5 things corporates need to learn about Augmented Reality

“Augmented Reality is one of the Top 10 strategic IT technologies of all time.” – Gartner Inc.

The question I get asked the most, and I guess it’s a sign of the technology’s novelty, is: “So what exactly is augmented reality?” The next question usually has something to do with The Matrix, Minority Report or Inception. But it’s really quite simple: Augmented Reality is a piece of technology that links a real life trigger (which can be a printed picture, a photo, or anything that can be recognized by your device’s camera) to a digital asset: your company’s website, a custom illustration, an explainer video or a voiceover.

We were recently engaged by a large insurer to produce an Augmented Reality Employee Value Proposition (EVP) experience to its employees by fabricating six pillars (actually pull-up banners) based on their values within the company using six specific value propositions: Growth, Leadership, Reputation, Connectivity, Balance and Reward. We used custom illustrations, videos of the leadership and staff as well as voiceovers to let the employees experience what it’s like to work there.

The results were staggering: 80% of the pilot group of staff this was made available to willingly spent more than 22 minutes on average in the experience. We’ve also taken the analytics from the experience and used that in a second app that is going to provide content to the user based on the pillar they liked the most. In this way, the experience is not a gimmick; it is a gateway to an incredibly effective business tool.

Here are some of our learnings:

1. It’s new and exciting

What created the high level of engagement and interest wasn’t just the content – it was the immersion in the content and the novelty that captivated the audience. A lot of the target audience was blown away that a 97-year-old company could take such “new” technology and produce a truly innovative experience with it. With Layar already being downloaded 40m times, with over 1/2m published pages created by over 100k entities, South Africa is relatively new to the party.

2. Control the device, control the experience

Augmented Reality platforms like Layar and Wikitude can run on all good smartphones but the experience across those devices can vary. What does that mean? Well, if you’re designing custom illustrations for a certain sized screen and the user’s device is smaller/bigger then the illustration is going to look a little awkward. If you’re planning on doing some awesome voiceovers and your device doesn’t have a headphone port, the user isn’t going to be able to hear it. In order to create a uniform experience across the whole organisation, it was decided that one type of device would be used – in this case, we used an Android device from Mustek. Due to memory constraints on the Mustek device, we highly recommend running with the iPad2, which still has a lot of functionality (including system memory) but won’t break the bank when it comes to procuring the hardware.

3. Augmented Reality has it’s own analytics

We manipulated Layar to produce the experience we required and it came with a bucketload of cool information based on the page views, interactions, unique users, users per country and page and button statistics. From this we can gather really clever insights like what percentage of the workforce accessed the experience, what aspects of the experience they enjoyed the most, which countries (for global corporations) interacted and how many pages those people accessed. In the case of the Sanlam Investments EVP experience, we were able to see which employees accessed which pillars and for what amount of time. We’re using this information to create a second application wherein the employee will get more information based on the pillar they liked the most.

4. Manipulate third party platforms

It’s much easier to manipulate a third party platform like Wikitude or Layar than it is to invest the time, money and development into your own platform which, quite frankly, isn’t going to have the amazing functionality the current ones have. The self-service option on Layar is going to allow you to do the basic functionality like open a website, vote in a poll, allow the user to download a mobile app for 30 days whilst the more advanced options are going to allow you to publish for at least a year with the added functionality of downloaded statistics, launching a geo layer and showing an HTML frame amongst so many other features.

5. The environment matters

In the early days of the project we dabbled with really dark triggers that were printed on a glossy fabric. With fluctuating levels of light, these triggers behaved erratically as the device’s camera struggled with things like aperture and focusing on the trigger. We then made triggers that had a white background and printed them on matt fabric; the results were literally like night and day – the triggers behaved impeccably in whatever light conditions we tested them in. This requirement needs some serious consideration especially if you want the experience to impress in low-level lit boardrooms.



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