“There is a Pokémon in our office right now. Right by my desk. He’s pretty aggressive and I can’t catch him.” So says Create & Cultivate Director of Social, Priscilla Castro, who is attempting to explain the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. I have virtually-- augmented or otherwise-- no idea what she’s talking about. She’s spinning the ball and throwing it “as a curve ball” so it’s easier. I have more questions than answers at this point.
I grew up in the generation of Beanie Babies and Pogs (neither of which I collected) and missed the Pokémon boat entirely, so this Augmented Reality game that has taken the world by storm and has taken over Twitter in terms of active daily users, is new to me. The best current estimated number of Poképeeps? 9.5 million active players. There are hazard signs on highways telling drivers not to Pokémon and drive. There are people rushing about, catching these little dudes, and forming new bonds and making new friends.
There is a Poke stop about half a block from our office at Momed Cafe in Atwater. “The way it works is so smart,” explains Priscilla. “Even though this stop is right next door, I still have to walk outside and down the street to collect it. It’s forcing people out of their homes and more so, out of their comfort zones.”
This sentiment is being echoed by the 9+million users players. I've overheard some LA-based residents say it’s making LA feel like a small town. Others applaud the game’s ability to forge community and get the generation of people who don’t leave their houses, to pound the pavement in search of the Pokémon.
“It’s easy for someone to say, I’m going to drive around and catch Pokémon,” says Priscilla, “but there are tricks built into game. If you catch an egg, for example, you have to walk to hatch said egg.” Makes sense?
But beyond the Pokémon phenomenon, what does Augmented Reality mean for the future of business? Will it really help foster community, or will the “choose your own adventure” aspect only further isolate people?
Here are some ways AR is going to change the future.
BEYOND GAMING, BEYOND POKEMON
If you want to get your business in the game, you need to think of AR outside of the realm of video games. Augmented Reality is already being used by many professionals who see the benefits of the technology. Construction and design is one such field that jump on the trend of the future.
Architect Yan Krmsky of Yazdani Studio uses VR/AR to showcase design work to clients. Last year he built out the structural frame for a dorm project, but the “finished” product was viewed and experienced by the client through the Oculus.
(To note: the Oculus Rift is considered Virtual Reality technology where the user interacts with a virtual experience-- nothing is of the “real” world, but rather everything the wearer sees and and experiences is virtual. AR is slightly different in that the user is interacting with an “augmented” version of reality. In the case of Pokémon GO, the character appears in your world via screen. You’re not entering a different world.)
Design is no longer experienced as a 3D model but as a fully realized structure. This approach benefits business in multiple ways. It saves on product development and prototyping. “AR allows you to market a product without a fully tactile prototype,” he says. “It’s really an amazing marketing tool.”
Heather Lipner of Drawsta sees business moving in a similar direction. “AR provides a digital layer of visual content. For fashion bloggers I can imagine them wearing and sharing the content - for example if it’s on the tee like Drawsta.”
“For beauty” she says, “I can imagine video bloggers and makeup artists working with AR makeup apps like Loreal’s Makeup Genius to create looks to try on and let the audience quickly wear and share. Once we have AR glasses there won’t be as strong of a need to wear the tactile look - it will faster and more fun to change, explore and wear digital looks.”
In the future, will be all be naked?
A FEW BRANDS THAT HAVE ALREADY MADE THE JUMP
This is not brand new tech. In 2013 Ikea launched an app within iOS where shoppers could place IKEA furniture in their home with the help of AR.
Volvo created an AR experience where consumers could “test drive” their new S60 model. Volvo said the results were “outstanding,” with a 9.6% interaction rate, 192,319 clicks on the masthead ad and a traffic increase of 293% to volvocars.com.
Clothing giant ASOS has also used AR to bring its magazine to life. With the use of Blippar, a leading AR app, ASOS used click-to-buy icons that allows readers to purchase outfits right off the page. With this tech head-to-toe dressing and purchasing is made that much easier, as is capturing and banking on the curse of instant gratification.
In 2015 when Rihanna released her eight album, ANTI, she did so in conjunction with a virtual reality experience that brought you into the room seen in the trailer for her video. Samsung called the project "the beginning of an unforgettable exclusive journey through Rihanna's life story" that took "fans inside the mind of an iconic artist while blurring the lines between the digital and physical world."
Using AR as a marketing technique not only captures the consumer in a new way but it also gives the consumer more control, answering some of the questions marks in the online buying process before committing to a purchase.
"Using AR as a marketing technique not only captures the consumer in a new way but it also gives the consumer more control."
EXIST WITHIN A DIFFERENT REALITY THAN REALITY
If it sounds too sci-fi, it’s not. The ability to exist within a different reality opens the door to a myriad of worlds (literally) for businesses.
Let’s say you want to open a restaurant. Rather than design and construct a single restaurant you can build out a very basic raw framework in the “real” world while giving your patrons multiple options to choose from with the aid of wearables. Everyone in the restaurant could have a different experience within the space. If you hate modern design, you could chose a Spanish villa setting. Someone else could be immersed in a French classicism dining experience. The possibilities are endless.
The space becomes less important as the tech becomes better. Within one raw space you’ve created an infinite number of restaurants while limiting the labor that goes into making it. Does this create a better dining experience? It's tricky to say whether this will only further isolate and create bubbles around people, but it's not a reality too far off.
It has already been scientifically researched that if you “see” sushi on your plate (while wearing a headset or other wearable) your brain will think it’s sushi and taste it accordingly, even if it’s just tofu. In this new world, the brain is the reality and everything else is just window dressing.
The ability to exist within a different reality opens the door to a myriad of worlds (literally) for businesses.
AR and VR aren’t able to trick your brain in terms of tactility yet-- a bed, for example, still needs to be physically soft, but the technology moves business in a much different direction.
The same concept can be applied to physical attributes and clothes. Wearables already exist and scientists are experimenting with implants. (Google Glass is a form of AR.) What you get with AR is more information than is visible.
Imagine you want blue hair, so you push a few buttons and everyone around you with a wearable or AR/VR glasses sees your hair as blue. In the near-future you become an avatar in the real world, not just on a screen. Think of what this means for virtual plastic surgery.
Brands will be able to create experiences unlike anything seen before. The touchpoints of a business would be infinitely more tactile and capable of penetrating a consumer’s “world” without the barrier of a screen. New jobs will be created. There will be huge markets for digital-physical content.
It’s a brave, new AR world out there. Pokemon GO is only confirming we want it.
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