Augmented reality is still very much on the innovation options list when brands are looking to develop interactive outdoor experiences. However, it’s a medium that desperately needs to prove its worth.
The consensus – or at least the forecasts from Juniper Research - suggests that Augmented Reality is a marketing phenomenon that is on a sharp growth curve, with AR downloads set to hit 1.5 billion in 2015 (up dramatically from 11M in 2010).
That said the medium is still very unbalanced; heavy on the innovation and low on utility.
Ford’s recent AR effort to promote the C-MAX vehicle is a case in point. The AR element has been rolled out across UK shopping centres on a series of interactive billboards. Standing in front of the screens passers by can interact with a virtual version of the vehicle in the palm of their hand, changing colour ways and sampling assisting parking demos.
On the surface it all seems highly interactive, and it clearly offers plenty of novelty and innovation interest from those used to playing mobile games. However, it, like so many other AR activations, places all the action in the users palm, leaving them holding out their hand as a detached backdrop to the actual action taking place.
Ford deserves credit for introducing the first AR campaign to use marker less 3D depth imaging technology in the UK, taking the concept of the Xbox Kinect to shopping malls. A notable step away from the low tech and effort heavy AR campaigns that require old media (paper print outs of barcode imagery) to render the content interactive.
However, if AR is to truly hit the lofty predictions being levelled at it and mitigate some of the marketer criticisms it needs to utilise its audience more in the content process as opposed to viewing them as merely a holding point for the action.
'Hands-on' as opposed to just a hand held out.