Posted by Bethany Frank on 04 May 2017
Augmented reality (AR) is an added layer of digital information over a user’s physical environment that provides enhanced functionality or view. First used for military and industrial purposes, the technology is now expanding to consumer markets as businesses explore its potential in areas like retail and entertainment.
In contrast to virtual reality (VR), which immerses users in an entirely simulated environment, AR builds upon a user’s physical surroundings. This important distinction makes AR more applicable in a real-world context and therefore particularly useful in business.
Many consumers already use simple forms of AR every day. Popular photo-sharing app SnapChat lets users place interactive “filters” over photos and videos captured with their smartphones. The massive success of AR-based video game Pokémon Go in 2016 also indicated strong consumer interest, especially among millennials and other early technology adopters.
Significantly impacted by the rise of e-commerce giants like Amazon, retailers stand to benefit the most from AR. It can help brick-and-mortar businesses that are struggling to adapt to a digital world provide an entirely new customer experience. A partnership between Lowe’s home improvement stores and Microsoft, for example, allows customers to envision what a new kitchen would look like through a pair of HoloLens smart glasses. Instead of viewing swatches, customers can put the glasses on and walk through a showroom kitchen to view holographic versions of a cabinet, countertop, and appliance options. Lowe’s hopes the program will help their customers “take the guesswork out of home improvement.”
As consumers adopt new technology, the way they discover and purchase goods are likely to change. AR will enable businesses to adapt to these changes and provide a more connected, context-aware customer experience. It will also help transform the checkout process to be virtually or even completely seamless. The potential applications of AR are likely to expand as the technology evolves and consumer adoption increases.
Be sure to check back to our blog for more on emerging technologies and their impact on business as we take a look at virtual reality next.