Augmented reality and the future of print
As smart devices become smarter, the number of ways in which we use them in our everyday life continue to grow. One of the latest developments to change how we interact with our devices is augmented reality also known as AR. Although the term has popped up a lot more in the past couple of years, it's only recently that AR integrations have made their way into the print industry. Here's what the new landscape looks like.
What is augmented reality?
In contrast to virtual reality (VR) where developers create synthetic often imaginary environments, AR enables us to overlay real-world scenes with virtual components in real-time. As long as your smart device is AR-enabled, you can use AR features via their respective apps. At the moment, the two most commonly used AR development tools are ARKit by Apple and Google's ARCore.
Many well-known brands are already making use of this intriguing new technology, using it in practical applications that help potential customers overcome purchasing barriers. Swedish furniture giant Ikea, for example, developed an AR-enabled app that allows customers to measure and virtually place furniture in their home to see if it fits before they purchase it.
Gatwick Airport in London uses AR to create a more seamless airport experience for travellers. With the help of more than 2,000 virtual beacons, their airport app allows passengers to navigate their way through the airport more easily.
How can AR enhance print?
For print, AR presents a new and exciting way to make editorial and advertising content more interactive and, thus, increase audience engagement. A year ago, Time magazine launched an issue that featured four AR enhanced components, including an interview with the edition's guest editor Bill Gates and an animated infographic by contributor Bono. Readers could bring all AR integrations to life by opening their phone camera from within the Time mobile app.
For marketers, it presents an opportunity to make products virtually jump off the printed page and allows them to simulate instore experiences outside the walls of their brick-and-mortar location. For example, luxury watch manufacturer Rolex designed an AR-enabled print ad that allowed readers to try a Rolex there and then and even switch between different watch models.
Sports car manufacturer Porsche created an AR magazine ad which allowed people to take their latest 718 model for a test drive on a hillside racetrack, sit behind the wheel and virtually review different exterior design options. The ad was a roaring success on average, people spent three whole minutes participating in the virtual test drive.
While there is no doubt that augmented reality is transforming the way we interact with the digital world in real life, accessing AR integrations remains a bit of a hurdle for consumers. Similar to the early days of QR code scanners, there is no uniform application that can read and play all AR integrations on demand.
Currently, brands have to develop their own AR applications, which consumers then have to download onto their smart devices before being able to access the integration. Once used, consumers are unlikely to have further use for it unless brands continue to feed their applications with AR-enabled content.
Despite its current limitations, AR has the power to change how we read and view magazines, books and newspapers and we're ready for it.