By Moritz Piel, GMK Markenberatung.

Real, but not quite: augmented reality (AR) long ago left the realm of fantasy. This enriched vision of the real world has entered everyday life. Innovation and creativity desire it – and even require it. Whether a bicycle ride through the forest on an exercise bike at home, moving furnishings around the house without any real furniture or a user manual projected onto the product, our reality is no longer just one-dimensional. And that applies for both customers and within companies.

Augmented and virtual realities have been considered the next big thing for years now. Successful examples of them already exist. Printer manufacturer Xerox has managed to use augmented reality to lower staffing costs while increasing customer satisfaction significantly. Boeing is reducing manufacturing times by a quarter and Porsche is almost halving the time it takes to process service enquiries. Experts estimate that augmented reality (AR) will be standard at every second company in three to five years’ time. Yet how can the technology contribute to impressive brand presentation? Can “augmented” company values be transferred to reality? What is the AR experience like for a customer?

Augmented reality – what is that again?

Using augmented reality, information can be presented directly in the user’s physical environment. As a result, it reduces the “cognitive distance” between receiving information and applying it.

Take a navigation app, for example, which can be explained like this: without AR, users have to look at navigation instructions, internalise that information and transfer it to their surroundings. With AR, the directions are projected directly into the surroundings and are easier to understand. American Airlines offers precisely this with its Wayfinder App. It directs travellers directly to the terminal or a shop at the airport. Additional information and a guide directly augment the real world through the phone’s display.

AR as distinct from VR

The difference between the two: virtual reality (VR) refers to completely virtual environments that can be experienced using a head-mounted display (HMD). It includes technical accessories such as controllers and treadmills that enable an interaction so real that the user perceives the artificial reality as genuine.

How AR makes a brand more attractive

Using augmented reality, WMF offers an alternative for consumers who check out a new coffee machine in-store and wonder how it would look in their kitchen or if it would even fit. The PhotoSimu app can put that coffee machine in the kitchen, office or showroom with ease thanks to augmented reality. Users can select and dock additional elements and decorations and try out what looks best. By doing this, customers receive virtual customer service exactly where they will later use the product. In addition, retail partners profit from the app and can make their customer service even more attractive. WMF rolled out augmented reality beyond its products too. Dish, the WMF magazine, surprises with AR elements that elevate the reading experience to a new level.

Trying on as much as customers want, wherever they want

Augmented reality has also secured itself a place in the fashion world. Trying on clothes has become easier than ever thanks to AR. Brands can relieve customers of having to change clothes or wait for a fitting room, and anyone who wants to can stay at home instead. Gucci demonstrates how this can be done with its Ace sneakers, which are projected onto the customer’s feet using augmented reality. Since the app tracks foot movement, shoppers can look at the virtual shoes in real time and from different angles.

Presentation reimagined

Trade show organisers and participants are facing new challenges, especially during these special times. AR can make a helpful contribution here as well. Trade show displays, for example, can significantly reduce their floor space and products do not necessarily have to be on-site. They can easily be brought along through AR, making them near enough to touch. The product presentation can also take place directly with the users, without them needing to visit the show in the first place.

Entering the future with AR

While the real world lacks (presentation) options, the digital world lacks the sense of touch. AR can bring together both levels in a novel way, creating unprecedented added value. Reality can be enriched practically at will to create new spaces for contact and experiences. It offers great potential for brands to present themselves in an entirely new manner.

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