Augmented Reality & the Move to the World of Flat Surfaces

Augmented Reality (AR) may have found a place to happen.

When AR was first seen and used a few years ago, it was generally showcased by data overlays over objects or places seen through the phone’s camera.

The general ideas was that you could aim a phone camera at a building and see all the associated information about the building on the screen in front of the image, essentially augmenting the reality of the building you were looking at.

While fun to do the first time or two, the idea didn't catch on at any kind of scale.

Since then, AR has quietly migrated into the print world, primarily to supplement the reality on the pages of magazines.

When I met with the Layar leadership team in their Amsterdam headquarters late last year, they were just moving into the print world in a big way. “For us, media companies are more interesting to sit down with,” CEO Quintin Schevernels told me.



At the time, I viewed the move to the print world as simply a logical way to monetize the technology, since it wasn’t catching on with buildings and objects.

But more recently, I was having a discussion with the co-founder of Layar in the company’s New York office. While he showed me the latest examples of publications using AR within thier pages, he made a comment in passing that better illuminated the reality of AR today.

He said that AR is currently best limited to flat services. “It’s not ready for 3D,” said Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, Layar co-founder and currently General Manager for the U.S.

Now we finally have some AR numbers to digest, courtesy of a report produced by Layar’s Amsterdam office. While the numbers are only from Layar and not all AR providers, they can be  somewhat of an indicator of market activity around the technology.

The Layar app has been downloaded 30 million times and has about 2.5 million active monthly users globally. Here are the leading countries by number of downloads:

  • 23% -- United States
  • 8% -- Germany
  • 6% -- Spain
  • 4% -- Netherlands
  • 4% -- Italy

AR app usage somewhat mirrors the smartphone marketplace dynamics, with 60% being used on Android and 40% on Apple. Almost all are done on smartphones, with only about 5% on tablets.

Reminiscent of early QR code deployment, more than a third (37%) of AR interactive print content links to a Web page and 41% of all clicks come from an image.

AR ultimately can trigger an engagement. For now, it looks like the engagements will start on flat surfaces.     


mCommerce Summit Update: Walgreens, Bank of America, Pandora, Giant Eagle, Alliance Data, Point Inside, Catalina coming.  June 16-19, in Kohler, WI. Check it out here: The agenda.

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