What Exactly Is Augmented Reality?

Most of us have heard of both virtual and augmented reality, but not all of us really understand the difference between the two, although the distinction is pretty straightforward. Virtual reality aims at completely replacing a real world with an imaginary environment created from scratch.

Augmented reality, on the other hand, does not actually replace reality but rather augments it by adding semi-transparent virtual objects and elements to a real environment. These objects can be anything ranging from text to complex 3D graphics.

A Step Back In the History of AR

In 2016, the game Pokemon Go marked a new milestone in the history of AR development. But the concept itself has been around for awhile, dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century, when L.Frank Baum, author of the famous “Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” expressed the idea of an electronic display that overlays data onto real life.

AR then became a subject frequently described by writers of science fiction in the 1950s and 60s, and eventually took a more or less concrete shape in 1962 when Morton Heilig introduced his invention called “Sensorama” to the world. The machine was able to create some kind of reverse augmented reality. It could display stereoscopic 3D images in a wide-angle view and project some real-world sensations onto them.

Later, between 1990 to 2000, AR’s capabilities were actively tested by engineers to find out its applications in nearly every aspect of life: science, military, medicine, education, entertainment and more. Augmented reality has been developing for more than 50 years, but until 2016 it was a phenomenon that appealed more to “geeky” audiences rather than to the masses.

Pokemon Go introduced AR technology in a way that appeals to vast audiences, and AR’s great potential is yet to be fully tapped. While big corporations like Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are taking successful steps towards adoption of the technology, marketers are preparing themselves for dramatic changes that will sooner or later take place in the digital marketing landscape.

AR and SEO

Over the past several years companies have been putting much effort into creating new use cases for AR technology. Brands are now starting to realize that AR will only escalate in importance as a multifunctional tool from which digital marketers can benefit.

AR is creating so much buzz and hype around itself, people will no doubt become increasingly attracted by it and encouraged to interact with brands and companies that follow the latest technological trends. By giving AR technology a try, digital marketers can harness new opportunities to increase brand awareness.

Today the use of AR is still limited to some extent, since the experience it creates is available mainly through a camera – on a smartphone, a tablet or on different types of wearables. However, three key factors indicate that AR will become a big thing for at least one aspect of digital marketing – local SEO:

Even though AR is still in its technological infancy, we can expect to see more and more of its use cases introduced in the near future. Today an average smartphone user can do a lot by utilizing AR apps. For example, by scanning surroundings with a camera, a user can quickly view information about which stores and cafes are located nearby, their operating hours, and reviews by previous visitors, all overlaid on their screens.

Average users are growing more sophisticated in their needs, and they expect instant access to information about products, services, availability, sales, reviews and other details that may impact their choices. Some applications and brands have made further steps in this direction by enabling users to try on shoes (Adidas) without visiting a store, or to see how certain furniture items (IKEA) will look in their homes.

AR can help businesses better serve their clients and facilitate a faster decision making process. By having all necessary information at their fingertips with the help of AR, users will favor businesses that provide a seamless user experience which is fun, entertaining and engaging. AR will not replace existing SEO strategies and efforts, but it will create additional opportunities for businesses to showcase their competitive advantages.