Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1

Susan Fourtané, Journalist, Writer | 11/20/2012 | 43 comments

Susan Fourtané
Augmented Reality (AR) is, by no mistake, the next big, rapidly evolving thing. To understand why, we’d better know the basics: What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is technology that mixes virtual reality and the real world in different proportions. This allows a level of immersion that no purely virtual system can provide. Augmented Reality “augments” the reality that surrounds us; creating a new scene by adding virtual elements to the existing reality. Therefore, it enhances what we see, hear, feel, and smell. By placing computer-generated graphics in the field of vision, AR adds sound, graphics, haptic feedback, and smell to the real world in real-time.

Now that we know what AR is, and how it works, let’s have a look at how some pioneering enterprises have already been incorporating AR into their existing technologies, and how retail CIOs, who are thinking of deploying this technology in their organization, can get started.

Some pioneering enterprises have already incorporated AR into their existing technologies. Some of these AR apps for mobile devices have been developed specifically for the reality of retail business. Technology experts and researchers have great expectations in the ROI of AR.

According to Denis McCauley, director of Global Technology Research at the Economist Intelligence Unit, and a leading authority in the technology industry, some CIOs believe AR can be applied in areas such as customer service, staff training, and brainstorming activities. Juniper Research has suggested in a press release that mobile augmented reality revenues will approach $1.5 billion in 2015. Not bad for a quite new technology.

Swedish furniture retailer IKEA has been a pioneer in introducing AR and interactive technologies to both its 2013 catalog and product instructions, as we can see in this illustrative video.

The free IKEA AR catalog app for iOS or Android works when the mobile device captures the AR marker in the instructions. This can easily be adapted by any organization looking into boosting the customer impact of the existing paper catalogues -- adding AR to them is a great way of reinventing them.

As far as other companies using AR, one of the most common and useful applications of augmented reality is adding information to the retail packaging of products. No matter how small the packaging is, AR lets you add as much information as you wish to better serve the curiosity of the customer. An AR app can find, and project onto the package, complete information about its ingredients, price, and nutritional values. It may also include customer reviews, serving suggestions, or even recipes, as shown in this video:

This kind of experience lets customers shop from virtually anywhere, collect points, rewards, and cash prizes. For example, GoldRun is a platform and an app that lets customers collect rewards, just as they do with loyalty cards. Watch this video to see how GoldRun works.

In 2010, I was fascinated by Qualcomm. The iButterfly app they presented at the SIME conference filled the stage with colorful AR butterflies. Using this app, consumers can catch butterflies with their phone, collect them, use them as coupons, and exchange them with friends. These butterflies can be used for promoting the launch of a new product, or even promoting the opening of a new store.

iButterfly is an entertaining smartphone application that uses AR, a motion sensor, and GPS functions to collect coupons. Through the iButterfly, it's possible to deliver not only coupons, but also diverse information and contents as well. In 2011, with additional social elements developed by Butterfly Corporation, iButterfly was reborn as iButterfly Plus, an AR-supported communication application which uses AR and location information to catch AR butterflies.

AR is the future of retail, and it’s here to stay. In Part 2, an interview with Richard Savage from Qualcomm will reveal some tips for CIOs who want to know more about how to deploy AR in their organization.

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SaneIT   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   12/14/2012 7:45:33 AM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
I have seen the contact lenses too.  I think now they have a line of text which is impressive even if they can't get the AR stuff going.  Hopefully there is an easy way to turn them off though, I'd hate to have to wait until I'm near some saline solution to remove a lens if I'm overwhelmed by ads popping out at me.
Susan Fourtané   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   12/13/2012 1:55:19 PM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
SaneIT, lol :)

Well, yes, the Jaws thing from Back to the Future is, indeed, an exceptional case. Although we may see that one at some point in the future, too. I have been reading about AR contact lenses. It's fascinating. They make Google glass look already obsolete. Can you believe? Maybe all this is going a bit too fast. 

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SaneIT   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   11/29/2012 8:18:43 AM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
Imagine you're walking down the street with your Google glasses on and a QR reader running in the background.  Now imagine every billboard, bus stop, t-shirt, lamp post, bumper sticker, mailbox and fast food restaurant having a QR code that pops some piece of AR magic out at you.  I get the feeling that there are going to have to be regulations on the perceived size of AR images as well as their content.  I'm thinking of something like in the Back to the Future series when they do the Jaws 4D thing except it being every store not just the movie theater.
Susan Fourtané   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   11/28/2012 8:14:55 AM
Susan Fourtané
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
That's a cool Tee, SaneIT. :) 

Why out of control? I think they will be on sale already by next year, right? 


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SaneIT   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   11/28/2012 8:00:44 AM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
Yes, I'm going to get the Alien chestburster, I remember the first AR apps that I saw, you printed them out then sat them on your desk and used a web cam to view them.  Bringing this to a mobile application is much cooler.  I just wonder how out of control this might get if/when Google's headgear catches on.
Susan Fourtané   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   11/27/2012 8:01:07 AM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
Are you going to buy one with the Alien? 

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Susan Fourtané   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   11/27/2012 7:59:37 AM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
lol, SaneIT, :D that's super cool. It seems the guys are from Sweden. 

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Susan Fourtané   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   11/27/2012 7:51:55 AM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals

The idea is great, and super useful for all the people who are on meds, or even in a case like the one you described in audits. 

I'll ask about this when I talk to the developers, and see what they say. 

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SaneIT   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   11/27/2012 7:28:50 AM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
Oh, AR T-shirts, this one is my favorite, I might actually buy one. Chestburster
SaneIT   Augmented Reality From Fiction to Retailing, Part 1   11/27/2012 7:22:37 AM
Re: healthcare/pharmaceuticals
@Susan, no, I haven't seen or heard of such an app existing.  I just have memories of sitting at the table for breakfast with my grandparents and them going through dozens of pills.  Most of them from unmarked packages like those pill boxes.    I've also done pharmacy audits and had to spend time trying to identify pills that were found loose on a shelf.  I was thinking that pill identification could be done similar to the way they do QR codes, it could scan for specific patterns then give suggestions as to what that pill might be.
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In part one, we gave examples of clever uses of augmented reality in retail and showed how AR can be a great tool for increasing sales, customer engagement, and enhancing the brand.
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