The year 2016 saw the meteoric rise of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality-based mobile game.
It combined the fictional world of Pokémon with the real-world environment. While 2016 saw AR getting adopted on a massive scale, its development dates back to 1992. Louis Rosenberg developed the first realistic application of augmented reality at USAF Armstrong’s Research Lab.
In this article, we will look at the concept of augmented reality, its benefits for the business, and how various industries are currently utilizing the technology.
- Skip to Use cases of Augmented reality in Events
- Skip to Use cases of Augmented reality in Retail & FMCG
- Skip to Use cases of Augmented reality in Education
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What Is Augmented Reality (AR)?
After 30 years since the first application, the augmented reality market stands at a valuation of USD 3.5 billion. Industries, such as events, education, retail, healthcare, and manufacturing have already made it a part of their workflow.
Augmented reality (AR) is a type of immersive technology that offers an interactive experience that presents digital experiences in a real-time physical environment. The digital experiences include visuals, audio, text, and other sensory elements.
Put succinctly, AR overlays digital experience on top of the physical environment that delivers a real-time, real-world experience to users.
The combination of digital and physical worlds differentiates augmented reality from virtual reality (VR). While both technologies have auditory and visual components, VR exists completely in a simulation.
6 Benefits of Augmented Reality for Your Business
The core benefit of AR that underlies every other benefit is its ability to keep the users engaged.
Content formats like articles, videos, or podcasts are passive, i.e., they don’t really require active user participation. This leads to drop off at some point if the content fails to keep their attention.
On the other hand, AR offers a way to hold the user’s attention as long as they are immersed in the experience leading to the following six benefits.
1. Deliver Better Customer Experience (CX)
Customer experience is the perception a customer forms about your brand at every touchpoint throughout their purchase journey and the novelty-driven utility of AR is here to make it better.
Whether you are an offline or a digital-first brand, you can implement AR at various marketing touchpoints. For instance, an e-commerce store can use the virtual try-on feature to help a shopper decide. Similarly, a large-scale exhibition can set up a 360-degree virtual tour to help participants get a hang of the event beforehand.
In this manner, AR can not only address the potential customer hesitations but do it in a way that wows the target audience.
2. Improve Product Adoption
One of the earliest hurdles with any new product is to get the initial traction. Brands keep experimenting with creative onboarding programs to smoothen product adoption. AR can act as a major catalyst in speeding up this process. For example, Mercedes’s Ask Mercedes smartphone app comes with an AR function that drivers can use to learn more about car functions. Users just have to scan the dashboard and the center console to get the information they need.
3. Gather Nuanced Customer Insights
How users use AR features gives away a lot of information about them. For instance, a virtual event may have planned multiple breakout sessions. These sessions could revolve around speed networking, guided meditation, and games. The engagement stats during each session can uncover a lot about attendee preferences and interests. Organizers can further use this data to deliver better event experiences.
4. Reduce Marketing Costs
Managing event logistics is a huge undertaking. Setting up event booths, staging and storing equipment, lights, A/V production equipment, kiosks, and other material can get cumbersome. The possibility of breakage during loading, unloading, or transit can jeopardize the event experience.
AR lets you encapsulate everything in a single technology that is easily accessible and has zero to minimal logistical needs. This not only makes the overall experience efficient but also reduces marketing costs.
5. Provide Better Training
It is better to work with simulations when training individuals on technical skills, complicated technology, or high-stakes activities. It helps organizations keep potential risks and complications at bay.
AR enables organizations to create interactive training programs that offer technical, operational, and safety training. These training programs can help customers learn how to use a product, train healthcare personnel on using various equipment, or develop military training programs. Medicine, aerospace, retail, manufacturing, military, and retail industries are already using AR-based programs that train people on various scenarios to gain better situational awareness.
6. Drive More Sales
The lack of sensory experience is one of the key hindrances to driving sales online. In a 2009 research, Joann Peck and Suzanne B. Shu showed that touching an object can result in an increase in the perceived ownership of that object.AR enables shoppers to try out products via virtual lenses and filters to get a feel for them. This act of touch, although virtual, leads to higher sales.
How Various Industries Can Benefit from Augmented Reality
While the benefits of AR are apparent from the consumer experience standpoint, its applications are not limited to marketing exclusively. Many industries have implemented augmented reality in other departments as well. Here is how the following four sectors are using AR to drive business goals.
Use cases of Augmented reality in Events
The adoption of AR increased drastically as the events went virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the event industry resumes in-person and hybrid formats, here are a few benefits of augmented reality event organizers can get:
Gamification is a surefire way to boost attendee participation without making the activity a chore. Organizers can mesh leaderboards, experience points, and rewards with networking sessions to increase engagement. Physical events can set up treasure hunts to increase foot traffic across the expo.
