Augmented reality: Why the future of tech will be practical, not fantastical

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Augmented reality needs to become genuinely useful, and make life easier, before it will be rewarded with mainstream appeal, as Stuart Butler explains.

I’ve got nothing against my Starbucks cup turning into a snowman or a Lynx angel falling from the sky and appearing next to me at the train station. In fact, I applaud this kind of fun, creative use of augmented reality and digital experimentation, which brightens up my day. But these tactical campaigns are not ‘the future’ of the technology.

As boring as it sounds, the future will be practical, not fantastical. Like any technology, before it can be rewarded with mainstream appeal, augmented reality has to become genuinely useful and make life easier. That means we must shift our focus away from these extraordinary, falling angel-type experiences to concentrate on how we can make augmented reality so ordinary that it’s accepted as part of the daily grind.

Augmented reality needs to meet its full potential, so we need to create scenarios where its three dimensional perspective comes into its own. The car showroom, for me, is a no-brainer.

Dealerships are dying, with the average number of visits from car buyers plummeting from three to one over the last few years. For many, showrooms are inconvenient, intimidating places but buyers still crave to experience the feel of a car before they buy. A recent study by Cars.com and location analytics provider Placed found that roughly 80 per cent of car buyers did online research prior to visiting a car dealer, with 37 per cent using multiple devices to do so. This is a clear message to car brands that they need a multi-platform strategy to reach buyers.

Picture their delight at being able to sit in the car, while still in their living room, where they can have an open and honest family barney about its pros and cons, out of earshot of the over zealous salesman. Ferrari has recently toyed with some ideas and produced an augmented reality app for its show rooms so you can see the inner workings and aerodynamics of the cars through a tablet or smart phone. Mini has now released some augmented reality goggles emulating Oculous Rift but with practical features like a heads up speedometer and directions arrows.

But really, we need to ask ourselves, am I making life easier? More intuitive? Am I helping people get more out of their lives, rather than getting in the way of their lives? Am I making the day-today more enjoyable, not more irritating or, worse, intimidating?

Let’s make sure the answer to all these questions is yes and let’s create a 3D future we’re proud of.

Stuart Butler is EMEA head of Strategy & Planning for Maxus London

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