Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that allows a camera on a webcam or mobile phone to overlay a picture or piece of other digital content (twitter feed, video etc.) onto the camera display.

So, for example, it’s possible with AR to point your mobile phone camera (or a camera on any internet-connected device) at a shop and for the AR application to overlay a menu or price list or special offer onto the display.

How does AR work?

There are a variety of ways. The first AR applications seemed to appear mainly for the iPhone. Activating the app would start the camera which the user would point at their environment and the camera would stream in digital content. For example, point the camera to the East and it would display any Twitter feeds from users tweeting in that direction and show their distance away from you.

Some of these early AR apps require a digital compass in the mobile phone to work so don’t expect them on your Blackberry any time soon (it doesn’t have one)!

How is this relevant for print and print marketing?

It’s increasingly common for marketers to print codes or icons or pictures which readers can scan with their webcam or mobile phone camera to trigger an AR data feed. A first step along this path is the QR code which, while not actually an augmented reality application, uses a similar technology to scan the code then take customers to relevant webpages. QR codes are scanned by a QR code reader on the smart phone which then opens the browser and displays the relevant page (or other similar action).

With AR, the AR icon or image can be scanned by the camera on your smart phone and the feed is then integrated into the camera picture to display the content, pulling it through into the camera picture rather than diverting the viewer somewhere else.

On a laptop, the reader may be asked to visit a website page where the page will ask for permission to use the webcam. The camera view will then be displayed and the reader holds up the page to the camera, which then triggers the data feed. This data can be more or less anything that can be digitally created.

Movie Trailers, 3D models that dance around and interact with the scene, simple games, enhanced photographs that move and speak – they can all enhance the printed material, add to the reader’s experience and drive targeted and measurable direct traffic.

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