Augmented Reality: Understanding the Definition and Impact

image of phone and hand playing pokemon go

With all the talk around artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality (VR), it’s strange that augmented reality (AR) has somewhat slipped through the cracks. You may have first heard about AR when Pokémon Go was all the hype, but it’s so much more than what appears to mostly be capabilities for the gaming industry.

Defining Augmented Reality

What do you think of when you hear the term augmented reality? What we’ve gleaned from the research we’ve recently conducted on this topic is that not everyone discerns its difference from virtual reality. However, AR is actually quite different. In fact, it’s very close to the opposite of VR.

AR doesn’t create an entirely virtual world like virtual reality does—rather, it changes perceptions of the real world by adding to it. Augmented reality is a direct or indirect view of a virtual object or environment superimposed or layered over the physical, real world. It’s often done through the use of a smart device or other technology such as a headset or glasses. There are 4 specific types of AR:

  1. Marker-based: A very common form of AR, marker-based applications take place in the form of QR codes or other signals or markers to notify people when there’s an AR experience to be had. For example, you could be in a store and scan a QR code that allows you to be notified through the camera of different products in a store that are for sale.
  2. Markerless: This form of AR is determined by GPS or location. It’s usually something that can be viewed through a smartphone to see where nearby locations of interest may reside and help you navigate to them.
  3. Projection based: AR that is projection based can be in the form of a hologram, “screen,” or even 3D object that senses your motion so you can interact with it in the real world.
  4. Superimposition: This is probably the most common type of AR—it shows a virtual object in the real world through video.

While AR still hasn’t quite reached the level of excitement that virtual reality has, each and every day more information on augmented reality is becoming available—especially when practices such as mixed reality or extended reality are combining AR and VR to provide an even greater impact on consumers and businesses.

Impact on Brands and Consumers

The industries where AR is currently having the largest impact are gaming, entertainment, and retail. But the potential of it will soon begin to reach new verticals. Why? The ability for AR to be significantly more engaging than any other technology by creating a multi-sensory experience can help brands develop a deeper relationship with consumers. And the possibilities of AR are seemingly limitless. As developers get pretty creative with AR solutions, they can provide brands with an immeasurable value that is likely to result in

  • An easier way for brands to control and improve their brand experience
  • Increased brand engagement and an improvement in customer retention
  • A new source for understanding consumers

It’s not all about business though. Consumers shouldn’t scare away from the adoption of AR by companies because it’s meant to make their lives easier too. Keep in mind, the term “augmented” in itself means to add or enhance. As a result, consumers can expect to get an enhanced experience when it comes to a variety of things like shopping, traveling, entertainment, and more.

Further, AR will help take the guesswork of buying new products or trying out new things since it allows consumers to trial them before committing to it. Many brands will also look to develop AR tools that are meant to help others, particularly when it comes to education and training as we’ve already seen take place through the use of virtual reality in healthcare and other industries.

Leveraging Market Research

Market research has a lot to offer for those trying to understand how AR will play a practical role in the way they do business. To start, market research can explain how AR can influence your customer’s experience by gaining a better understanding of their current pain points or unmet needs. And when developing an actual AR tool, market research can also prove insightful in understanding the benefits and features of such solutions.

Ultimately, any brand can try to incorporate an augmented reality aspect into their marketing or product strategy—but market research will be there to tell them if they should pursue AR based on consumer feedback, when to do it, and how to do it. To start learning more about AR, download our recent exploratory research report on the perceptions, use cases, and messaging tactics to use to reach potential AR users.

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