It was in 2012 that an image of Mahindra & Mahindra managing director Anand Mahindra petting a virtual cheetah perched on a sleek vehicle, created through augmented reality (AR), made one sit up and notice the ‘new’ technique in the market.
The campaign, launched to display Mahindra’s XUV500 at the Auto Expo, saw 42,000 views in just two days on YouTube. Since then, a lot has changed. Brands from real estate, FMCG, luxury and retail are jumping on to the AR bandwagon to not only reach out to more customers, but also enhance their experience.
Says Kamal Amesur, creative director, Hungama Digital Services, that from the coining of the term in 1990 to the present, AR has seen exponential growth, “With augmented reality, visions that were seen as dreams are now becoming a reality. AR is a very impressive, engaging and interactive experience. The more we see its adoption under different verticals like architecture, commerce, education, medicine, industrial design, gaming and, more importantly, in objects that simplify our everyday living and objects we interact with on a daily basis, is when we’ll see this tech grow.”
What is augmented reality
Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one. Augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Artificial information about the environment and its objects can be overlaid on the real world.
In advertising, if one takes the everyday print ad, it can be enhanced with related TVC/short video, quick links (social media, website), call-to-action (enquiry, buy, share) and deals (coupon codes and discounts) and you have an AR ad campaign.
Earlier last month, Lakme launched Makeup Pro application, which allows ones to select colours and styles that compliment a customer.
Similarly, in September last year, L’Oreal, too, experimented with the concept with how-to-say-yes-to-colour video (hair color tutorial) and quick buttons to learn about hair colour myths.
“AR breaks the last remaining disconnect between your real and digital life,” says Vishal Reddy, who co-founded start-up Wowsome, which uses mobile augmented reality to help brands engage with consumers by offering real time, enticing and interactive visual content on mobile devices, along with Karan Bhangay.
“Like other markets, it is not the AR technology that will drive adoption, but the ability to build creative and business value for brands, as well as for consumers,” says an optimistic Arnav Ghosh, regional director for Blippar in India.
Adds Bhangay, “Investments in the industry will fuel large scale market education and faster penetration. A push similar to the surge of e-commerce segment in India can be expected.”
Compared to the West, where the ad world started buzzing with the technology in 2007-08, in India the concept is still catching up. “Amazing campaigns have to reach the masses through consistent PR and marketing communication,” points out Reddy. Similarly, Ghosh believes that for it to become vogue, use of the technology needs to become more pervasive, offering the consumer many different avenues to explore and benefit from it.
In the next five years, the industry hopes that Augmented Reality would be deeply integrated with systems around us. Brands will pre-budget for significant spends in AR, as they currently do for digital marketing, hopes Reddy.
By 2020, consumers, who have already developed the habit of pointing their phone’s camera at anything and everything around to click, share and discuss, might use the same camera to access content around the object in question.