It would take a cold heart not to feel just a little bit excited about augmented reality. From video game design, through to interactive narratives in the entertainment industry, and killer, immersive content online, AR is already making a serious splash, and looks set to continue to do so.
Until recently, however, AR has been a largely fragmented field, making it difficult to expand its potential into more practical areas. Not anymore - with the advent of the AR Cloud, we can expect to see a very different, and very exciting approach to augmented reality.
The AR Cloud is a three dimensional map of the world, updated in real time, which can be understood and interacted with by both humans and machines alike. In effect, this creates a digital blueprint of our physical reality, one that remains consistent and universal for all users.
So what does this mean in practice? This means that it will be possible to anchor digital information to specific physical spaces, enabling interaction and collaboration with digital content pertaining to a certain place. While GPS already supports this to an extent, the AR cloud goes far, far beyond this, providing applications and intelligent machines with insight into exactly where they are in the world, and facilitating high-level interaction between users and geo-specific digital content.
Imagine starting a new role at a new place of work. Only a few years ago, this may have been a daunting and overwhelming experience, involving significant time spent 'learning the ropes' and understanding a new environment. With the AR Cloud, recent inductees will be able to access tutorial content and safety information in real time; content which updates and evolves to reflect changes in its physical environment. Suddenly the onboarding process for new employees becomes significantly easier and more straightforward, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
A new landscape for AR
To understand just how revolutionary the AR cloud is going to be, we need to understand the practical implications of how it will be deployed. Let's examine what this new AR landscape will look like, and what it will mean for business.
Bringing Digital and Physical Marketing Together
A connected and seamless approach to marketing is the gold standard, as businesses scramble to meet leads and prospects across all available channels. This means peppering physical event marketing opportunities with hashtags, QR codes, and sharing incentives to bridge the gap between the digital world and the 'real' world.
AR takes this further, eliminating the disconnection by placing digital marketing content within these physical spaces. No longer do businesses have to hope that prospects will bridge this gap themselves - either by tagging and sharing the event via social media or by learning more by logging on via a smart device at a later date - instead, attendees can connect with geo-specific, time-specific content providing dynamic levels of understanding.
Expanding the horizons of retail
Point of sale marketing has always been vital to the retail sector. With the AR cloud, retailers can connect with PoS advantages on an unprecedented scale. Cathy Hackl from You Are Here Labs in Atlanta described how integration between smartphone cameras and the AR cloud offers consumers a far more intimate shopping experience than ever before;
"If you are at the store and you see a dress you like, you could launch the store’s app, point your smartphone camera at the dress, and a previously-captured 3D body scan of you starts modelling the dress in front of you," Hackl explained.
"You can then share it with friends and family for immediate feedback on whether you should buy it. You either tap and purchase right at the store or you wait and order it at home, leveraging VR or augmented reality.”
Interactive content consumption
Anyone who has ever been on an audio tour of an art gallery or tourist attraction will be familiar with the idea of geo-specific content. However, this is mostly a one-way street. The AR cloud is capable of creating dynamic, interactive experiences for users, which go way beyond simple consumption. Building a narrative with your content is one thing, but placing your user within that narrative unlocks a world of benefits not previously considered possible.