Augmented reality (AR) is redefining how brands interact with consumers, creating experiences that span both the real world and digital devices. As AR technology continues to evolve, brands need to start thinking about how they can create deeper sensory experiences for their users.

We spoke to Andy White, founder of the creative technology company Spectre, to find out how AR is pushing the boundaries of customer engagement and what this means for brands.

S&T: What led you to working with Augmented Reality (AR)?

I’ve always loved new technology. I had a contact that was involved in an early AR software startup and as 3D CGI is one of our core capabilities, we helped them with some of their early content creation. We then decided we would build our own demo and from there the ideas flowed, as did the realisation that AR would become the next mass medium. I was driven by a desire to move into an area completely new and unwritten, combined with the commercial first-mover advantages this presented; Spectre was born.

How is your company, Spectre, involved in the integration of AR and brand communications?

Spectre is a new breed of creative tech company. We use a blend of AR, VR, 3D CGI and emerging technology to connect the digital and physical worlds for people, brands and business. We turn brilliant ideas into powerful and meaningful experiences for brands and businesses, enhancing the world around us.

Spectre showreel from Spectre on Vimeo.

In your opinion, what are the main benefits of using AR compared to more traditional forms of marketing?

Firstly, AR is new to most people. It delivers a far more unique user experience and creates a ‘wow factor’ that traditional mediums rarely achieve. Secondly, AR can unite a brand’s existing media, so can actually help to drive their existing marketing mix. Finally, no other medium connects digital to the real world in the same way.

In terms of visual communication, AR really allows the consumer to set their own agenda – this is an important aspect of how consumers engage with AR content. When using AR, brands can provide context and guidelines as to what settings the interactions will take place in; i.e. An AR app might need to be played on a flat surface, outside or against a wall. This is significantly different to how we have interacted with brand imagery previously, as we are fed what the brand want us to see, whereas AR is giving some of that power back to the user.

In what way to do you think AR is allowing brands to create a more immersive experience for their consumers?

This is simple. The essence of AR is to bridge the virtual-physical divide. Creating virtual content that appears real-time in the user’s real-world environment is a hugely powerful tool. People want to stop, look, touch and explore. AR by definition is a much more immersive experience compared to the majority of branded content tools.

Allowing a user to explore AR in their own world gives them a huge sense of freedom and control over what they do with the app or piece of content. This creates a truly immersive experience as the brand has been taken into the consumers’ world.

AR further blurs the lines between physical and digital. By its very nature, AR is more immersive than traditional digital media. It provides new ways for brands to interact with their audience – and their audience with them. This is particularly powerful as brands can interact with consumers in real-time in the real world.

Can you give some examples of where AR has been used to create a sensory experience for consumers?

S4C Realiti app – bringing to life offline media like print or outdoor, this turns static images into real-time AR video. It enables the broadcaster S4C to turn offline media like print or outdoor into live action video trailers.

Virtual World app – virtual 3D site models of properties within Weston Homes PLC portfolio. It enables customers to view real-time 3D models of properties, from any where in the world – even before they’re built.

Virtual World by Weston Homes – Augmented Reality visualisation from Spectre on Vimeo.

What does AR mean to a consumer – in terms of how they interact with the content and how does it benefit them?

It places interactive experiences in the real-world. By its nature it’s a more immersive, powerful, memorable user experience.

We see AR as a form of ‘glue’, that can mesh together all of a brands existing marketing mix. As well as killer experiential content, it’s a great way to connect and drive print, web, social, commerce and overall insight.

What is the future for AR? Is it limited to mobile? How can brands create larger AR experiences?

The first iteration of AR for the masses is via mobile experiences. But that’s only because it’s the first mass-market technology that can support it.

We are currently working on a live project for the healthcare sector, using AR eyewear. This is likely to be the next generation of wearable technology that propels AR even further into the public consciousness. Beyond eyewear, wearable technology in general is set to explode.

As emerging technology continues to evolve, we see AR (and VR) forming an ever more integral part of the way brands and business use technology to connect with people, in the everyday world around us.

In short the future for AR is bright.

Key Takeaways

  • AR is blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds, allowing brands and consumers to connect in a more meaningful way.
  • AR is allowing brands to create fully immersive experiences for customers in their own surrounding – bringing the brand into the consumers’ world.
  • Consumers can begin to create their own imagery for branded AR applications, helping creating deeper engagement and interaction with potential and existing customers.
  • AR can support the overall marketing strategy by bringing together activations across multiple marketing channels like digital and social, into one immersive experience.
  • The world of AR is growing and brands should start thinking about how they might be able to create deeper experiences through AR.
Discover more Augmented Reality creative imagery here