Augmented Reality: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Illustration of a smartphone with various types of furniture entering the real space outside the phone. Augmented reality ultimate guide
Illustration of a smartphone with various types of furniture entering the real space outside the phone. Augmented reality ultimate guide

Planning for the future has always prompted larger-than-life ideas. One such idea has been built (and deployed) right here in the present. It’s called augmented reality (AR), and it’s giving cutting-edge brands a whole new way to create contentengage audiences, and create lasting impressions.

While you might not be familiar with augmented reality, chances are you’ve experienced it in some way. For example, those funky filters on your phone that turn your face into a dog? That’s augmented reality at play. And those friendly little critters in Pokemon Go? That’s all the handiwork of AR.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the intersection of reality and virtual technology and how you might apply it in your branded experiences.

Table of Contents:

Definition: What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Using a tablet to view augmented reality.

Let’s start with a solid augmented reality definitionwhat is AR, really?

We define augmented reality as a live direct or indirect view of the real world with elements that have been "augmented," or enhanced, by computer-generated graphics, audio, or video.

Brands use this technology for marketing, training, gaming, entertainment, and other applications. We commonly see them as social media filters or interactive games, but there are many other use cases.

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Don’t confuse AR with virtual reality (VR). When comparing augmented reality vs. virtual reality, VR creates a completely simulated world while AR adds digital elements to the existing world.

With augmented reality (AR), computer-generated images are superimposed over a user's real-world view. Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, is a completely simulated environment.

Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Augmented reality has the advantage of being more immersive than virtual reality. Because users can see their real-world surroundings, they feel more connected to the experience. Additionally, they can play augmented reality games anywhere, since all they need is a smartphone or tablet.

The downside to AR is that it's not as realistic as VR. The graphics are usually not as detailed, and the gameplay can be choppy if there's too much going on in the real world.

With VR, the inverse is true. Experiences are more detailed, even though they feel other-worldly. They also tend to work seamlessly because they exist in their own ecosystem, completely detached from the real world.

What Are Augmented Reality Examples?

Using a phone to view augmented reality

Though it might seem like new, cutting-edge technology, AR has been around for quite some time. Many companies have found practical ways to put it to use in real-world environments.

Let’s look at some augmented reality examples:

Augmented Reality Games

One of the most popular and well-known examples of augmented reality games is Pokémon GO.

This smartphone app game allows players to catch virtual Pokémon in the real world using their smartphone’s camera. The game also uses GPS to track the player’s location and displays Pokémon nearby.

AR Technology

Another example of AR-enhanced technology is Google Glass.

Google Glass is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display. It looks like a pair of glasses, except the device can take pictures, record videos, and get directions. The device displays this information directly to the wearer via the heads-up display.

Augmented Reality in Interior Design

We also see AR systems at work in interior design and decorating.

For example, an interior design firm might develop an AR app to do mock-ups of a client’s home or business. The user can see what a certain piece of furniture, paint color, tile, or design might look like in their home before they move forward.

Augmented Reality in Education and Training

Using a phone for virtual experiments

Augmented reality in education is also growing in popularity.

One example is an app called “ChemLab,” which allows students to perform virtual experiments on a smartphone or tablet. The app provides step-by-step instructions and includes safety information for each experiment. It also creates a low-risk environment for novice scientists.

The same goes for any type of training, really. Companies and organizations can train employees to do high-risk jobs in a low-risk environment before they move on to using real tools or equipment in real situations.

Augmented Reality Books

Phone showing augmented reality city

Augmented reality books are getting a turn in the spotlight. Authors can animate their book covers and bring their characters and settings to life.

Here you see an example of a physics book with AR features that is sort of a hybrid between augmented reality in education and an AR book:

Here we also have an example of a children's book where animals come to live using augmented reality software:

Augmented Reality Art

Museums are putting AR-enhanced technology to work in the form of augmented reality art.

AR can provide artists with space for their artworks when physical space is limited. Museums can also use AR to add explanations or supplementary content to their displays to create augmented reality art.

