“Augmented Reality (AR)”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device”.

Although AR and VR are often grouped together as futuristic mediums, AR is significantly different from VR in that it does not block off or separate the user from reality on a new plane of existence. Instead, AR focuses on analyzing and a level of clarity for the user so that he or she can become more connect to his or her surroundings.  .  The characteristics of AR are especially exciting for brands, since the advanced versions of this technology are able to introduce new stimulating layers to connect audiences with the environment around them. Many brands have shown their desire engage their audience with their products through an enhanced magnitude, as people go about their lives in real-time.

This past March, Shazam officially announced their new brand-friendly AR platform which could become the next large-scale AR phenomenon to follow Pokémon Go. More specifically, Shazam plans to include a variety of mobile AR experience types, including 3D animations, product visualizations, mini-games and 360 videos. “We’ve expanded beyond just music recognition into just overall curiosity and discovery” states CRO Greg Glenday. Glenday has also hinted that the new AR features will often engage audiences through both brand and celebrity connection to individuals, sometimes simultaneously. A successful example of this concept occurred through the Shazam AR demo that was tested during SXSW. While at the festival, each individual with a Four Seasons hotel key could place their phone in front of the ticket, see the artist Wyclef Jean’s hologram jump off the ticket, and invite the person to a brunch with him.  From that point Shazam was able to track the responses and attendees at the brunch and utilize that data for remarketing opportunities.

The fact that Shazam has already innovated recognition technology for sound and images, and has become one of the most downloaded apps worldwide means that the company is able to utilize their current app and network in place to easily integrate its new AR features.  Glenday supported this notion through a recent press release statement: “Because Shazam has such a massive install base, and consumers are already accustomed to using the app for discovery—we have now solved that problem. The possibilities for a brand to bring their products to life or make their advertising more engaging are quite literally only limited by the imagination.”

In terms of sophisticated AR tech beyond mobile apps, Microsoft is leading the pack of innovation through their creation of the Hololens.  The way that these state-of-the-art headset interfaces a person with their parallel reality includes analyzing the environment with its ability to decode reading hand gestures, gaze, tracking, voice commands, and intricate visual overlays utilizing the array of cameras inside the headset. The graphics are unbelievably advanced, most likely because the headset does not rely on pixel to create holographics, and instead creates them using new light photons, imitating our natural visualization process.

We are still awaiting the day that the Hololens is available for the public to buy, though in the meantime many developers and companies can get a head start on experiencing the Hololens. Instead of being weary of proprietary software, Hololens website immediately guides developers to instructions for how they can acquire one and collaborate.  By making it easy for companies and individuals to join them in pioneering this mixed reality, the augmented marketplace is already benefiting many parties outside of Microsoft, allowing them to take part in creating the mathematical framework that unifies us with our surroundings.

Aside from developer partnerships, the Hololens also offers solutions for brands to become a part of this mixed reality. The German-based company Thyssenkrupp, for example, has partnered with Microsoft to create an ultramodern method of designing custom stairlift designs. When a person walks through their house wearing the Hololens, they are able to map out the unique features of the house, and from that customize their own high quality simulation of a stairlift design.  As far as success and efficiency is concerned, Thyssenkrupp has reported that the new Hololens application has already sped up their workflow by 400%.

Overall, there are plenty AR platforms that are still elementary; however, it could be vital for brands to sift through those platforms and embrace certain advanced components of AR tech such as Shazam AR, the Hololens Glasses, or even others such as Magic Leap, if the brand has a focus on education. Through these carefully designed platforms, the possibility for strong reciprocal connections with an audience is grandiose.