Augmented Reality (AR) Stealthily Dressed in 3D Clothing

Coupons in space have arrived in a big way.

Not that space, the other space, as in right in front of you.

A serious dose of augmented reality (AR), disguised as 3D, arrived in the mail of some 40 million consumers this week.

Valpak, the direct mail coupon giant, prominently featured an offer to try AR on the front of its familiar blue envelope mailers that hit mailboxes across America (mine came yesterday).

Interestingly, rather than using the official term ‘augmented reality,’ Valpak went with ‘3D.’

The outer envelope offered “3D Savings” by downloading the Valpak app and then tapping a 3D glasses image, which cleverly appears both on the envelope and in the app.

Even if they don’t download the app and try it, millions of consumers are being introduced to the general concept.

In traditional AR, if there can be considered such a thing, you aim a phone camera at something, such as a magazine page with AR, and data appears as an overlay on the phone screen.

In many of those cases, the overlaid data floats but is sort of glued to the page or image.

With the Valpak AR implementation, the image on the envelope is used simply as a trigger to launch the coupons in space in front of you.

After a quick scan of the envelope image, the app becomes live with coupons displayed as you point your phone to the horizon. As you rotate, different coupons appear based on the direction the phone is pointed.

The clickable coupons appear on screen, with the distance to the location of each coupon.

Initial results of the AR program show a 71% increase in app downloads, according to Nancy Cook, senior vice president of digital business solutions at Valpak.

The AR-coded envelopes were first sent this week to the Midwest, Northeast and Canada, all of which had about equal app downloads, Cook said.

By mobile platform, Valpak has seen an almost equal split between iPhone (50%) and Android (45%), with a small percentage (5%) of scans coming from iPads.

The program is slated to run until the end of September, increasing the chances of more people being exposed to AR, even if they don’t know it.

It may take this kind of innovation and simplification to bring AR into the mainstream.

Like other aspects of mobile commerce, AR is starting to get more interesting, even if disguised as 3D.

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