Augmented reality is the next mass media – are you ready for the revolution?

This is a viewpoint from Chris Elson, client development manager at Diverse Interactive.

Hate it or love it, there’s a content-experience juggernaut knocking at our door: Augmented reality.

There’s no avoiding it. There’s no burying your head in the sand, and there’s certainly no pause for thinking that this unstoppable force will pass. For what’s coming at us at breakneck speed is the most significant advancement in how we use our mobile devices since they began dominating our lives over a decade ago.

In fact, if you listen closely, you can almost hear that sound of inevitability thundering overhead.

The revolution begins

The revolution hatched peacefully on the night of July 6th, 2016. This was the day that Pokémon Go was launched to the world.

What followed over the next month was a complete takeover of more than 100 million smartphones worldwide. Pokémon Go had arrived, and with it came Augmented Reality’s first public smash hit. A hit that took over the lives of over 1.33% of the world population, smashing App Store records in the process.

CAPITOLA, CALIFORNIA – JULY 13, 2016: The hit augmented reality smartphone app “Pokemon GO” shows a Pokemon encounter at a mall fountain in the real world.

The world never saw such a global clean sweep when it came to interactive content experiences. People found themselves in weird and wonderful new places as they chased the freaky little onscreen creatures.

Think about it, has there ever been such a single greater movement of people worldwide, all focused on one objective? At least as a physical movement of people on the same scale as per what Pokémon Go! managed to achieve, the answer is a resounding NO.

When you look back at the past 20 years of mobile technology and content experiences, the focus was more on having us stay put than interacting with our physical environment. So what Pokémon Go! has therefore achieved is nothing short of extraordinary.

How Pokémon Go made augmented reality a thing

Pokémon Go is augmented reality in its purest form. The game layers interactive digital content on to the real world around us to make everything a bit more engaging. It bridged the gap and brought together our physical and digital lives.

And people loved it!

Fast forward to today. It’s been nearly two years since Pokémon Go kick-started the augmented reality revolution.

In that time, two behemoths have stepped into the ring: Google and Apple. Their mission is simple: to make accessing augmented reality content as open and as easy as possible. These two giants are taking care of the hardware and the software, so you don’t have to! After all, these two brands have hundreds of millions of users that can be easily induced to try augmented reality experiences.

Augmented reality pops up in social media

Now backing these two players up, we’ve got the new kids on the block, Snapchat and Facebook/Instagram, both fighting for the rights to your device’s camera – the jewel in the crown as far as augmented reality is concerned.

In the left corner, you’ve Snapchat, whose augmented reality face-filters took everyone’s selfie game to the next level back in 2015. In the right corner, you’ve got Facebook – whose Camera Effects launched in 2017.

Now let’s reflect on where we’ve come from. When you pause for thought, suddenly all becomes clear. Augmented reality isn’t something that is going to happen sometime in the future. It has happened.

Although the technology is here to stay thanks to millions of Pokémon Go users, it’s not quite yet in the mainstream. Many non-Pokémon crazy users understand the concept but have had little-to-no experience with using augmented reality. except for many, the association between concept and application isn’t yet there.

What’s ahead for augmented reality

Instead of getting caught up in AR’s place on the adoption curve, let’s focus on the near-term future of augmented reality. When we look back at the numbers, thanks to Google, Apple, Facebook, and Snapchat, there’s a global audience out there waiting to consume and engage with augmented reality content.

Why? Because we as digital natives are restless!

Bored of 2D content, we’ve watched it move from the silver screen, to the television, the computer the laptop and the mobile device and it hasn’t changed. It’s just got smaller. Augmented reality finally allows us to break free from the shackles of two dimensions and into a world of three. Augmented reality makes our world more engaging. Fact.

You don’t have to take my word for it, or that of the 750,000,000 people who have downloaded Pokémon Go, or the 16,000,000 daily viewers of Snapchat’s selfie lenses. Or even that of the 1.5 billion owners of smart-devices capable of viewing AR content to understand that augmented reality isn’t going anywhere. It’s only going to get stronger and even more influential.

So rather than resist and keep kidding yourself that it’s either not for you, or “is only for millennials” (which by the way now includes people up to the age of 35! Like, when did that happen?!) it’s about time that we all started to pay attention to augmented reality.

Some examples to download and experience yourself

We need to understand it’s potential with regards to being able to deliver a completely unique and personalized content experience that is unparalleled in terms of its audience engagement.

You know, just like what Dulux have done with their augmented reality product visualizer (19 million downloads), or IKEA and their revitalized augmented reality furniture app released in 2017.

Even Ribena who took augmented reality by the balls last year when they launched their Doodle Your World AR App.

You can even look down to the South Coast of England and see the city of Bournemouth and surrounding areas use augmented reality with their GoBo Coast App, that gives visitors the opportunity to unlock unique AR characters as they make their way around the place, on the hunt for more.

Away from the seaside and into the woods, there’s the Forestry Commission who in 2017 launched their Gruffalo Spotters App – an augmented reality experience that encouraged everyone to take to the forest trails in search of woodland creatures and fantastic beasts (over 1 million downloads so far I am reliably informed). This was a clever move of matching some of the Pokémon fever with a brand’s own unique proposition — in this case, it’s own physical location.

AR is encroaching on the mainstream — so get ready

The writing really is on the wall — augmented reality is something that demands your attention. It should be embraced with the same enthusiasm as the internet 20 years ago because we know how that turned out. AR is ripe for new ways of storytelling, as well as expanding existing business models and creating new ones.

Ignore AR and before you know it you’ll find yourself like Nokia trying to exist in an iPhone world, wondering why your numbers are falling and how you’re going to recover. The time for change is now, so make it. And make it with augmented reality.

This is a viewpoint from Chris Elson, client development manager at Diverse Interactive.

Opinions and views expressed by all guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of tnooz, its writers, or its partners.

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