Nick Grant

DESIGN TECHNOLOGIST

WebAR: The Future of Augmented Reality

WRITING

What is the current state of AR? How will innovative WebAR transform personal shopping?

Do you remember your first experience with augmented reality? Perhaps you added dog ears to your face with a Snapchat Filter. Or you caught Eevee in Pokémon Go. While the majority of smartphone users are familiar with AR for entertainment purposes, WebAR will completely transform how we interact with our surroundings. In WebAR, users experience AR with a simple link rather than an app. As WebAR becomes commonplace, so will marketing initiatives.

AR is the utilization of technology to overlay information within our physical environment. The information may be sound, text, images, and animations. The field may be broken down into several types, such as marker-based, marker-less, and superimposition-based AR.

Marker-based AR relies on image recognition. Your smartphone detects the object in front of the camera, which then produces information on the screen. For example, Scanbuy has partnered with thousands of companies to allow users to scan the QR code on their products. The user is brought to a page that reveals a plethora of information beyond the simple label, such as product, allergen, sustainability, and recycling information.

New advancements in technology have created marker-less, or location-based, AR. In contrast to marker-based AR, this improvement does not require the scanning of a specific physical object. Rather, our smartphones automatically scan our surroundings to overlay 3D content. The most popular example is Pokémon Go, which has produced $894 million in gross player spending in 2019 according to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence.

Superimposition based AR either partially or fully replaces the view of an object with an AR view of that same subject. The alternative view is widely used in healthcare, military, and retail AR applications. A prime example is the IKEA AR furniture catalog. By downloading IKEA Place and scanning objects in a print or digital catalog, users are able to place the advertised furniture pieces in their homes.

Unfortunately, a tremendous innate challenge exists for all of these mobile applications. The user must find the app, press download, and wait. What if we could minimize these steps? In WebAR, experiencing 3D objects in real-time is as easy as sending a text message.

WebAR is accessed via a web browser. The revolution will completely transform marketing. Companies will have the ability to communicate with their customers directly with powerful interactive content. Imagine being able to open a link, visualize products in your physical reality, click a user interface element to access further information about pricing, and potentially capture the image for future reference. Need advice from a friend? Simply press the share button.

Some brands are already leading the pack. In South Africa, Coca-Cola ran a WebAR campaign in partnership with AR firm Zappar and agency SkyDigital SA. The #RefreshWherevs campaign utilized QR codes on packages that brought the user to a branded WebAR page.

While on the web page, the users tried entertaining face filters and shared the experience with their friends. Playful bottle caps and springs hovered above the user’s head. The ongoing initiative proved successful among the “Gen Z” demographic. In the future, posters, newspapers, and billboards will all serve as platforms for engrossing AR experiences.

A gigantic benefit of WebAR is the lower cost of development. Constructing thorough AR mobile applications is a highly technical and expensive challenge. Large companies invested their resources in emerging media technology as smaller studios observed on the sidelines. Once WebAR splash pages become mainstream, however, the deployment process will be easy for any type of business to incorporate.

According to a report by Grand View Research, the AR market is expected to reach $100.24 billion by 2024. Additionally, AR experiences acquire significantly higher dwell times. The average dwell time, which is how long the user spends viewing a document after clicking a link, for 80 percent of users is two minutes.

While WebAR appears transformative and dominant, our current state of technology has not fully caught up to our expectations. Performance is better in apps due to the higher capacity for memory. Web browsers cannot handle high-quality visuals and animations. Furthermore, they lack access to all of the capabilities of your smartphone.

Although WebAR may be limited, advancements in smartphone technology will allow for stronger web browsers. Technological change is remarkably speedy. A distinct advantage of WebAR is the ability to circulate immersive experiences in the mass population. Your particularly fascinating WebAR experience may end up as a viral phenomenon. Once the development platform is finalized, marketing will never be the same again.

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