AR in retail and enterprise is a no-brainer

Here in New York I hear countless arguments against Google Glass and other wearable computing trends based on their appearance and social implications.

Mat Honan’s recent feature (appropriately titled I, Glasshole) in Wired timed with a sea change afoot with tech’s early adopters on social media, pretty much hammering a nail into the coffin for media’s portrayal of Google Glass. Not an easy start for AR in 2014!

Yes, you look like a jerk walking down the street wearing a $1,500 computer on your face. But, as the industry watchers point out, that price will quickly drop and once we are hovering around the $100-$200 mark retailers will hop on board to start offering a controlled showrooming alternative, and cut down on the amount of trained staff they will need on a store’s floor to offer helpful information.

At a recent New York tech meetup called ARNY, Jeff Jenkins from APX Labs demoed an application his team built for Epson’s Moverio BT-200s (yes there are Google Glass alternatives) at the National Retail Federation’s trade show that turns restocking into a game.

According to Brian Ballard, APX’s CEO, who was recently quoted in Techcrunch: “The average use case for consumers to wear smart glasses out and about isn’t there yet. You have to have a certain sex appeal.”

This isn’t stopping APX Labs (who originally designed the Epson’s Skylight OS) from inking several enterprise deals and professional sports contracts.

Social media and AR are a match made in heaven

Our need to share the minutiae of everyday life on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter aligns well for AR. Additionally, ‘second-screening’ and ‘social TV’ are still in their infancy, but seeing huge growth statistics.

As an iPad user, I’m personally getting more and more absorbed with the digital ads in The New Yorker’s electronic edition.

When I run across an ad with clever use of swiping or audio/video within the New Yorker’s app, I’d personally be happy to shout about the fact that the brand smartly got my attention, but few are adding social sharing capabilities.

Catchoom, an award-winning VC-funded spin-off of Telefónica Digital based in Barcelona, is hoping to solve this through a new SaaS AR offering aimed squarely at brands called CraftAR.

In an interview for Re/code (formerly AllthingsD) Catchoom CEO David Marimon has called for smarter calls-to-action in AR advertising, stating: “The user is wowed the first time, but there is no useful outcome.”

Within the showrooming framework, social media becomes more immersive, and if users are already locked into a positive experience with the brand – say actively shopping and getting deals with the hardware on – everything they see (photo/video) becomes a potential social share with word-of-mouth marketing potential.

Opt-in information overlays for brands and public figures? Why not?

One of the biggest arguments mounting against HUDs (heads up displays) and AR from privacy advocates is the ability to use image recognition in real-time.

So for example, I go into an interview with you (my potential new boss) wearing smartglasses, perform an image search for your facial features, then cross reference your identity for publicly available information on social networks to inform how I interact with you. 

The argument from privacy advocates gets even stronger when you factor creepers and potential stalkers who could get too organized with their dubious behavior with aid from technology.

A recent AR concept video caused an uproar on Twitter because the company (Infinity AR) portrays smartglasses aiding in picking up women, and winning at pool games in a bar setting. Yeah…uhm…right.

However, mixed with prepared public messaging from brands (say televised or at a trade show or press conference) AR is again a perfect bedfellow.

The world’s first AR TV product was unveiled at CES. It’s called SeeSpace InAir, and if I understand it correctly, it’s a special HDMI cable in between your TV and set top box that provides an additional layer of information in front of TV screens.

I asked one of AR’s thoughtleaders and proponents Ori Inbar about second screen use via an email. Ori founded the Augmented World Expo, taking place this May 27-29 in Santa Clara, California. He responded:

The second screen use for AR is an interesting way to enrich media consumption in context. However, I think AR’s true power becomes apparent when it’s delivering content immersed in the real world and away from screen.

As Jeff Jenkins from APX pointed out – when a worker needs information to perform a job (in manufacturing, warehouse, maintenance) and his hands are tied – augmented reality on wearables is simply the only way to serve that information. These enterprise use cases are killer apps for augmented reality and will drive the initial adoption of this transformational technology. 

Are there other new areas of AR for brands and agencies we’ve missed in this post? Let me know in the comments.