November 14, 2013

Augmented Reality: The Future is Here

Augmented reality is a technology whose potential as a game-changer has been heralded for years. The technology can be incredibly versatile in its uses, and it’s making headway with consumers as companies in many different industries begin leveraging it to increase consumer, student, and even patient engagement.

We have previously highlighted efforts made by the MIT Teacher Education Program and Education Arcade to develop AR-based educational games for students. Education is one space where Ambarish Mitra expects big things to come from augmented reality. He offered four predictions for the future of augmented reality in a post that ran on B2C last month, among them that augmented reality will be one of the tools used to provide a curriculum to students that is more tailored to STEM.

The rise in popularity of wearable technology is also accelerating the pace at which we begin to adopt AR in our day-to-day activities, and it has found its way into the classroom as well. Mitra cites a GigaOm article on Spanish researchers who have developed augmented reality glasses that give teachers the ability to see how well students are comprehending the course material being taught. The proof-of-concept uses augmented reality glasses, students’ smartphones, and a hacked Microsoft Kinect to show icons above each students’ head that display how well they are absorbing material.

In a totally separate realm, augmented reality is being used to connect brands with consumers through innovative marketing campaigns. This is a trend 3Pillar Global’s Sunil Param highlighted in a recent 3Pillar blog post that details how Sharp TV, IKEA, and Haagen Dazs are using augmented reality in drastically different but innovative ways to connect with audiences. IKEA uses the technology, for example, to let consumers visualize how IKEA furniture will look in their own homes. Haagen Dazs’, meanwhile, uses an augmented reality app to play a 2-minute music video while waiting for their ice cream to melt to the perfect point.

Even the medical field has a lot to gain by implementing AR technology; Fraunhofer MEVIS, a German medical image computing institute, has developed an AR application that assists surgeons in removing liver tumors without damaging critical vessels within the organ itself. A CT scan is performed prior to the surgery, which allows the software to recognize the vessels, which are then sent to the iPad. Surgeons can then navigate the image of the liver and identify where the vessels are.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what we’ll eventually be able to achieve with AR, but it’s important to recognize how far we’ve come. Using AR in innovative ways can simultaneously transform the consumer experience and increase engagement, ultimately leading to better retention and satisfaction.