Agency Execs See Augmented Reality Breaking Into Tiered Experiences

When it comes to using augmented reality, executives see opportunities for brand experiences, but also say the medium creates new questions around privacy and regulations.

That was the general takeaway from a discussion about augmented reality yesterday at the annual FutureM conference in Boston.

In practice, augmented reality experiences break down into three distinct tiers, according to Lindsay Nie, head of creative technology at Cramer.

“There’s the GPS tracking sort of AR like Pokemon Go, there’s the two-dimensional kind on smartphone devices like the back of a cereal box and then there’s the headset kind that’s more the kind of holograms and 3D where you can manipulate it and touch it and move around in it,” the agency executive said. 



This tiered perspective appears to mirror how other agencies are treating virtual reality experiences.

Dave Meeker, VP of Isobar U.S., recently said virtual reality content falls into three tiers, starting with passive experiences that don’t give much control to the viewer, all the way to fully immersive room-scale experiences where consumers can interact with the virtual environment in physical space. (Meeker will be presenting at the MediaPost OMMA VR/AR conference next week)

Although VR experiences generally all require a headset, the principles used when creating experiences for AR and VR seem to be shared between the two mediums.

On the non-headset side of AR, the discussion opened with a demo of Wayfair’s WayfairView app, which is based on the Tango platform and digitally overlays virtual objects (to scale) on top of the image a phone or tablet sees through its camera. Wayfair walked through the experience of browsing what looked like a standard e-commerce app, selecting a piece of furniture, and ultimately seeing what that piece of furniture would look like in the room, in real time.

This use of augmented reality also could be injected into a head-mounted display like Microsoft HoloLens with the same functionality. However, having the capability on a device that looks similar to other smartphones and tablets can provide less friction from a social adoption standpoint, according to Ben Clark, chief architect at Wayfair.

“What we love about the Tango stuff is that it looks like just a smartphone, but has this different camera,” Clark said.

Another aspect of AR that was discussed surrounded the new domain of digital space and how it should be handled from a regulation standpoint.

“The thing about augmented reality is it allows us to digitally fence the physical world,” said entrepreneur Steven Kane, another member of the panel.

“What we’re about to experience in the coming years is a complete revisiting of what property rights are.”

Merging the physical and digital worlds was generally agreed on as a move that could drive new opportunities for brands to interact with consumers.

However, panelists agreed that the new dynamic of advertising regulation will shift to dealing with digitally fluid platforms, in the form of a smartphone or other device, entering and moving around in physical spaces that would otherwise limit advertising.

One example referenced multiple times in the discussion was Pokemon Go. The augmented reality game brings consumers into different physical spaces, while engaged in their smartphones, which then can receive any type of advertising from, say, a direct competitor to the brand advertising on the billboard directly in front of that consumer.

The question when addressing physical and digital properties seems to become where the threshold is established, according to Kane.

“Don’t I own the right to the digital content in my home? Why shouldn’t I have the property right, at some point, to say no drones to a certain altitude over my house?”

Even though the regulatory landscape may be uncertain, using AR and other similar capabilities are worth pursuing because the data collected can help inform marketing decisions, according to Beverly Jackson, vice president of social media and content strategy at MGM Resorts International.

“There are things for us that are very measurable, which is why we’re doing this,” Jackson said.

MGM International is experimenting with augmented reality and virtual reality first with a vision on enhancing customer experiences on-site at the resort and casino locations. Ultimately, Jackson sees the future in expanding and adapting those experiences to consumers who are not physically at the properties.

“Once we get this nailed down in the brick and mortar, then I can deliver those types of experiences to you through other devices,” Jackson said.

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