By 2020, more than 1 billion people are expected to use augmented reality products globally (Angel List), and by 2025, the global market size is projected to have risen to 198bn USD from 3.5bn USD in 2017 and 5.9bn USD in 2018 (Statista). What does this have to say about the place of augmented reality for small businesses?

With up to 70% of consumers saying that they can see the benefits of using augmented reality products every day (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), it has become critical for every future-minded business, whether small, medium or large scale enterprise, to give attention to this technology that is greatly changing consumer experiences.

Image via Unsplash.com

But First Things First, What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is the technology that expands or enhances our natural environment or situations, giving us an exciting and enriching experience, by adding layers of digital information. Just as its name implies, it helps us to see the environment in a different way by combining real-world views with computer-generated images or animation to create a new and more interactive experience. AR comes into play in various aspects of human experience, including gaming, brand experiences, product demonstrations, etc.

Image via Pixabay.com (zed interactive)

Since it was achieved in part in 1957 by a cinematographer named Morton Heilig, it has consistently evolved for the past five decades, and each time coming out better. The good news is that AR is here to stay and the technology is advancing, with more organizations working on how best to effectively maximise these developments. The earlier your business takes advantage of it, the better your chances of not being left behind your competitors.

What are the types of Augmented Reality (AR)?

There are four major types namely;

  • Marker-Based Augmented Reality
  • Marker-less Augmented Reality
  • Projection Augmented Reality
  • Superimposition Based Augmented Reality.

Let’s briefly look at each of them.

Marker-Based Augmented Reality

Image via mobidev.biz

This can be described as visual cues which trigger the display of the virtual information. Makers are normal images or small objects which are trained beforehand so that they can be recognized later in the camera stream. The core idea, according to Sanket Prabhu, a Technology Evangelist, is that a device (phone, tablet, etc) camera pulls in a visual of the surrounding, and the software on the device recognizes a particular “marker”, which then triggers the software to provide an output.

Marker-less Augmented Reality

Image via newatlas.com

This is a term used to describe an augmented reality application that does not need prior knowledge of a user’s environment to overlay 3D content into a scene and hold it to a fixed point in space. It actually started as hardware package, but has evolved into software-based SDKs that produce the same effect without requiring specialized equipment.

Projection augmented reality

George white wrote opined that projection augmented reality is technology that directly overlays digitals projections onto the physical world. It doesn’t require a device to mediate and project imagery. This creates the possibility of shared AR experiences and mixed reality experience that integrate tightly with the environment in which they are installed.

Superimposition Based Augmented Reality

Image via digit.in

Sanket Prabhu explained this type of augmented reality as that which replaces images fully or partially on a device with a newly augmented view of that same object. The objects are vital in that the application cannot replace the original view with an augmented one if it cannot determine what the object is. You can find an example of this kind of augmented reality in the Ikea augmented reality furniture catalog.

How Small Businesses Can Benefit from Augmented Reality

Creating new products or recreating/remodelling an old product

To create or recreate a product, several factors are put into consideration, like style, functionality, cost, the end users, and more. AR has the ability to ease the process in an effective manner. With AR you can visualize the product and its features in the desired environment before you actually commit more resources to building it. Using the automotive industry as an example, going by the recent investments the automobile industry has made in AR, it is on record that by 2020, it will leapfrog other industries. Why? They have come to know that using AR, you don’t have to spend so much to design a car and know its performance when you can visualize and test it using AR.

Helping customers make the right choice

Will I like this product? This is the question on the minds of many people shopping online. The inability to answer this question satisfactorily has resulted in reservations which climax at prospective customers not making purchases. This is considered a problem. Many business owners and corporations are putting in efforts to solve this problem. When making a purchase, customers won’t be limited to reviews; with AR, a prospect can try out furniture, clothes, fashion accessories and more by overlaying them on their image.

Improving customer experience

With AR you give users a new experience and a tool to create the content that they couldn’t have thought of before. AR also allows the customer to give instant feedback as they can interact with the products immediately. A happy customer is a happy business.

How Some Businesses Have Used AR

IKEA

IKEA Place was developed with Apple’s ARKit. The company took advantage of AR to help customers visualize how different IKEA furniture items would look in their homes or anywhere else they want to use it. With this, they have reduced the amount of returns and customers are more satisfied with their purchases.

Image via IKEA

ZARA

In place of window displays and in-store mannequins, Zara uses models and product demonstrations that can only be experienced through the Zara AR app.

COCA-COLA

Coca-Cola uses AR to enable store owners visualize how beverage coolers would look and fit in their stores by simulating soft drink coolers of different shapes, sizes, and designs.

Image via augment.com

Today, people prefer to see, believe, then buy the stuff. Augmented Reality makes that easily possible. AR is changing the shape and manner business is done and it’s a technology that is gaining more relevance by the day. The Interaction Design Foundation opined that there is an unlimited potential for AR. With so many ways to implement augmented reality for small businesses, how do you plan on using it in your business?

References: