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The Influencers

Why Advertisers Should Pay Attention to the Rise of AR Technology

Nexus Studio's Colin Davis explains key reasons and examples of why ad-industry professionals need to do their research on immersive technologies

Why Advertisers Should Pay Attention to the Rise of AR Technology

On August 2nd, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said in his quarterly earnings call, “"I could not be more excited about AR [augmented reality] and what we're seeing with ARKit... I think AR is big and profound. This is one of those huge things that we'll look back at and marvel on the start of it.”

As the kid sibling of virtual reality (VR), AR has been steadily gaining momentum but has been operating in VR’s shadow.

But everything changed on June 15th, 2017. As part of its annual developer conference, Apple mentioned that iOS 11 will include the ARKit -- support for AR as part of the core of the operating system. 

This jargon-heavy, just-one-of-a-thousand-other-changes that Apple announced during that developer conference has created a massive explosion of investment in the already-substantial augmented reality race. Why? Because the barrier to creating AR content just dropped massively. Creating an AR app used to be a semi-hefty, make-the-platform-yourself endeavor, but now like so many other services including location or the cloud, is included. Google is making similar investments, with the Tango platform, but for now this looks to rely on specific Tango-enabled phones, most of which are set to come out this fall. (I suspect that the hardware requirements will subside similarly to how Apple is handling it, but for now, the experiences are more tightly coupled with the new hardware.)

But why is AR something that advertisers should care about? In short: it brings much of the magic of virtual reality to the masses on the phones and tablets they already own. The need for high-end gaming PCs or awkward scuba-like masks goes away and people are able to mix the fantastic with the mundane. 

Take a look at this video of the kinds of magic possible with AR

But keeping your finger on the pulse of the ever changing tech world can be a full time job, so here are some tips to stay ahead of the augmented reality wave and bring your clients relevant and inspiring ideas.

1) Focus investment efforts on the web not apps
The era of every brand having an app is declining for multiple reasons and this posed a real challenge to advertisers and brands that wanted to keep a very high bar for user experience. But over the past year or so, there has been a lot of investment from Apple and Google to provide support for progressive web apps (PWAs) which get much closer to app-like experiences within the browser. 

AR is no exception to this. You can already do this in Google’s Chrome on Android, but as of now, in order to create an AR experience on iOS you need to create an app, but we suspect that Apple will enable access directly from Safari. So for the time being, WebAR will still lag behind an app experience but that gap should close rapidly.

2) Track experiments #madewitharkit on Twitter. 
Because of the ease to create new AR experiences in iOS 11, there has been a lot of creative exploration of its potential. Much of the latest creative experiments are happening in iOS because of the ease, and its everyday, clever and innovative ways of using the ARKit to being published. 

#projecttango has similar activity, but in terms of creative uses, the ARKit developers seem to be more active. 

This is an easy way to stay on top of clever and fun uses of the technology, lots of which you can adapt or be inspired for your clients.

3) Find a good creative technology partner
There’s no reason to suspect that the pace of AR and VR technologies will slow down and trying to keep up can easily distract you from the core of your job - communicating your client’s story. Finding a good creative technology partner will help you take your strategic vision for your clients and pick the best platform and technology to express that. It’s all too easy to get caught up in novelty or spectacle, but if our industry is going to make long-standing changes in how we engage with our audiences, we need to hold on tight to the core emotional experiences we want our audiences to have.  

This is why having a good creative technology partner is key. In many ways, the tech part is easy -- honestly, that is becoming a commodity service. The tech is a tool, but finding a good partner that can help you tell the right story (bringing animation, editorial or other storytelling tools to the table) with that technology is what’s key. This enables you to focus your energy and your creativity on what you do best, and partner with those that can help bring those insights to life with technology. Tech is just a container - find a partner that can fill it with the content (3d, video, audio, etc.) that connects with your audience. 

When iOS 11 comes out this fall, there will literally be millions of augmented reality devices overnight. There is amazing, almost magical potential in AR. Get inspired, get a partner and get developing!