Augmented Reality, though you may think you do not know what it is, I bet you definitely used or saw this technology before. Remember when people were aiming their phone cameras to corners on the street, in the park, and everywhere outdoors? They were playing the top famous mobile phone game the Pokémon Go. In this game, players try to capture exotic monsters from Pokémon, the Japanese cartoon franchise. The fun part of the game is that the monsters will show up in a 3D version on your screen in the scene you capture. Seeing through the screen, it feels like the monster is standing on the ground, but of course, it is not. This is augmented reality, a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.
Adding 3D figures in videos are not so new, since we saw this technology a lot in movies. The innovation of the augmented reality is that it provides real sensory perception includes 3D models, sound and haptic interactions to users. People can actually interact with those models through the digital screen!
The smart business people are already leverage augmented reality to create fun and convenient experience to customers. As I researched, they include remote collaboration, training and education, showcasing products, repair and tours and maps. One industry that is especially concentrated in this technology is the interior design. People always want to try the commodity before they making purchase, but there is one thing that is very hard to try — furnitures. Since it is crazy to ship a bed or sofa to your house, assemble them, and see how them works with your room. IKEA has found that 14 percent of its customers end up taking home furniture which turns out to be the wrong size for its intended location. So they came up the idea that let customers try out select products in their homes with the help of a printed catalog, a mobile app and a smart phone or tablet, with the help of augmented reality technology. The all-in-one website Houzz not only help customers find their ideal furnitures and decoration idea, but also launched the App View in My Room, which enabled customers to experiment with home decor options by virtually placing products from the Houzz Shop before you buy. L’Oréal Professional has equipped its European sales team with augmented reality technology to show hair salon owners display stands for hair care products. L’Oréal sales representatives have the capability to choose a 3D model of their merchandise in Augment’s app. They can then simulate life-size products in augmented reality in their customers’ salons. It seems the augmented technology is providing value for all audiences in the interior design industry, from manufactures, designers, to retailers and consumers.
Clearly this technology provides lots of benefits to both customers and retailers. For customers, it gives them highly current information and product information in real-time and simplifies their purchase decisions. For retailers, while the augmented reality create fun experience to customers, it also creates emotional shopping experiences with WOW-effect. Consumers are more strongly integrated through virtual interaction, accelerating the purchase decision and creating long-term brand and product memories. But meanwhile, there are some concerns. First is the most common one — privacy risks. When people connect their cameras to those Apps, there are so many security issues need to be considered, just like the real view in Google Map. When someone walks up to a stranger or a group of people with AR device, the personal information collected by the camera may cause breache of privacy. There will also be display errors due to cheap GPS sensors in various end devices. Further more, as this technology is still at the developing stage, the price of it is quiet expensive to use in everyday life and it might be less accessible for small businesses.
Last year in May, the New Yorker magazine published a creative cover “ON THE GO.” As reader put the camera in front of the magazine cover, it become an animation on the screen with 3D effects. And just today, as I published this blog, Snapchat launched a series of new lenses that leveraging the augmented reality. I think the usage will be more and more common, since people enjoy the fun experience and the help it brings. But I would not recommond it to every client. First of all, not every business is suitable for augmented reality. For example, it might be better to invite consumers to the real store and taste the product for a new opened yogurt store. In addition, the price must be considered. A customized augmented reality application can cost up to $300K, a price not any client is willing to afford, not to mention the fancy technology may only generate buzz, but not sales.
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