Augmented reality apps and augmented reality in general is something that is becoming more and more prevalent in smart phone discussions. In truth they are not something I am interested in at this point. About two years ago I remember watching a nightly news report talking about QR codes and how they were the next “big thing” in our world. At the end of the report they talked about disbelief in QR codes and whether or not new technologies would one day make them worthless. Besides being incredibly shocked that I agreed with someone in the media, their comments resonated with me.
What is the point of having to download a bar code scanner, which is what QR code readers essentially do. They work fine, but wouldn’t you rather just take a picture of that weird fruit at the grocery store and just have your phone tell you it is a Dragon Fruit? What about at a sports venue? You see a hat at the football game, take a picture, and your phone directs you to the website to buy it. Is that not better than a QR code? The difference is down to the phone being able to recognize real objects and not just a barcode.
The issue at this point is the technology. In the last six months, three or four augmented reality apps have been shown to me. While they all have promise, most fail to live up to the hype. Most recently someone passed along Aurasma Lite. It is the best app in this area I have used, but it still fails to really produce a solid experience. The aspect that puts this one at the top for me is that it allows you to create your own augmented reality collateral. Most of the apps I have tried simply allowed you to use your phone to look at products from companies that had agreed to work with the app developer. This forced me to spend time looking for products just to test out the augmented reality app. If I found a product that would work with it, the apps usually failed to produce the desired experience. Aurasma on the other hand, allowed me to quickly create some augmented reality around the office. The OH logo, that we use on almost everything, will pop up a picture of the one and only Lil’ Duey. I enjoyed creating the items like this and though it was never as smooth as the video, I still created some augmented reality. The problem however, was the technology. If the OH logo does not have the exact same background or dimensions as the one I submitted when I created the augmented reality, it does not work.
The possibilities are endless with something like this, make your schools logo automatically link people to the tickets website? What about a picture of the Heisman Trophy candidate at your school automatically linking to a place where fans can vote for that candidate (JFF for Heisman!!)?
Where this technology goes will one day completely alter the way you reach your fan base. However, at this point, do you want to risk frustrating your fans? You will be asking them to download another app just to view something. But which app? This technology is mostly limited to smart phone apps. What do you do when two of your major sponsors bought in with competing apps? Unfortunately, at this point there is no major player in this market. As long as people have different apps to use this technology, marketing departments will have to create collateral across multiple apps in hopes of reaching their entire fan base.
All of these apps have great possibilities but are they worth it? Probably not or at least until the technology is open source and anyone can create their own augmented reality.