March 27, 2020
Augmented Reality has come along way from needing an app to view AR to finally being able to view AR in a browser creating an (almost) frictionless experience.
Sadly hyping up a new AR feature lands on deaf ears as most non AR enthusiasts are burnt out about the promises of AR with little living up to the hype.
The main reason why Web AR is different from the other hyped-up features like GPS, image/face recognition and 3d models is this specifically tackles the number 1 problem Augmented Reality has always faced, friction.
How AR worked before, is if you wanted launch AR it required developing an application to power the AR. The deal-breaker wasn't building the AR it was always getting people to download an app. Once you add in development costs, content, distribution, and publishing only to get mediocre downloads ROI is almost non-existent.
Now, what if we could remove downloading an app altogether? What if AR was as easy to view as the web.
Web AR does exactly that. Augmented Reality is powered in the browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc...) creating a viewing experience with limited friction. All you have to do is type in a URL or scan a QR code with your phone camera launching AR within your browser.
No more having to get someone to download an app that can take minutes finding, installing, signing up and finally viewing the AR. This is replaced with having someone click a link, scan a QR code or type in a URL going from minutes to seconds.
Going from minutes to seconds opens up the door for advertisers. In friction sensitive industries like direct mail, tradeshows, retail POP and others. Now, these advertisers have the opportunity to use this technology and prosper from it.
Less friction not only means higher adoption but also less investment. Instead of pouring money into development and long timelines, companies can focus on content and adoption.
Another added benefit that not many people talk about is the added effectiveness of tracking in the browser. Tracking AR users to purchase becomes a lot easier on the web. We can use existing technologies like pixels, cookies, and other tracking resources to learn the effectiveness of each AR campaign. Apps always struggled with being able to track how many visitors viewed the AR and then went on to become a paying customer.
The importance of Web AR extends further than the already acknowledged effectiveness of AR like brand experience, retention, and ad awareness. Web AR opens up the door to practicalities like more information, lead generation, and brand activation.
The question over the next few years will be if Web AR becomes a viable marketing channel for advertisers. Advertisers have the numbers, budgets, and resources to turn Web AR into a mainstream advertising channel like search, social, and PPC.
Time will tell if Web AR moves Augmented Reality into mainstream success or if it's another hyped up AR feature that falls flat.
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Startups to Watch is a collection of early-stage companies that Charlotte Inno predicts and anticipates big things out of in the coming twelve months and beyond.