Augmented Reality Crypto

Augmented reality experiences can provide an overlay of information to digital currencies that can help users understand the complex data associated with these assets.

For instance, an AR application could display an overlay of prices and market movements while a user is looking at their portfolio. This would allow them to quickly understand how their investments are performing without having to look at separate screens or charts.

AR can also be used to create new experiences for users when they're using digital crypto currencies.

Augmented Reality News

Enhancement of news coverage with augmented reality

News organizations are using augmented reality systems to provide enhanced coverage of events and breaking news stories.

For example, The New York Times created an AR experience to accompany their report on the reconstruction of the World Trade Center. This gave readers a chance to see what the new buildings will look like once they are completed.

AR can also be used to create virtual tours of locations that would be otherwise inaccessible. News organizations can provide their audiences with a first-hand look at places that they might not be able to visit in person.

Let's check out this example compilation of augmented reality news that have actually been broadcasted:

What Augmented Reality Software And Hardware Are Required To Implement AR?

Brands looking to build augmented reality apps, games, and other experiences will need special hardware and software.

Augmented Reality Hardware

If you want to create an AR experience, you’ll benefit from the following hardware:

  • A powerful graphics card (like Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super)
  • A fast computer processor
  • At least 16GB of RAM
  • A solid-state drive (SSD) can also help to reduce lag during rendering and processing.
Any type of app development requires a lot of RAM and computing power, so having more than the minimum is helpful.

Augmented Reality Software

The hardware runs augmented content, but you’ll also need software to create the content. The software works in conjunction with devices, including augmented reality glasses, headsets, phones, tablets, and others.

You can buy purpose-built augmented reality software to develop your content. There are different types of AR software to do different things, such as creating virtual objects, animating objects, creating frameworks for augmented reality games, or developing training programs.

Most AR software includes a content management system and editing tools to help you perfect your content. Some software solutions are user-friendly with drag-and-drop elements — no coding experience required. Others are more complex and require specialized expertise.

How Can AR Create Value for Businesses?

Augmented reality is still in its nascent stage, with businesses just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible. But companies are already using AR to create value, largely by enhancing the customer experience.

Create Better Self-Service Experiences

One way businesses are using AR technology is by creating more self-service experiences for customers. AR allows companies to overlay digital content on top of real-world objects and provide customers with more information about products or services. It can also give them directions or even tell stories.

Using augmented reality to choose furniture.

For example, IKEA has an app that lets users see how furniture would look in their homes before they buy it. Users can open the app and use their phone’s camera to capture their space and see how an IKEA lamp, table, chair, sofa, or another item will look in that space. It’s a great way to visualize the color and size of furnishings in the space it will live.

Create Immersive Experiences

Businesses are also using augmented reality to create immersive experiences.

AR headsets like the HoloLens allow users to interact with digital content as if it were part of the real world. This AR technology is being used by businesses in a variety of industries, from architecture to healthcare.

Create Accessible Experiences

One area of opportunity for using AR is to create more accessible experiences. Adding virtual elements can turn any device into an assistive device for those with disabilities.

AR can also help brands think more critically about accessibility and inclusion.

AR has been touted as the “ultimate empathy machine” because it can help users view situations from a different perspective. It gives them a chance to interact with their surroundings in ways that can give companies fresh insight into how disabled or handicapped customers and employees might view their experiences, for example.

Give More Power to The Customers

The value of augmented reality apps comes down to one point: putting power into the customers’ hands. It allows them to take control of their experiences and engage with your brand in ways that are meaningful and effective for them.

Shopping with augmented reality will become a thing:

Putting AR to work for you

With topics like the Metaverse trending hot, you might be wondering whether investing in augmented reality technologies is right for you. One way to find out is to learn how your audience feels about AR and whether creating these immersive experiences is worthwhile.

At Meltwater, we’re helping brands get inside their audience’s minds by tracking behaviors, conversations, and engagement across the digital journey. Learn more about what your audience needs and wants before you start bridging the gap between virtual technology and the real-life physical world.

Contact us today for a demo!

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