AR, the metaverse and why marketers need to think about the new “space network”

Some said AR was dead. Current technologists disagree. Whether reimagining how we buy, fueling the growth of the creators ’economy, or approaching the brink of the metaverse, today’s mobile AR ecosystem lays the groundwork for new modes of interaction with the world. As part of The Drum’s special mobile dive, we delve into the latest events in mobile AR and analyze what’s on the horizon.

In a 2016 New Yorker article, tech writer Om Malik joked, “Augmented reality is the‘ boy who cried wolf ’in the post-internet world: it’s been promised for a long time, but rarely has been delivered successfully “. He continued to explore the possible implications of Niantic’s Pokémon Go, which had just been released in July 2016. It is unlikely that Malik could have predicted that the AR mobile game would turn into a lightning bolt in a bottle, attracting about 232 million of users.

Half a decade later, and Pokémon Go seems like a half-forgotten fever dream, which some might say supports Malik’s original assessment of RA as an overexpressed but ultimately disappointing technology. Today’s numbers, however, tell a different story. The global RA market is expected to reach a valuation of more than $ 3.401 billion in 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 43.8% between this year and 2028.

Mobile RA has already become the keystone of our daily lives. There are camera filters, sometimes lol and sometimes too flattering from Snapchat and Instagram. Below are the applications whose interfaces offer a digitized view of the actual infrastructure and geography, from Google Maps to Uber.

Even with AR woven discreetly into the fabric of our lives, many experts argue that perhaps the technological, sociological, and economic landscape of our present moment offers more opportunities for innovation in mobile AR than ever before.

Smartify, Google Lens and the AR-assisted trade revolution

The pandemic and its associated effects have significantly accelerated the growth of RA in mobile. With consumers around the world trapped at home, they were consuming media and using their mobile devices more than ever. In parallel with this change, the world saw an influx of new RA purchasing and trading capabilities made for mobile. A May 2021 Deloitte report indicates that of the world’s 1.5 billion RA users, 100 million already use AR to buy.

“We absolutely saw the AR take off in important ways during the pandemic, especially in response to trade and retail, with virtual testing experiences from previewing furniture and products in your home with everyday brands like Amazon to try virtually luxury fashion labels such as Gucci, ”says Dr. Helen Papagiannis, an influential RA major and author of the book Augmented Human. “Once a ‘nice’ feature, AR has quickly become an essential technology for retailers.”

A perhaps unexpected player engaged in AR-driven commerce is Smartify, the popular AR app that allows users to interact with artwork from galleries and museums in real time. With a database of more than 2.5 million pieces, the app can identify real-world artwork and provide users with more information about the work on their mobile devices. And while the main purpose of the app is to spread information about art, the company is investing in new business solutions. “We’re doing everything we can to help museums generate vital revenue after the pandemic,” says founder Anna Lowe. “We are about to launch a museum market so that visitors can ‘get out of the digital gift shop’; there is no better opportunity to sell a Mona Lisa poster than when the visitor is right in front of the Mona Lisa, and only one application can make that happen. ”

But perhaps no company leads the charge on retail and RA trends as much as Google. In December, the tech technician launched two AR beauty tools that allow users to experiment to see what different cosmetics would look like on their faces (or on a diverse range of models) while buying beauty products.

Meanwhile, Google Lens, the tool that allows users to take a picture of something and find out what it is by leaving it in Google Search for real-time image-guided queries, has released a new feature that allows users buy without problems from the pictures. or screenshots they make. Last month, the company announced that Google Photos will begin asking users for a suggestion to use Lens when taking screenshots. “Imagine you’re moving through a social channel and you see a pair of shoes that you like – you can capture that image and then use Lens to identify them and find out where you can buy them,” says Adrian Tout, AR / Google Lens product collaborations on Google. Today, Lens can identify more than 15 billion objects, more than a billion just two years ago. It is used more than 3 billion times a month worldwide.

Tout also notes that RA is now integrated directly into Google Search on mobile devices. “While Lens lets you search for what you see, AR in Search lets you see what you’re looking for,” he says. “We started with animals and educational content and, at the end of 2020, we started piloting RA for product searches, starting with cars and beauty. While we can’t yet share specific plans, it’s safe to say that we’re evaluating other categories … all with the larger goal of providing a richer, more visual user experience in Google Search and supporting wider commercial ecosystem “.

The creators will drive tomorrow’s RA

While numerous applications allow users to surface content from the physical world, many experts believe that user-generated content will be critical to achieving greater potential to advance in RA technology.

