? How will this scale to millions of users? You need an AR-based content management system where you can easily managed your content and have it automatically prep it for web delivery.
Marker-based AR has been with us for some time. People point their phone’s camera at an object, and an AR experience is activated. Most AR toolkits and platforms support marker-based activation, and they do a good job at recognizing marker and showing 3D content. Many AR apps in your phone’s app store use this type of technology. These apps were built with customized markers and customized 3D content to show when activated.
Connecting your markers to your content
What makes marker-based activation challenging is that there is a visual relationship between the marker and the 3D content. Do you want the 3D content to show on top of, next to, or in front of the marker? Has your 3D content been prepared correctly so it’s shows correctly to people? If you want to show North America on a 3D earth when people scan a marker, how to do you make sure North America is showing and not Asia? Marketing people need to be able to take random markers and 3D content, and make that visual relationship work. A few platforms offer this level of simplicity, and fewer offer this level of change with tools that marketing people can use.
Markers that work only at a location
In most cases, marker-based activation will work wherever the marker is. For example, if I want to put a marker on Tom Brady’s jersey, what if I only wanted that to work at Gillette Stadium and not in the comfort of your living room? What if I wanted to give the person in their living room a call to action to go to Gillette Stadium to see the AR experience from Tom Brady’s jersey? Providing this type of flexibility will allow you to have more exclusivity at your locations and help drive people to where you want them go.
Shuffling your content
Another marker-based activation worth considering is the ability to show different AR content from the same marker. For example, consider a child that has a toy, and the toy is the marker. Likely, to keep the child engaged, you would want to show different AR content to each time the child uses their phone to scan the marker. This type of AR content shuffling expands the scenarios in which marker-based activation can be used.
Instantly changing your markers and content
Consider when you want to be able to change your markers and 3D content. How will you change these? Will it a require you to change your app and re-deploy it? For AR to work for you, you need it to be able to change it as frequently as you change the content on your web site. It has to be simple. Your marketing people should be able to manage it without the need for any technical assistance. Your marketing people should have all types of AR activation available to them, and they should be able to manage AR content the same regardless of how it is activated. Without this you will not be able to leverage AR as a reliable channel for content delivery.
When people hear location-based AR, they usually think of Pokémon GO. Pokémon GO made wandering around the world and discovering Pokémon fun. There are no markers to point your phone at, and the app uses your phone’s location to make AR content bigger as you walk up to it and smaller when you walk away from it. This type of AR is excellent at bringing people to different locations. Your marketing people should be able to easily deploy AR content at different locations through configuration.
How will people discover your AR?
How will people discover this and other types of AR activation? Clearly, this is an advantage of web- based activation because it is discoverable through existing Internet searches. But what about marker- based and location-based activation? With locations, the perfect metaphor is a map so you can quickly find where you need to go to activate the AR. Markers are more challenging because you need a way to communicate to people what they need to scan in order to activate the experience. Discovery for all AR activation needs to be a first class citizen and tightly integrated into your AR experiences. Without it, you need to communicate it through other channels, like your web site. Making people work too hard to find out their next step is never a good engagement model. Your AR should have discovery built right in, side by side, with your activation.
What type of AR content can be activated?
The AR that you see on your phone is often a 3D object. 3D objects are amazing, but they are not trivial to create. Creating 3D objects requires special skills and knowledge. What if more types of content could be used beyond 3D objects, like videos? Sometimes a simple video can quickly convey what you need when someone visits a location or scans a marker. Of course, the side effect of using a video is that 3D AR magic can be lost. What can help this is using green screened videos. A green screen video has an effect of projecting AR content into the real world. We have found that people often cannot tell the difference between a 3D object and a well-made green screen video. Your AR should have the flexibility to deliver 3D objects and video content, and both should be managed together in your AR content management system.
How do you reward people who use your AR?
So a person has visited a location or scanned a marker and saw your AR experience – what’s next? What will keep them coming back for more? Is this a one and done? How can you make this more appealing to connect people to you and keep them coming back for more? There should be a way to reward a person for their effort. This type of mentality is only present in the more mature AR delivery platforms. Typically you are building in a rewards system that is highly customized. For example, you might have people that you would like to visit certain locations and they get a reward for that. Or you might want to randomly provide a reward based on how many times a marker was scanned. These types of rewards should be tightly integrated to your AR and easily configurable by marketing people so they can be offered over and over.
When you hear DIY, how deep does it go?
True “do it yourself” means enabling a marketing person to do everything described above. For web- based activation, it’s prepping your content so it can be delivered to your web page. For marker-based activation, it is setting a marker and 3D object or video to be configured and delivered. For location- based activation, it is setting up the location and the related content. Communicating how AR experiences are discovered should be side by side with how to activate it. How you reward AR activations must be a configurable. Everything should be built for a marketing person to do it all themselves. A way to know whether or not you have true DIY it to ask how quickly everything discussed above can be delivered to people. Your AR should be minutes away, and not days or weeks.
The future of AR
What if you were the only person who had a web site? Well, the web would be a lot less interesting if that were true. The web is powerful because there are many voices on it. Literally anyone who wants to put up a web site can in just minutes. This is what AR should be too. AR should not be relegated to the few people willing to pay it. You should not need rocket scientists to make it work. AR should be easy. Your AR, like your web site on the Internet, should be mixed with other AR to draw companies and people together. This is why the Internet works so well. If you build your own AR solution, you have constructed a complete island that must be engaging enough to stand up by itself. You cannot reap the benefit of what others have done with their marker and location activation. Having this shared AR space opens up social AR-based interactions between people. People will be able to leave behind AR in locations which will start a new type of social interaction. People will drive engagement to it, as well companies that participate in it.
All of this is the future of AR, and it will be powered by XenoHolographic.