Feel it, Then You Get it!

How brands are leveraging AR to embellish consumer experiences

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In July 2016, Pokemon GO, a location-based mobile game set a new record for downloads within a week of its launch. This was well before Apple launched iPhone 8 and X with deep AR integration and almost a year before ASUS launched the ZenFone AR. Pokemon GO blended familiar surroundings with fictional elements creating a new virtual world. In this case, augmented reality uses the smartphone camera view and shows virtually overlaid objects. It didn’t completely disconnect you from reality and it made the user the main hero. It was the first peek of the potential of AR. Sure enough, Pokemon GO had its share of critics who pinpointed some of the safety and other concerns. But AR was on a roll.

A year later, customers at City Social Bar in London (a venture by Michelin star chef and restaurateur Jason Atherton) who ordered their Sashay cocktail made with Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque, could spot a Marilyn Monroe replica lying on her side blowing kisses and sipping a cocktail. You needed a companion app to bring the Marilyn Monroe lookalike to life though. All you had to do was download the app, scan your phone over the glow in the dark coaster (crafted with a special material) to ensure these animated characters (that include suited up skeletons and Van Gogh masterpieces – depending on what cocktail you ordered) sprung to life.

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It’s not just dining experiences, a Nike store in Paris kitted itself with AR devices that work on projection-based augmented reality, allowing customers to visualise multiple colour and design patterns on the same pair of sneakers. Consumers could then use a companion app to design their own bespoke pair of sneakers on their smartphones or iPads. Nike cleverly used AR to allow customers to break away from the crowd and also gave them the thrill of designing their own custom pair. Toy makers, too, are riding on the AR bandwagon. Hasbro launched a Hero Vision Iron Man AR helmet where users can use their phone (with its custom Heads Up display) so that they can feel like they’re really wearing Iron Man’s suit.

Over 20 million consumers downloaded L’Oréal’s iOS Makeup Genius app that allows users to virtually try-on beauty products on their phones. Burberry’s augmented reality app syncs with users’ camera feeds to digitally redecorate their surroundings with Burberry-inspired drawings by artist Danny Sangra. Ikea’s Denmark-based innovation unit Space 10 teamed up with AR agency Twnkls, to develop an AR app that has generated tremendous buzz for Ikea. The Ikea Place App debuted along with Apple’s step up to iOS 11 and allows consumers to place objects from within Ikea’s catalogue into their living spaces. The app is a big part of Ikea’s strategy as it looks to grow its online sales from $1.6 billion to $5.9 billion by 2020.

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Advertising firm Lemon & Orange created a virtual fitting room for Timberland in Warsaw that allowed consumers to experience ‘how it would look afterwards’ for clothes or accessories. Imagine your boots in a ski resort. Unlike a physical changing room, you could try out more stuff in quick time. BMW’s i Visualiser AR app was the toast of Google’s Tango AR app store. We tried this out on the ZenFone AR. This cool app creates life size experiences of the BMW catalogue and even allows you to sort of step into the car and play around with the controls. Of course, you can’t smell the leather trimmings, but this is a great first step before you seriously engage with a car salesperson.

As BMW and Ikea have demonstrated, AR has the potential to change the way consumers interact with brands. Expect a whole lot of brands to join the party.

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