The growth of the creators ’economy has already been a key force in boosting existing RA mobile platforms. A quick scroll through the endless filters on Snapchat and Instagram Stories immediately evidences the proliferation of user-created content and how creators are driving the development of free RA.

“Simplifying and democratizing content creation for RA is a key trend to consider,” notes Dr. Papagiannis. “Snapchat is … driving AR capable of empowering creators and brands alike. Snapchat lenses can even be considered mini apps. We’re seeing how the usefulness and promise of these experiences expand with new RA capabilities, such as Snap’s connected lenses that allow real-time shared interactions, either in the same room or around the world.This is important for virtual reality to exist as a means of mass communication, it must being multi-user and two-way. For the most part, RA has been a unique user experience and this is starting to change in important ways. “

Other major players like Google are investing heavily in the creative movement. “The biggest area that will evolve will be content,” Tout says. “Content is the mainstay for visual commerce and will be no different for 3D / AR.” Tout claims there are several hurdles that the industry will have to navigate first “before 3D content creation is really democratized.”

To help advance growth driven by RA creators, Google has introduced a set of interoperable tools and standards, such as Gitf, an open source tool for transmitting 3D model data between its authoring tools and other media. Tout says the company is helping to scale the ecosystem with open source tools like ARCore, Scene Viewer and Model-Viewer, and is actively integrating partner content into its interfaces. “For example, with Model-Viewer, partners can deliver a 3D / AR experience to their web property with just one line of code,” he says. “It’s never been easier to make high-quality 3D / RA experiences come to life on the web.”

Metaverse marketing

Increasingly, experts are seeing us launch closer and closer to the so-called metaverse, where physical and digital reality are completely combined and a semi or fully virtual reality becomes a reality. “The real transformation will come when the challenges of RA headset optics and the reality of an ever-active digital overlay of the world are resolved,” says Alex Nelson, principle of future experiences in the research and development branch of the BBC. “The last question that remains is who will own the metaverse AR, an ever-present virtual world that maps to the real. It may seem like science fiction, but being able to present content specific to the user’s location and context it is very convincing both for the public and for those who compete to be the great protagonists of RA ”.

Nelson helped develop Civilizations AR, an immersive mobile app launched in 2018 that allows users to explore a range of exhibits and interact with famous artifacts in a personalized way.

And Nelson is certainly engaged in something; the fusion of the physical and digital worlds is a change that could elevate marketing and commerce to an unprecedented degree. In fact, it may not be a distant reality. “I really think we’re on the brink of a new website, a‘ space web, ’as Gabriel Rene said, where 3D will become the standard format,” says Luis Bravo Martins. Martins is head of marketing at KIT-AR, a company that aims to help reduce manufacturing errors and waste in the workshop with RA and AI solutions that allow manufacturers to visualize the correct procedures superimposed on their equipment.

Martin suggests that marketers can face some of the biggest challenges of all in a metaverse. If users increasingly interact with the real world through filters, brands will compete to superimpose their messages and reality on the physical world. “This will completely change outdoor advertising, all of a sudden, in the same space, [users] you can see different and even competitive ads. The RA will allow it [users] to literally recreate this world digitally, so how will your brand help them do that? It will not be possible to bring the content of our current website to metaverse, as we will lose screens and add voice and gesture commands. “

The trick will be to balance marketing goals with consumer demands not only of data privacy, but also of human design and a fundamental respect for autonomy. “Our phones are almost ubiquitous AR wonders with sensor,” says Dr. Papagiannis. “The next step is to use these sensors to design contextual experiences that respond to your physical environment, while being very mindful and without sacrificing privacy.”

In many ways, Martin thinks, merchandise sellers will have to bear the brunt of this responsibility, as they are likely to be the ones shaping this new reality. “We, as marketing professionals … are the first and foremost barrier between the social and economic happiness provided by AR and dystopia,” he says. “We will be responsible for the first RA experiences for most of the world’s population … I see our role changing over this decade, adding two more skill sets to our data-centric digital profiles: maintaining -update us with emerging technologies, how they grow in diversity and are combinatorial … and align the values ​​of our brands with the causes of the end consumer, whether ecological, cultural or philanthropic, but in a way that allows brands are part of an intentional customer journey. The CMO of the future will probably be a third of marketing, a third of technologists and a third of activists, but with luck and, above all, 100% focused on human beings ”.

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