Augmented Reality: Just Another Marketing Tool?

Sarah Welsh

Locative Media

A lot of the augmented reality apps that are out there right now, though they have the potential to profoundly shape the human experience, are very well-suited for advertising.

According to some, this isn’t an accident.

In “Augmented Reality or Admented Reality?” Tony Liao notes the “strong early ties the AR industry has had with marketing, to the point where companies in the space are structured around those resources and they mold the technology to the marketing problem space.” Liao suggests that marketing has had a direct impact on the way AR has been developed, helping to move the technology along in a way that caters specifically to marketing needs and purposes. Will the momentum created by advertising in AR be one of the biggest factors to propel this technology forward?

Layar is one example of such a technology that was clearly developed for this reason. It’s a mobile application that allows you to create your own augmented reality experience through print media. The company’s website encourages developers to easily “drag and drop engaging content.” The House of Fraser, one of the U.K.’s biggest department store chains, is one example of a company that’s used Layar for advertising or marketing-related purposes, in this case to offer customers a mobile retail experience.

Augmented reality, especially in the form of wearable technology, came more to the public forefront with the introduction of Google Glass, but has long been used by NASA and the military in more technical capacities. Does it really matter if augmented reality is being used mainly for advertising? After all, television and radio were developed along with advertising, and advertising has also profoundly shaped the development of the internet.

According to Liao, at augmented reality conferences, a great deal of work is being done “to convince marketers that AR will benefit their industry.” For me, the question of how much of an impact marketing and advertising has on the development of augmented reality only becomes problematic when research for this technology stops leaning towards the development of technology that assists or advances humanity in ways that might be more positive.

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