What is Augmented Reality (AR)?
This article is a quick introduction to Augmented Reality technologies and how you can use it in your business.
At its simplest Augmented Reality (or AR) superimposes computer-generated images over the user’s view of the real world. However to get interesting results, AR relies on complex algorithms that analyse video to identify and locate objects in real-time.
Augmented Reality content can be text, pictures, videos, audio and even full 3D animations! You can also embed web links or trigger events.
AR is commonly experienced via a mobile phone or tablet device. The camera on the back of the device is used to show a view of the world to the screen and then the application overlays graphics on top to provide related content, information or animations.
However we can also experience AR through wearable devices such as Microsoft’s Hololens. This has the advantage that the AR is stereoscopic giving a greater sense of immersion and also it frees our hands to interact with the virtual objects.
AR can also be used in a “mirror” mode – this is using a fixed display screen with a web camera attached so that the user see themselves in context with the augment content. Lego store uses this to show shoppers what inside their boxes in a really great way.
Why use AR?
There are a number of cases in which AR can be used, but they can be roughly grouped into the following categories.
AR can be used to provide users with contextual information about a product or location in an engaging and intuitive way. This could be instructions about how to operate a product, background information on an painting in a gallery, or how to navigate a building.
Exploring Virtual Objects
AR is a great way to explore and communicate with clients about virtual objects. You can move around the virtual object in space to view it from different angles. You can also place the object within a physical context. For example showing furniture in a context of a living room, or an architecture model in place on a map.
Bringing packaging to life
Activating packaging can be both a fun and informative marketing tool when used correctly. Examples range from animating album covers, pop out animations for kids on cereal boxes, to football games made from McDonalds meal packs.
This provides consumers motivation to download your app and interact with your brand in a new exciting way.
Some Great Examples of AR
Here are a few examples of the more imaginative use-cases as to how we can use augmented reality.
IKEA released an AR app that lets you place virtual furniture in your own home so you can see what it looks like in context – helping you with your buying decisions. It works in tandem with the printed catalogue – users can scan selected pages to access the AR models.
Disney’s ColAR Mix brings your child’s drawings to life in a magical way. It does this by scanning the special made colouring in drawings and applying the texture to the 3D animation.
With Porche’s new AR app you can walk your phone right up into the driver’s seat of three different cars, check them out from every angle, even “drive” them like a remote control car that doesn’t actually exist.
Wrench The Dog
Wrench the Dog runs on a standard iPhone. You can play fetch with him in your office, home or outside. Unlike previous AR apps, it doesn’t require a special marker to work but instead uses Apple’s ARKit to automatically understand the environment around you.
Call On Me
Adapting the classic A-ha video ‘Take On Me’ into an AR experience was an inspired idea. But this is beautifully executed – allowing the user to step back and forth throw a portal into the drawn and real worlds.
Building AR Apps
Despite the complexity of technology, building AR apps is relatively simple and quick thanks to available middleware technology that we integrate with. A very simple AR app can even be prototyped in a day. So the limit is really on how complex and engaging you want the content to be.
We have designers, 3D modellers and developers – so we can work in tandem with your organisation to provide the best result. We will provide a quote based on your requirements.
Like any technology there are limitations so it’s good to have a basic understanding of what works well and what doesn’t. AR relies on being able to locate and identify real world objects or images and computers are still not quite as good as humans at doing this so we need to help them a little.
These some things that computers are good at recognizing:
Most of us are familiar with the functionality in messaging apps like Instagram or Snapchat where we can wear virtual sunglasses, turn into a zombie or aged prematurely. Apple’s iPhone X even has an animated emoji that translates our facial expressions onto animated characters. These all use facial tracking algorithms commonly found in AR apps.
We can train AR apps to look for and recognize specific images such as photos or illustrations. For example this might be your company logo, or the cover of a book or a poster in the street. AR apps can search for a large range of images as long as they have sufficient detail, have good contrast, and are relatively ‘unique’. For more information please check our downloadable primer.
One of the big advances of recent years in AR is the ability to understand the topology of environments – where the walls and floor are. Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore both have this ability which mean that apps can be easily built using this functionality. They can find not just floor surfaces but other flat surfaces like table tops – enabling you to play Mine Craft on your kitchen table for example.
You can also track three-dimensional physical objects by scanning the object from multiple directions. The advantage is that you can view the object from any angle and even overlay 3D graphics onto the target. There are some restrictions again, but this works great for smaller products like toys and packaging typically found in shops.
We offer end-to-end design and development service for your AR and VR needs. This includes consultancy, design, development and deployment. We are a highly experienced team that have a proven track record in delivering high quality apps and interactive content.
We understand that these technologies are new for a lot of people and so we are happy to provide friendly advice on how to integrate its use into your brand in a free initial consultation. Contact us at info@mbryonic.
We’ll work to develop a concept and we will devise an amazing experience that your customers will want to talk about to their friends. We advise on costing and look after all aspects of production for you.
Email us at email@example.com if you have any questions. We’re London’s Virtual Reality Experts, so give us a nod if you need any clarifications.
Looking forward to hear from you.