Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Augmented reality—a technology that enables mobile devices to recognize live objects and then activate video or graphics—has been stuck for years in new-tech purgatory, where ideas loll in the hope of finding mainstream applications.
That may be changing, at least in the eyes of marketers, print publishers and retailers, who are testing new ways to promote their brands on ever-present mobile devices.
Startups like Blippar, Layar and Daqri are beginning to make inroads, offering technology that lets people point their smartphones or tablets at objects—whether a can of soda, a magazine cover or an in-store display—and then watch video or high-tech graphics unfurl on top of the objects on screen.
AR remains clunky at times, and there is little research showing that layered content translates to sales and customer loyalty. Many advertisers are reluctant to talk, out of concern for revealing their strategy. But the mass adoption of smartphones and tablets and the promise of wearable devices is helping spur interest in the technology.
Some advertisers also see promise in AR, saying the technology has the ability to captivate people with products and compel them to watch branded content intently. Consumer brands like Heinz and have worked with Blippar to test the apps on their products.

But industry analysts caution that AR's success depends on people finding it easy to use and recognizing value in interacting with videos and graphics. "If the content isn't brining additional value, then mainstream consumers [aren't] going to use it twice," says Tuong Nguyen, a principal with research firm Gartner.
Mr. Nyuygen says he expects great growth in the industrial realm, where AR can sometimes help mechanics fix equipment and warehouse operators find and keep track of inventory. "If something makes someone's job easier," he says, "the adoption will be quick."
 AR companies are trying to make it easier for creative executives to make the sort of content that will grab consumers. In the past few weeks, both Daqri and Blippar have released products that can be licensed directly by brands and advertising agencies to build and activate their own AR experiences. Layar has had such a product on the market for nearly two years.
For more innovative campaigns, brands are working directly with the technology companies. For the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year,Ford  debuted its first AR experience to promote its vehicles.
Attendees were prompted to download a special "Ford 4D" app and to look through the app at a graphic affixed to the cars. The app recognized the graphic and launched imagery on the smartphone that made the car appear as though it was coming off the screen in real-life dimension. For the Escape sport-utility vehicle, users could swipe the screen to open the back of the vehicle and activate a virtual version of it filling up with simulated animated soccer balls.
Consumer brands experimenting with AR are reluctant to discuss if the technology is helping to increase sales. Matthew Szymczyk, chief executive of Zugara, a virtual dressing-room technology that is AR-powered and aims to help digital fashion shoppers, says the technology is too young to judge its efficacy.
"Some people say AR is a gimmick, but social media was initially considered a gimmick too," he says.

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