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/ 28.11.2018

WebAR: The New Frontier For Augmented Reality?

Garry Williams
Head Of Sales, REWIND

If AR is truly the future of mobile, then WebAR could be the key to unlocking its potential.

More and more people are asking me about WebAR. Whilst it promises to be a shift in the uptake of augmented reality by brands for activations, at the moment it’s still in its infancy so there are many things to consider.

The Basics

Augmented reality is essentially overlaying objects onto the real world. This can be done via a smartphone, tablet or even mixed reality glasses such as HoloLens or Magic Leap.

The most famous iteration of AR is Pokémon GO. Niantic’s behemoth of a game caused people of all ages to take to the streets staring at their phones in desperate search for that elusive Pikachu. However, Pokémon GO is now a few years old and many other brands have since used AR to help engage their audiences.

For example, Converse’s AR App allows you simply point a phone or tablet at your feet and instantly see how different models and colours of shoes might look and then click through to an e-commerce site to buy. The New York Times uses AR to bring its publication to life, much like the newspapers in Harry Potter. AR has now even started to be used for storytelling and education, a good example of this is Within’s recently announced Wonderscope platform. Looking towards the future, Niantic also has Harry Potter Wizards Unite on the way, which will undoubtedly push their technology to the next level.

Up until now, the user has had to download a standalone app (or integrate functionality into an existing app) and in some cases use a ‘marker’ to launch AR content. WebAR promises to take away the hassle of downloading an app or a marker. Now, users can view AR simply through a web browser. With this advancement, the potential reach for a brand grows significantly.

However, there are a few current considerations. People need to be using the latest operating software, using the latest browser and also have a more recent model of smartphone. If you’re happy that your target audience is tech-savvy enough to be ticking all these boxes then WebAR could be for you.

Up until recently, WebAR previously only worked with static objects – letting customers place items in the real world and interact with them. However, Sony Pictures recently released an experience for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Called the Spider-Verse Web AR Experience, the application lets users interact with the titular wall-crawler, take pictures, and even share them to social media. Since it’s all web-based (no pun intended), users don’t need to download an app at all. But, if you are looking for more interaction and reach, then you may be better served by looking at the social platforms, Facebook and SnapChat in particular.

Facebook’s Offering

Facebook currently allows you to upload a static AR 3D object that people can interact with by spinning and zooming in to look in more detail. It also has the ability to pull objects into the Facebook camera, allowing more animation and interactivity. A clever use of this is this recent activation by Nike.

The Nike project featured a limited edition Nike sneaker, Red Carpet, branded by basketball star Kyrie Irving. But, it wasn’t just a “go here” kind of AR experience. First, there was what Nike called “the secret knock”. Sneaker fans had to obtain four emojis, which were distributed by Messenger-based social influencers working with Nike. Then, in a communication with Nike’s SNKRS bot, they entered the four emojis as a code. The ‘knock’ then revealed a link to the “Kyrie 4 Red Carpet’” experience which, when clicked, opened the phone’s camera. This allowed the user to see the sneakers atop a pedestal, surrounded by red carpet. When the user exited the experience, a screen offered the opportunity to purchase the shoes, a number of sneaker fans did, immediately. The Red Carpet shoe sold out within an hour of its launch.

Snapchat’s Offering

To me, Snapchat is essentially an AR platform.  Whilst it has mainly been used to produce lenses up to now, the platform’s capabilities have a lot of unexplored potential. I’m positive more and more brands will tap into the reach that it gives.

On a basic level, Snapchat offers filters that allow users to experiment with their appearances, usually by distorting their faces with special effects such as cat or dog ears. The company recently rolled out Snappables, which allow users to share lenses and play games with each other in AR, such as having dance-offs or competing in egg-catching competitions. 3D Bitmoji (your own personal emoji) is another feature. You can project a Bitmoji avatar with its own three-dimensional animations onto the real world, accomplishing challenges such as walking across hot coals.

The AR landscape is changing at an incredible pace, with the technology only getting more impressive. AR used to be a solitary experience, just a user and their device. But, the latest developments in the tech, pushed forward by Apple’s ARKit 2 and Google’s ARCore, means that people can now share experiences. Users can see what others are viewing and interacting with, which is another big step in bringing AR to the masses. With things improving so rapidly, it’s an exciting time to be working at the bleeding edge of immersive tech. We get to take all of this exciting technology and build the future, enabling brands to engage with audiences in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of before. WebAR is going to make it easier.

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