Par Marie-Eve Gosemick, le 3 octobre 2012
Google Glasses on the runway at New York Fashion Week last month is one of many examples illustrating that mobile technology has gone beyond Quick Read (QR) codes. In fact, Augmented Reality (AR) seems on its way to replacing those, thanks to its convenient application of geolocation and image recognition. AR creates more immersive experiences and allows projects to inspire a higher level of engagement. Plus, being as sexy as subtle, AR eliminates the need for using unaesthetic black and white fuzzy squares.
If AR technology is well known for being used in the automotive industry, the medical field and the army, it is now also being noticed in more stylish projects. It is increasingly enhancing fashion, print, street art, architecture and advertising, enhancing the collective imagination at the same time.
Enhancing fashion shows and magazines
On the occasion of NYFW 2011, the New York Times published a short report on the interest of fashion designers in showing clothes in a 3-D film format, implying that showing clothes on fashion models would not be enough anymore. Since videos are considered more descriptive and entertaining, they are recommended to be integrated to fashion shows (along with old red/blue cardboard glasses).
Vodafone, sponsor of fashion contest Buttoned UP/Gombold Újra, selected the application design agency ARworks to create a channel in the Junaio application. This app lets users view fashion show models next to them and learn about their outfits by zooming in to get a better view of the fashion designs and details.
As for using AR as part of a fashion retail shopping experience, Macy’s celebrated Brasilian culture all summer long with its in-store AR “Brasil: A Magical Journey” campaign launched last May. Virtual dancers, soccer players and carnival musicians were virtually added to the components of the new Brasilian designers collection.
AR has also been integrated to fashion magazines as part of their mobile strategy. GQ intended to offer an interactive version of its September 2012 print issue by launching the GQ live! application, with the intention of making it as easy to navigate for advertisers as for users. Esquire recently released its Augmented Reality issue, in which the 2012-2013 winter style recommendations are presented on a model who changes outfits through the meteorological conditions brought to life in a 3-D video. Stylist magazine in the UK got interactive over the summer during London Games by providing users with animated scenes and scores from the Olympics in its advertising pages. Finally, Footwear News has created a special limited-edition magazine to celebrate the nominees for the 2012 Sexy Shoes competition, in partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue. An Aurasma technology application allows consumers to view exclusive digital content, vote for the sexiest shoe and enter for a chance to win the grand prize.
Pushing boundaries of print advertising
Instead of causing the end of print advertising, AR makes it more relevant and accurate and allows creative agencies and marketers to push boundaries and secure a return on investment. Since AR is an advanced way of interacting with the surrounding environment through a smartphone, it has the potential to revolutionize how marketers advertise to consumers. This technology is meant to add information, meaning and value to the real world in real time. Various AR platforms are available on the market in order to bring flat print format to real life, among them: Blippar, Aurasma, Junaio, Layar and Zappar.
IKEA has decided to embrace AR technology too by launching a catalog application for its 2013 home furnishings collection.
L’Oreal’s Maybelline New York is using an AR app to have its target customers try several nail polish colors without actually having to sample them. Maybelline’s ads mainly appear in fashion magazines such as Elle.
Justin Bieber also launched his most recent album using AR technology. The album cover and all related ads and posters offer fans to unlock exclusive virtual content and features, such as having their photo taken with the virtual star.
Bringing magic to architecture and street art installations
Sure, AR has been included to street art projects for a few years now. However, it was more used then by urban art collectives and individual users than by brands in the context of an integrated marketing campaign. AR technology increases the number of platforms with which businesses can interact with their target audience. A recent great example is Absolut Vodka and its intent to create a movement called Absolut Inspire, an AR street app that allows users to create their own digital street art anywhere in the world, thanks to a fusion with the Google Street View platform.
Street artists and creative agencies also use AR to bring magic to architecture and design. For example, the project Mediating Mediums, created by Greg Tran, a graduate from the Harvard School of Design, looks at the huge potential for AR and architecture to work together. The challenge lies in the fact that AR is temporal and interactive, which architecture is usually not.
Other fun and mind-blowing street art projects include the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Projections in the United Arab Emirates, designed by Obscura Digital creative agency in celebration of UAE National Day 2011, and the « TXTual Healing » installation in Wisconsin, designed by artist Paul Notzold to have passengers update the projected dialogue boxes with their text messages. Last but not least, Hub09 Social Agency in Italy designed two street art installations along with an app to entertain people passing by, and took the opportunity to get their message across.
Showcasing the future
As with web matters in general, critics debate whether Augmented Reality really enhances our lives or make it worse. We can think of short film ‘Sight’ when considering the darker side of this technology. Looking at AR applied to creative projects has us focus on its positive impact and reduces our paranoia around it. It reminds us that, potentially, Augmented Reality will lead us to a more aesthetic, inspiring world, reaching beyond the ordinary.