Seeing the World Through a Different Lens: How Brands Will Incorporate Augmented Reality Into Their Marketing in 2018

It all started with Pokémon Go, a handheld mobile device game that allowed users to explore urban areas catching and battling magical creatures. Who could possibly have anticipated that what began as a children's card game with Byzantine rules would explode onto the app scene seemingly overnight and usher augmented reality into the mainstream? Augmented reality technology, which superimposes a computer generated image (or reality-bending filter, in the case of Snapchat) onto a user's view of the real world, has been predicted by a report published by Digi-Capital to outweigh virtual reality by 30% in revenue generating potential- meaning that you can expect your favorite brands to clamor and compete for a slice of the pie. Now that the new year is nearly upon us, we'll be exploring three of the ways that experts predict that augmented reality will be incorporated into the marketing world of 2018.  

  • Augmented reality will move past the "fun factor." Pokémon Go and Snapchat have been both a blessing and a curse for tech companies and professionals looking to capitalize on the future of augmented reality. While these fun, silly games introduced AR technology in a way that is accessible for nearly everyone with the capability to operate a smartphone, they have also set into the mind of consumers that these types of novelties make up the extent of what AR is capable of. However, a select number of brands are taking advantage of more practical uses of AR software development, and using it to enhance their customer's shopping experience. For example, budget furniture brand Ikea recently introduced its Ikea Place app, which allows users to visual how new furniture will look in their space by dragging and dropping 3D furniture into their home with the assistance of a camera attached to their tablet or phone. From makeup companies allowing users to "try on" cosmetics from the comfort of their home to luxury fashion houses using a camera to allow wealthy travelers to compare handbag sizes without heading to Fifth Avenue, expect retailers to heavily invest in practical AR technology in 2018.  

  • Augmented reality will leave virtual reality in the dust. 2018 is not looking to be a great year for augmented reality's more immersive cousin, virtual reality. Once thought to be the technology that would change the way we work, game, and play, virtual reality development has largely taken a funding backburner because its CPU requirements have made VR simply inaccessible for the majority of the population. For example, the Oculus Rift, a gaming headset that promised to immerse gamers in a completely interactive virtual world, largely fell flat after massive hype because the system cannot run without a prohibitively expensive gaming PC. In 2018, focus will shift away from the never-ending battle to make virtual reality appealing to the masses to the technology that can already be accessible from the touch of a button on an iPhone screen- augmented reality. 

  • Privacy concerns will come to a head. In June of 2017, Snapchat caused controversy with their "Snap Map" update, which allowed the app by default to track and display a user's location on a map made accessible to anyone on the user's friends list. This incident was far from the first time that Snapchat has butted heads with privacy advocates; the AR forerunning caused an uproar in early 2016 when a change to the terms and conditions allowed the makers of the app to "review content created on the app and even share information with third parties," according to a report by UK news source The Independent. With real-world immersion integral to the AR experience and the average age of a first smartphone ownership at an all-time low of just ten years old, expect parents and privacy groups to push for policies that prioritize responsible augmented reality usage in 2018. 

The takeaway? Expect more brands to incorporate practical augmented reality technology into their shopping apps, pushing the boundaries of this once novelty feature. However, expect smart brands to proceed with caution, as parents and watchdog groups will be vigilantly on the hunt for apps that overstep their boundaries. 

Arnt Eriksen