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    Product Marketing’s Virtual Age: 12 Practical Uses of Augmented Reality

    dreamstime_xs_106630_AR_MirrorOne of the most talked about technologies on the virtual horizon is Augmented Reality (AR). Augmented Reality overlays the viewer’s real time environment with digital information, thus augmenting his or her reality. In some applications it applies a virtual layer of data and images over the live scene like informational popups. In other cases it pulls 3D objects and animations into the viewer’s environment (or casts the viewer into a virtual environment) to create a more immersive experience. It’s not brand new but as its capabilities and quality have grown, so have its applications to marketers.

    Here are just a few of the ways it’s already being used:

    In-Home Product Previews


    Mashable at South by Southwest® Interactive (SXSWi) with the creator of Augment. Click to play.

    1. Consumer Product Previews

    Augmented Reality lets online and catalog shoppers view 3D products at home at actual size and in photorealistic detail. This video by Mashable at South by Southwest® Interactive (SXSWi) shows the Augment app creator previewing a tablet in the palm of his hand and placing and arranging furniture.


    IKEA’s 2014 Catalog AR app. Click to play.

    2. Furniture Previews

    AR is particularly helpful in furniture shopping, taking the measuring tape and guesswork out of space approximation. And, with mobile advancements, it’s far evolved from early iterations that required a complicated web cam setup. The 2014 IKEA catalog AR app has come a long way since earlier home planner attempts.

    3. Virtual Fitting Rooms

    AR also continues to evolve for clothing and eyewear virtual fitting rooms.

    Animated Instructions

    4. Installation Instructions

    Aurasma Augmented Reality Demo with Router

    Aurasma image recognition and augmented reality demo. Click to play.

    AR plus 3D also makes instructions much more intuitive, overlaying the device with a step-by-step animated how-to – like this example of router setup instructions (at 2:38) that we shared last month. The 3D animated components make it a bit more fluid and realistic than others, like these printer use instructions,that use basic shapes and icons to identify parts and steps.

    5. User Manuals


    Audi’s augmented reality user manual. Click to play.

    One of the slickest applications is Audi’s AR user manual featured to the right. Audi drivers can point the smartphones or tablets at a vehicle feature to learn more about its function. Pointing under the hood, the app recognizes their engine version, labels the parts and provides maintenance info. With a 3D engine, the animation could have gone even further to show how to unscrew the cap and the refill the coolant.

    Catalog Demos & Print Campaigns


    Audi Q3 Augmented Reality Adventures in Singapore. Click to play.

    6. On- and Off-Page Demos

    Audi and IKEA also took advantage of augmented reality to bring products to life from the printed page. Audi’s print ad let magazine reader in Singapore see a 3D model of the Q3 SG, change its colors and rims, turn the headlights on and off. Readers could continue the demo off-page for a 360° interior tour.

    7. On-Page Demos

    Similarly, IKEA’s 2013 Germany catalog let shoppers scan to see animated 3D models, videos, and photo galleries.

    Product Storytelling & Brand Experiences

    8. Product Storytelling


    McDonald’s Australia’s TrackMyMacca’s app. Click to play.

    When McDonald’s Australia set out to answer diner questions about the source of their ingredients, they used AR to turn the product packaging and tabletops into an animated world with a “Track My Macca’s” app. The app also used GPS, image recognition and the date and time to access McDonald’s supply chain info real time.

    Imagine similar technology being employed by other brands. What if a footwear shopper could scan a box of Toms and see a world map with an animated footpath, showing where a donated pair will go if they purchase their pair. Or, seeing stories of where other donated pairs gone. Imagine scanning a pair of Nike’s and seeing famous athletes and Olympians lace up and run off screen.


    Esquire’s Augmented Reality Issue. Click to play.

    9. Brand Experiences

    In Esquire Magazine’s March 2013 augmented reality issue, Fashion Story readers could control what Jeremy Renner is wearing, appropriate to the weather which they could also control.

    10. Consumer Engagement

    Back in 2010, LEGO rolled out their “Digital Box” augmented reality kiosks in brand stores, allowing shoppers to experience the world of the product inside the box.

    Self-Guided Virtual Tours


    Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating meVIEW™ AR app. Click to play.

    11. Showroom & Model Home Tours

    AR can also be used to revolutionize showrooms and model home tours. With well-placed AR hot spots, visitors can scan to see feature information, optional upgrades or even trigger popups with virtual agent talking heads.

    This example from Mitsubishi Electric shows-off their in-home product preview app but it’s easy to see how a similar application could be used to reveal optional upgrades during  a model home tour. The homebuyer can even snap pictures of virtual upgrades for revisiting post-tour or sharing on social networks.

    In-Store Shopping & Product Selection Tools

    It’s too early to count photography totally out in AR. For in-store shopping experiences where the physical product is on-hand, and in some product categories like Fashion in particular, traditional photography can still be useful.

    12. Apparel Shopping


    American Apparel’s augmented reality application. Click to play.

    American Apparel is using AR to make the same wealth of information available to online shoppers handy to those in-stores (customer reviews, videos, social sharing options). Except for the transparent overlay of the environment, it hardly augments reality in the same way as the previous examples and is barely different than scanning a QR code to launch a web page.

    The richest augmented reality experiences create virtual interaction with the product. Having mobile optimized 3D product objects and animations puts product marketers in position to take advantage of the best of what AR has to offer.


    Chime In
    Have you seen any other clever uses of AR in product marketing? Or, of these, which is your favorite?

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