Last Thursday, 7 April 2016, a few of us from the Sydney office attended Convergence, billed as a conference for Wearable Technology, Smart Devices and the Internet of Things (IoT). The main stand out for us at the event was the dominance of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) devices.
In VR, devices and technology can be used to recreate the world digitally for the user to explore. AR aims to augment the reality around you and can be explored using a camera feed with digital information laid over the top to enhance the user’s view.
While we were at Convergence demonstrating our product design and development principles with a prototype smart shopping bag (more to come on that later) – it made us stop and think about how would we use VR or AR in today’s environment? Whilst we believe there are some great examples of VR out there, AR is more easily applied to today’s environment through the use of mobile phones. Therefore AR is more accessible to companies for enhancing their customer experience.
Source: Shape the future of holographic computing. https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us
Most of the examples of AR exhibited at Convergence took the form of digital content overlaid onto the user’s view of their immediate environment. Microsoft took centre stage to discuss their recently ‘released’ Hololens. This is a headset that overlays digital images onto the screen in front of your eyes to simulate a hologram. This was an impressive presentation, only diminished by the fact that there is just one Hololens in the country (at the time of writing). By contrast there are as many mobile phones in Australia as there are people which made us realise the huge potential for using AR to enhance the mobile experience.
Mobile developers have been creating new experiences in AR since 2009 across a broad variety of disciplines that are within easy reach of most people today. Such experiences include an artist who leveraged mobile technology to bring to life in real time with voice and video, his Archibald Prize entry ‘Wilarity’. Architecture and Interior Design are fields utilising the mobile AR space with apps transforming blueprints and floor plans into 3D models. For example the Ikea app where you can view what a piece of furniture might actually look like in your home without getting up from the couch. However, marketing and brand awareness are going to be the big winners here as consumers start interacting with a company’s products in new and interesting ways, such as the humble McDonalds happy meal box coming to life and evolving into an interactive game when viewed on a phone. This cross-over of the real and virtual worlds can create powerful, memorable experiences.
We see the potential for retailers to use AR and IoT in their physical space through product information and wayfinding. For example, searching for a product in a large department store can be confusing and difficult. What if your mobile phone could overlay directions to a targeted in-store offer that interests you on the floor, and then highlight and display extra information about the product you are looking at without the need to ask a sales assistant. Further expansion on this shopping experience would be to pay from your mobile and to leave with your product in hand, similar to the self-service experience at Apple Stores.
In another example, imagine looking at the wine menu in a restaurant with endless wines to choose from. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use your phone’s camera to scan the wine list enabling it to highlight the type/region of wine that matches your taste preference or suggests a match to your meal. Fast, convenient and highly engaging for your customers.
The possibilities of AR are endless when you take the approach of enhancing the physical world with the information that the digital world can provide. And since most people have an AR capable device in their pocket, we shouldn’t wait until headsets are the social norm before exploring the opportunities.
At Bilue we believe that our lives can be enriched by the digital world, and through Design Thinking, Prototyping and Technology we can create innovative products for your customers. If you have an idea or product that you want to validate or explore, reach out to us and let’s talk about how mobility in computing, and AR, could help you achieve your goals.