Once you have a handle on what augmented reality is and how it can add interactivity to your marketing, the next step is to familiarize yourself with a few different types of AR experiences that are possible so that you can choose the best one for your audience.
We typically think about augmented reality in terms of six distinct experience types, and within these categories there exists a whole range of possibilities for execution, from the most basic to the highly advanced. The good news is that there are tons of entry-level options for those just getting started.
Before we dive in, it's important to understand the two ways AR can be deployed:
- Through an app. Whether branded or using a standalone viewer, augmented reality applications can create a customized experience for users. One hurdle to this method is that it requires an extra step to download.
- WebAR. WebAR allows users to enjoy a full augmented reality experience through a web browser. Instead, clicking on a link or scanning a QR code will lead to a webpage that launches the AR experience automatically. WebAR is becoming increasingly more popular because of the easy user experience that requires no additional downloads.
AR Experience Type 1: Video Launch
This experience is exactly what it sounds like: the user scans an AR marker and a video pops up. We’ve found this to be a good way to entice people to move from a print piece to a digital channel. Keep in mind that the more valuable your video content, the better it works — think how-tos or videos that help your audience accomplish a task. Asking someone to download an app and scan a piece just to get a video sales pitch or a commercial isn't a great user experience.
Beginner: Augment printed material with your existing video content. If you’ve got a brand or product video that lives on your website, YouTube, or Vimeo channel, repurpose it to add a digital layer to a print piece like an ad or a business card. This is a way to marry the two channels and reinforce your message across platforms without spending time or resources on shooting new video content.
Advanced: Create a unique print experience by combining dimensional print with video that brings the print piece to life, as we did for Sylvamo with the Accent TV.
The videos on these TV “channels” consist of an AR video overlay and interact with the print piece to create an immersive experience.
AR Experience Type 2: 3D Object
Including 3D objects in your AR experience allows them to be viewed and manipulated from all angles. This is especially helpful for product catalogs or any scenario where a customer might need to examine a product — picture a furniture catalog where you can rotate and inspect each piece at scale to make sure it looks good in your space before purchasing.
Beginner: Use your existing 3D files — DAE, FBX, or OBJ files — to augment your catalog or printed sales materials. Many companies already have 3D files on hand, as they’re often used in rendering.
Advanced: Use 3D files to make a physical collection of objects available from anywhere. We did this using markerless AR to make Burpee Museum of Natural History’s collection of historic artifacts more accessible through the Burpee app.
Users can place historical and natural artifacts such as a beaver skull, a T. rex claw, and a kachina doll in the real world in order to rotate, examine, and study them at scale.
AR Experience Type 3: 360-Degree Immersive
Here’s where augmented reality can start to feel a bit like virtual reality — but instead of wearing a VR headset, you’re simply looking through your device, like a window to a virtual world. As the viewer, you become the center of a virtual space in which you can turn around, look up, down, and all around, and be transported to a totally different environment.
This type of experience is perfect for virtual tours or walkthroughs and has huge potential for education and immersive training — we’ve even used it to give clients’ new employees tours of their workplaces during onboarding. It’s also a great way to give people more information about where products come from, simply by augmenting the label — imagine a bag of coffee beans that launches a 360-degree tour of the roastery or a wine bottle that transports you to the vineyard.
Beginner: Use an AR marker to trigger a 360-degree photo. The still photo can be of anywhere — a busy street, a garden, a pyramid in ancient Egypt. The more detailed the photo, the more your viewer will be enticed to hang around and explore.
Advanced: Incorporate 360-degree video for a more active experience. This is the approach we’d recommend for virtual tours, as you can create a more guided experience through the space.
This office tour might seem like virtual reality, but it’s actually created using AR and navigable directly through a mobile device.
AR Experience Type 4: Interactive Game
We’ve had a lot of fun with this type of experience at live events! Adding an aspect of gamification is a great way to drive traffic in and create buzz.
For example, use augmented reality to gamify an experience. The AR itself might be more basic or static, meaning that the markers might simply call up a photo or a piece of text, but the game is made up of the collection of many markers. The audience can collect clues, piece fragments of a puzzle together, or embark on an AR scavenger hunt. This type of experience takes more strategic planning on your end, but the AR development required can be kept to a minimum for those new to the technology.
In some cases, the augmented reality experience is in itself a game. Imagine packaging that comes to life to interact with the product inside it, using a series of if-this-then-that scenarios or a points system. This type of experience is trickier because it requires game logic, but it’s one of the stickier experience types if you can get users to keep coming back to play again or beat their best score. We accomplished this with the Weldcoa O2 Battle App.
AR Experience Type 5: Information Overlay
Information overlay is, to me, what augmented reality is about at its core. It means adding a little helpful extra content to the physical world — text, graphs, photos. At its best, it’s content that provides context.
Beginner: Augment your print with existing content. Think of it as digital footnotes — sources or supporting information that might not fit into your print layout. Or use it to provide bonus content for your most interested audience members without overwhelming the general group. Either way, you likely don’t need to create new content for this; you just need to decide which content is part of the print experience and which is part of the extended digital experience.
Advanced: Combine an information overlay with any or all of the other AR experience types to create maximum immersion. Provide not only textual context, but 3D objects and videos that help explain, along with 360-degree walkarounds so viewers can explore on their own. This approach is great when you want to teach your audience something new — especially when you’re speaking to people with an array of different learning styles. I personally cannot wait to experience more fully AR-enabled museum exhibits, like the marker-based experiences we built into our Burpee Museum app.
AR Experience Type 6: Mixed Hybrid
One additional type of augmented reality experience is a mixed hybrid, which involves a mixture of different types of AR experiences — like the ones listed above — to create an interactive experience.
Beginner: Enhance a 2D printed sheet with an AR explosion chart. This way, you can take the imagery and information offered on a piece of paper to the next level by expanding it with engaging imagery and precise information.
Advanced: Add video overlays to 3D objects to intensify the experience even more. You can take a static model and add an informative video or animate it so that characters and figures can swoop in and interact with the structure.
The whimsical Ticonderoga 3D storybook mailer we created for Sylvamo is a great example. By scanning the 3D pop-up storybook with the IP4D augmented reality app, a video begins to play which tells the sustainable story of the Ticonderoga mill and the rich natural resources that surround it. With a hybrid AR experience, content can be adjusted or added at any time through the backend, keeping the experience fresh and engaging.
The Bottom Line
These experience types aren’t mutually exclusive. We often mix and match three or more types within one augmented reality experience. But just as abstract artists are often masters of traditional modes first, it helps to know the basics so that you can blur the lines more effectively. After that, the sky’s the limit.
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