We’ve seen the future, and it’s augmented.
Augmented Reality (AR) is projected to become a nearly $215 billion market by 2021, according to IDC Research.
Consider this. In 2015, merely $700 million was invested in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) startups. Then, in 2016, that number grew to $2.3 billion, and then again that number grew to more than $3 billion in 2017. AR is gaining steam, and it’s going to start appearing in more facets of our lives, our businesses, and our marketing.
Google’s Inflection Point
At Google’s 2017 I/O Developer Conference, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that Google was at an inflection point. “Computing is evolving again,” he said. “We now have voice and vision as two new important modalities for computing.”
Whereas in the past Google envisioned a world of text, it now sees the intersection and integration of text with the visual.
This is seen very clearly in the release of Google Lens, Google’s augmented reality technology for smartphones. Using Google Lens, you can point your smartphone at a restaurant on the street and automatically see relevant information such as reviews, hours, and more. Google Lens was quietly rolled out to Google Photos and then to Google Assistant in recent months. I predict that in the next few years AR will be the default form of search as we know it, and we will look back on non-augmented reality days as inconceivably quaint.
Whereas organic search, content marketing, and SEO have focused outside of store walls up to now, Google Visual Positioning Service (VPS) is going to bring search in-store, mapping indoor environments using motion tracking, area learning, and depth perception. Imagine it as a GPS within a store to identify and provide further details and interactive experiences for any item on the shelves. Think this is too futuristic? Consider that it’s already in 400 Lowe’s stores, and you might want to change your projected timeline. The underlying Tango technology is being deprecated by Google, but we suspect it will be moved to the Google ARCore platform, or if not, replaced by something even more powerful.
Unveiling the Biggest AR Platform in the World
Like Google, Apple also sees the future as augmented. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, has stated that augmented reality is going to be as influential on society as the smartphone.
In an interview with The Independent, Cook stated, “I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone. The smartphone is for everyone, we don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives.”
At the 2017 Apple Developers’ conference, Apple unveiled the Apple ARKit, the biggest AR platform in the world, enabling developers working on AR apps to integrate digital experiences into the physical world.
In Apple’s words, “ARKit blends digital objects and information with the environment around you, taking apps far beyond the screen and freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways.”
The recent AR in Action (ARIA) conference at the MIT Media Lab brought together close to a thousand AR enthusiasts from 20 countries to explore the world of AR across a wide swath of industries. Stratabeat brought a contingent to see all of the innovation firsthand, and we can see how AR is going to have a major influence on the future of digital and mobile marketing.
All told, speakers at the event represented companies ranging from Disney to Hasbro, Google, Microsoft, Warby Parker, Samsung, NVIDIA, among others. Representatives from universities hailed from Harvard, MIT, and Columbia, to name a few. Even the Minister of Canadian Heritage was on stage.
Expect your smartphone to be more of a 3D interpreter of the world around you in the future. As Google has already identified, your phone will move from merely a device that can take photos, to one that integrates a layer of contextual information into any view, exponentially increasing the smartphone’s utility.
Expect product design to explode with new possibilities. AR will allow product designers to experience the product before they build it. As testing costs decrease as a result, it’s only natural that we’ll see greater innovation.
From healthcare to gaming, from architecture to city planning, from manufacturing to remote field support, AR is about to transform the world as we know it.
Marketing and AR
If you want to master digital marketing longer term, get ready and get optimized for a world dominated by AR. Just as few imagined how smartphones would become such a central aspect of people’s lives merely 10 years ago, AR holds that same promise today.
Instead of a world of 2D marketing, imagine one of 3D environments. In the next 10 years, expect to see breathtaking innovation in AR, as well as in the creative way that certain companies will capitalize on the technological possibilities.