HeroMirror is an AR-powered photo booth that lets people click photos with animated characters
Virtual Branded Experiences
Experiential marketing becomes easy with the help of AR. Organizers can enable their exhibitors to create branded experiences using augmented reality that deliver product pitches and 1:1 sessions at scale. Here is an example of HP using AR to promote the launch of its new product.
Hybrid Interactive Networking
Networking sessions during conferences can get ineffective due to the sheer number of meetings. AR allows its users to connect meaningfully with others. For instance, AR wearables can display attendee details such as their name, employer, photos, interests, etc., which act as a great icebreaker.
Indoor Navigation and Virtual Maps
Large-scale event floor plans resemble a maze. Navigating through various areas with the help of a paper map isn’t very helpful for the attendees. AR floor plans help attendees navigate through the various sections seamlessly. The AR filter can scan the floor plan and visualize it on the ground and lets you take a tour of it. Here is an example:
Raise Awareness on Non-Profit & Social Causes
People work for causes they care about. In many instances, the disconnect between the cause makes people not understand the gravity of the situation. AR, in this case, can visualize the impact of social causes which can bridge the disconnect. For instance, here is an AR app that raises awareness about the three northern white rhinos in NYC.
Use cases of Augmented reality in Retail & FMCG
The retail industry is constantly on its toes to find out new ways to deliver amazing customer experiences. The contactless aspect of AR has helped retailers and e-commerce brands bring revenue, even during the pandemic. Here is how the retail industry can benefit from augmented reality:
Try Before You Buy
Retailers have launched AR lenses that allow shoppers to try products before buying them. This 3D product preview not only improves the shopping experience but also reduces returns. For example, Warby Parker, the online prescription glasses retailer, allows its users to try on the various frames through its Virtual Try-On feature in its smartphone apps.
Virtual Makeup – Tackles Safety and Hygiene Issues
Several cosmetic brands have implemented AR in their digital strategy owing to safety and hygiene issues. Consumers can try on skincare, makeup, and other cosmetic products through AR tools available in the mobile app or in-store kiosk.
Improve Buyer Personas
Based on the purchase history, marketers can update consumer preferences and interests in the buyer personas. This information allows marketers to deliver personalized recommendations that are more likely to increase purchases
Use cases of Augmented reality in Education
Different individuals have different learning styles viz., visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic (VARC). Edutech products in recent years have catered to these learning styles, and AR promises to take it to the next level.
Improve Knowledge Retention
Augmented Reality actively involves students through visual and audio mediums, which boosts engagement. Through gamification and microlearning techniques, AR enforces spaced repetition to ensure maximum knowledge retention.
Reduce Cognitive Overload
From the psychological perspective, the material we study is stored in the short-term/working memory before it is made permanent during our sleep. When the information is too intense for the working memory to handle, it leads to cognitive overload. The principle of AR-based microlearning and visualization helps learners retain knowledge as chunks and visuals, which reduces cognitive overload.
Better Learning Environment
Augmented reality simulations create environments that foster learning and development. For instance, whether it’s visualizing complex chemical compounds in 3D or practicing public speaking in front of a virtual crowd, AR facilitates a healthy learning environment.
Here is Florian Radke’s TEDx Talk that walks us through the various applications of AR:
Use cases of Augmented reality in Healthcare
Right from mental health applications to complicated surgeries, AR has shown tremendous potential in the healthcare industry. Here are a few benefits of augmented reality in healthcare.
Treat Mental Health Conditions
Desensitization is a process used to treat certain forms of phobias and anxiety. Therapists can use AR to create simulations for the patient to practice triggering situations in a controlled environment. This allows the patient to feel safe and control involuntary responses to the same triggering stimulus.
Certain surgeries have a complex series of steps and need high-level precision. AR can help surgeons plan out the operation and view anatomical models to perform the surgery effectively.
Personalized Treatment Plans
AR devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens visualize patient data, reports, CT scans, and MRI images, allowing doctors to prepare personalized treatment plans for patients.
Here is a short video that explains how artificial intelligence and AR are making new strides in the healthcare sector. For instance, SentiAR projects holographic visualization of the patient’s real-time anatomy for surgeons during medical procedures:
Probably, the biggest advantage of AR is the ease of accessibility. While wearable devices such as Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, and Apple AR are seeing a rise in adoption, they are not mandatory for the users to experience AR. A nifty smartphone app works just as well to deliver amazing experiences.
And that’s not it. AR’s capability of integrating with artificial intelligence multiplies the possibilities the immersive technology has to offer for the business.
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