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February 8, 2016

Augmented Reality & Digital Signage

In the past, we’ve discussed how documenting the past and staying informed in the present can give you insights towards the future. This week, we’d like to discuss an example of one place we at Freshwater see a potential future for digital signage: augmented reality.

But first, let’s start by clarifying the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality.

Virtual Reality is the use of computer-generated sights and sounds to replace real-world sensory input.

Augmented Reality, or AR for short, is any means by which the real world is digitally enhanced or altered by computers.

The Future is Now

AR is slowly making its way into our everyday lives and it’s much more likely that you’ve come across AR on a day-to-day basis than virtual reality. For example, watch any broadcast football game and you’ll see digital overlays which show the viewer where the line of scrimmage is, how far the team needs to go to get to first down, and how much time remains on the play clock. Another common example is the headsets used in museums to allow patrons to take a self-guided tour of an exhibit; the audio from the headsets augments the visual input from a display with additional facts, or a translation into whatever language you choose.

Many companies are now competing to be the first to bring affordable, fully integrated AR into people’s lives. You probably remember Google Glass, Google’s first foray into the field of augmented reality, and you may have heard of Microsoft’s Hololens, which Microsoft claims will “lead to entirely new ways for us to communicate, create, and explore.” These, and many other headsets, promise to change the way we perceive and interact with the world around us…. eventually.

The problem, of course, is that all of these headsets are still pretty ‘first generation’: expensive, bulky, likely to be buggy, and each one offers a different user interface and feature set. While we believe that fully integrated AR will one day be commonplace, it probably won’t be for several years. In the meantime, if you’re reading this article on a smartphone or tablet, you already possess a powerful AR ready device.

And, if you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention to what’s going on around the world, you’ll have seen the most recent way that AR has used the smartphone’s capabilities and made a huge splash.

Catch Them All

Pokemon Go is not only the latest game craze played by kids and adults alike, it’s a perfect example of what AR technology is capable of. Since it’s launch, Pokemon Go has become the biggest mobile game in history. It uses AR to allow users to hunt for creatures called Pokemon within the “real world.” When using the augmented reality option within the app, the Pokemon appear to be residing in your living room, office, or joining your dog for a walk at your local park. It combines two realities and immerses players in the word of Pokemon.

Immersing customers is the number one goal of augmented reality. It creates an experience.  And these experiences create interactions that can lead to new relationships between businesses and customers. Pokemon Go users are urged to “catch them all” and are then led on hunts into parks, businesses, and neighborhoods in order to find the Pokemon they still need. Users enter businesses they may never have visited otherwise, led by the promise of catching their next Pokemon.

AR apps are a great way to interact with your customers, step into their world and bring them into yours. Even if it’s not Pokemon, there are other apps on the market that can help bring your signage into the world of AR. Apps like Blippar, AurasmaAugment and similar apps use your device’s camera to look for specific images, such as a magazine spread, and then load a video, 3D models, or even games. They typically display directly on top of the camera image, so that you can, for instance, walk around a 3D model of a beating heart, or watch a movie trailer from the cover of a magazine. In other words, augmented reality gives retailers and marketers the opportunity to change any print into digital signage allowing businesses to showcase a product, educate a customer, or simply entertain. 

How Can We Help?

You can already download apps that help you place furniture in your living room, identify constellations, give yourself a makeover, or shoot alien invaders in your backyard, but if you need ideas on how to combine your digital signage with augmented reality in order to truly immerse your customers, reach out to us. We love brainstorming about this stuff and we do it every day.  We’re excited by the possibilities that AR offers to create interesting, immersive experiences and we would love to share out ideas with you.

If you’d like to explore an enhanced world with us, then please connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Josh Leckrone, Senior Motion Graphics Designer