The Future of Mobile Augmented Reality

By Katherine Le, 13 April 2023 | 5 mins read

Almost imperceptibly, Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) is infiltrating our daily lives. The concept has been around since 1901 when The Wizard of Oz author Frank L Baum imagined ‘Character Marker’ spectacles that could overlay data onto real life. A mere 90 years later, his idea came to fruition!

So, what is Mobile Augmented Reality… and where could it take us?

Ronald Azuma, AR pioneer, describes AR as having three characteristics:

  1. Augmented reality combines real & virtual
  2. It is interactive in real time
  3. It is registered in 3D.

We’ve all seen some form of Mobile Augmented Reality in action, ie. AR accessed via smartphone or tablet. Whether that’s in the guise of Pokemon Go introduced in 2016 that had the world’s teenagers tracking down Pikachu et al with the aid of GEO location. Or IKEA Place that enables home builders to position virtual sofas in their living room. And in the realms of social media, practically every interaction with Instagram or Snapchat comes with the option of filters that turn you into a superhero, avatar… or cat.

Using your phone’s camera, MAR provides a digital perspective that enhances onscreen imagery. It acts as an overlay on the world we’re experiencing in the here and now – a way of seeing our own environment in a whole new light. This can take a number of forms. In a museum or art gallery, it can impart additional information about the exhibits. Or bring them to life with motion graphics such as in The National Museum of Singapore’sStory of the Forestexhibition. On holiday, it can put locational knowledge in our hands as we see in apps such as CityGuideTour. And even give us the lowdown of the nearest Lebanese restaurant.

It’s a powerful tool. According to AR specialists threekit, AR product experiences are 200% more engaging compared to non-AR equivalents. And 71% of consumers would shop more often if they could use AR technology. For Gadget Flow, a website that showcases new technology, integrating AR into their web browser caused a measurable uptick in engagement.

Time on the page for customers using Augmented Reality is 2-3 times greater than for non-AR shoppers.
David K. Williams, A Marriage Made In Heaven: How Augmented Reality Enhances Online Retail

The commercial attraction of MAR is its ability to capture consumer attention in an age when ‘share of mind’ is fiercely contested. Creating experiences via the device in your hand enables brands to achieve a deeper level of engagement. After all, if you can take the memory of an in-store experience home with you – even integrating it into your daily life – that’s a compelling, and potentially highly valuable, relationship.

But all of this enhanced user experience comes with a requirement for large amounts of reliable data. And at the moment, that data is the hardest to reach. As one expert in the industry states, the real value for Brands and Consumers alike lies in the 90% of data that is currently going unused due to poorly integrated data ecosystems and the siloed structure of many marketing departments.

Put simply, too many MAR experiences fail to provide useful insights. As Sol Rogers, founder of REWIND explains…

Well-designed experiences will only show the information that’s needed, where it’s needed, when it’s needed. MR and AR should not be about useless information or intrusive advertising. It’s all about contextual computing and enhancing daily life – whether it’s a simple application or a complex experience.
Sol Rogers, REWIND

So, how can organisations produce valuable MAR experiences that align to user wants and needs? I developed the following innovation framework for MAR products to help answer this question.

Dive deeper into the potential of MAR, and we begin to see the opportunities beyond the marketplace. Already, AR is being widely used in many sectors from life-sciences to logistics. In hospitals, surgeons are using AR to improve medical procedures. And in global logistics, MAR is seeing rapid adoption in areas such as warehousing where enhanced visualisation and real-time information feeds can reduce the cost of picking goods by 25% or more.

But perhaps the greatest potential of Mobile Augmented Reality could be in its next evolution – to affect societal change. MAR offers the ability to bring other people’s experiences into our own world, merging the places and spaces we know and love (or are simply discovering for the first time) with the thoughts and insights of those around us – or who have passed through before. Now,  wouldn’t that be a powerful motivator for change?

If you would like to discover more about TMG’s journeys in the world of MAR, why not get in touch.