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4 years in, augmented reality in smartphones has yet to catch on

Matt Hamblen | May 14, 2014
Four years have passed since augmented reality apps for smartphones started appearing in app stores for consumer use, but the trend has been slow to catch on.

One of the more successful recent uses of AR, in Nguyen's opinion, uses the Ikea home furnishing catalog that debuted last year. With Ikea's AR app, a user at home points a smartphone or tablet at an item in the catalog to see on the device's display a couch, chair or table within that user's living space, as shown in this video. For its catalog app, Ikea relied on AR-provider Metaio, which boasts Macy's, Audi and McDonald's among its clients.

With the Ikea augmented reality app, a user points a smartphone at an item in the catalog, such as this round table, and can see the item on the smartphone in the user's living space. (Image: Screengrab of Ikea video)

Other AR approaches for use with handheld devices are also emerging. Seacoast Media Group, a regional newspaper chain in the Northeast, plans to launch in June a free AR app for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets called SMG Shine.

A photo, headline or ad in one of SMG's six print newspapers could act as a trigger to launch a streaming video or other content, according to Colin Smith, digital marketing specialist for SMG.

"You might hold your phone or tablet over a picture of a high school basketball player taking a jump shot and get to see the rest of the play and other game highlights," Smith said. "From an advertising standpoint, if you see a picture or a listing of a house in a real estate ad that catches your attention, you could 'shine' a tour of the house immediately, rather than looking up the website or calling to hear information."

Smith said he understands how some users might want to avoid an AR app that promotes ads, but said the "strength of the idea is that it promotes user-engaging advertisements. Users hate advertisements that don't deliver content ,and this app sets up a platform for that content to be delivered in an entertaining way."

User-driven engagement is more important than ever in advertising and marketing, Smith said. "The movement happening in content marketing, whether digital or not, is user-driven," he said. "We are doing this for users, not advertisers. The app obviously requires success from an advertising standpoint, but we are far more excited at the prospect of having users of the app feel more connected to both our printed materials as well as local companies in general. My goal is to make the experiences richer. It's not a trap at all, just technology making an experience deeper."

There's little doubt that AR apps will be used with Google Glass and other emerging wearables, although its value might take years to be fully realized, analysts said.

 

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