Have you ever looked up and seen a billboard for an automobile and then used your imagination to see it flying off and landing on the street in front of you? Your Smartphone can make that a reality, well, an augmented reality. Augmented Reality (AR) is a combination of a real-world, physical environment and computer-generated data. You simply use the camera on your Smartphone, tablet or webcam to view the environment in front of you and you will see it come to life with graphics, sound, video or GPS data.
AR works by utilizing the video-camera, GPS and graphics on your Smartphone to recognize what you are viewing an enhancing, or augmenting your perception. AR differs from Virtual Reality (VR) because VR replaces the real world with a simulated, computer-generated reality. AR doesn’t replace the real world, instead it just enhances it with computer-generated sensory data. AR is not that new, it has been around since the 1990s, but it has progressed exponentially to where it is now the future of marketing and advertising.
Volkswagen released AR advertising billboards in Canada to promote the new 2012 Beetle. A consumer could download the AR application to their Smartphone or tablet and then view the billboard through their device and the advertisement will come to life. The app recognizes patterns in the advertisement and then it starts augmenting reality by showing the Beetle punching through the billboard and driving toward you and punching into another billboard. A second billboard, when viewed through a Smartphone shows the billboard moving back and a ramp coming out with the new Beetle driving up and down the ramp. Volkswagen released commercials to promote their AR billboards because AR is still so new that many people have never heard of it. Volkswagen says they want “the advertising to be as impressive as the car” so, the commercial tells consumers to download the app, “and let the show begin.”
Billboards are not the only way AR can work for advertising, it can also digitally enhance packaging as well. LEGO was one of the first to use AR with their packaging. A consumer simply views the LEGO package through their Smartphone and a 3D image of the finished product appears to be floating on top of the box. Other toys companies are following suit such as Bandai with their Thundercats toys. Just view the package through your phone and a 3D image of the toy will appear and come to life. Red Bull has a mobile gaming app called Red Bull Augmented Racing. With this app you can create your own custom racetrack with your Smartphone and cans of Red Bull. You scan a Red Bull can with your phone to start the app and then you arrange other cans on the ground and trace the tops of the cans with your phone to design your track anyway you want. You can upload your track to their website so others can race on it and you can race on your friend’s tracks. What is so genius about Red bull’s app is that the more cans you have the more twists and turns your track can have, enticing the consumer to buy more Red Bull.
Other ways AR can work for advertising is with print ads, t-shirts and business cards. Just read a magazine through your tablet and the ads will jump off the page. Look at your friends t-shirt through your phone and watch the logo come to life. If you want more information on your business card for potential clients, but you don’t want to make your card too busy with clutter just tell them to scan it with an AR app. When they scan your card they could see directions to your office, examples of past work, or even your resume. AR is the future for advertising because it is interactive advertising for the consumer. This technology is still so new and constantly developing, but the potential AR has for advertising in this digital age is very exciting.