Augmented Reality: Experiencing is Believing

Brands have an endless array of digital tools to help target and persuade online consumers to buy their products or services. As a result, consumers are bombarded with a dizzying onslaught of marketing messages designed to stand out and grab their attention. The problem is that when a consumer experiences hundreds, if not thousands of digital sales pitches a day, they end-up blurring together into a cacophony of sight, sound, and little else. 

Ironically, by every brand trying their best to stand out in the digital marketplace, no brand stands out in the digital marketplace. And it’s not just the sheer volume of marketing messages that make it hard for a brand to break through the clutter. A digital experience that once dazzled and delighted us 20 years—even 5 years ago—now seems dull and dated. What once elicited a “WOW” from consumers now inspires “what have you done for me lately?” In our current digital ecosystem, users are completely overwhelmed with common experiences that are easily forgotten. To be truly memorable requires brands to not just attract a consumer’s attention but to tap into their minds. Augmented Reality (AR) presents brands with an opportunity to distinguish themselves from competitors with a unique customer experience. Through AR, brands can tell a more immersive, intriguing story through a means that consumers are much less familiar with. And, when you are less familiar with something you tend to pay more attention to what it is you’re hearing and seeing. This makes an AR experience more “sticky,” which creates a higher likelihood of a person not just retaining the memory of the experience but retaining it with greater clarity and for longer. Take, for example, a furniture company. By leveraging AR, they can provide their customers with the ability to actually see how that new sofa they’re considering purchasing will look with the rest of their living room furniture. Instead of the salesperson telling the customer to “imagine” what the sofa would look like, with AR, they don’t have to imagine. And AR can be used for more than just making retail experiences more memorable. It can also be used for education and training purposes. One study, in particular, illustrates what a difference AR can make in a classroom setting. In the study, the grades obtained by students that were taught using AR were better than the grades obtained by students that were taught using traditional methods. In fact, those taught using AR had increased memory recall of 2-4 weeks longer than traditionally taught students, and a 30% higher accuracy of what took place in the experience. Think of it like this. Which method do you think would be more effective in learning how to drive? Reading a manual that tells you how to drive, or, getting behind the wheel and driving? This is what makes Augmented Reality such a powerful tool: it’s based on the idea that an experience is more effective, meaningful, and memorable than an explanation. Augmented Reality is still in its infancy. But every day, its potential is being realized by more retail brands looking for a competitive advantage, and educational institutions and training facilities looking to help students better understand and retain knowledge.

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Capturing Minds: Augmented Reality & Cognitive Performance

 

As we have covered in our recent blog posts, the adoption of Augmented Reality is far ahead of schedule compared to expert predictions. With more AR experiences flooding the marketplace, the competition for valuable real estate in a customer’s mind will reach an all time high. The highly interactive nature inherent to AR experiences will present a unique opportunity to create lasting imprints in the minds of your customers. In other words, you can create memories designed specifically for your target market. To understand how to best capitalize on this innovative emerging technology, one must first come to understand how AR influences cognitive performance. 

 

Duration, Path, Outcome

Our brain is divided into two distinct sectors: conscious and unconscious. The conscious side is continuously processing information, looking at possible outcomes, developing predictions, and assessing the world around us. The information it perceives as “non-prioritized” is sent to the unconscious sector.

This process of Duration, Path, Outcome is constant now more so than ever via the seemingly endless scrolling through social media feeds. Our brain is actively passing actions to automation mode while searching for a dopamine fix. 

This brain process is simply broken down to Signals vs Noise. 

Memory Creation & Plasticity

Emerging Technology allows for a further push on brain plasticity, or the ability for the brain to be shaped and molded. When looking at AR, VR, Spatial Computing, or any form of interaction with technology, there are significant signs that the brain is stretched and able to rewrite former engrained paths and their outcomes.

The goal of every experience should be the creation of new memories. Using this as our foundation and core Key Performance Indicator (KPI) creates the desired interaction between technology and the user. If our desired effect is to create a memorable moment, the brain is at the focal point of our interactions. Immersive and impactful experiences will be tied directly to the Signals, rather than more Noise. 

Tying It All Together

Creating Signals is the key to obtaining valuable brain real estate.  While creating more Noise will further distance a company from its desired outcome. 

But, we have always done it this way…

Consumers are currently on Noise overload. They are being bombarded from all angles, whether it be from mobile apps, social media, or eCommerce websites. Experiences are all the same and what was once amazing is now normal. Everything is blending together.

Creating experiences that push past the brain’s dismissive functions is the core of our team’s purpose. Creating memories will be realized through the use of  Emerging Tech. At PeakActivity, we help you build Signals that will allow you to own the most valuable real estate in the world: inside a consumer’s mind.  

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Augmented Reality: Why It Means Things Are Changing

As the third quarter came to a close, SnapChat (Snap Inc). released a report detailing the quicker than expected adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) experiences. With such massive growth in this space, continued heavy investment in AR is inevitable. This report underscores the fact that Augmented Reality and Emerging Technology are here to stay and it will have an enormous impact on businesses that are quick to adopt and implement this game-changing technology. Augmented Reality is no longer simply a tool to fix a flower crown or dog ears on the user. Its potential impact on education, experiential marketing, retail, and data visualization cannot be understated. 

 

Education & Training

“There is significant evidence that indicates that the grades obtained in the learning unit that was taught using AR are better than the grades obtained in the unit that was taught using traditional methods four weeks after the initial assessment” – The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology 

What is the benefit of faster, longer-lasting, and more intuitive training to your business? Augmented Reality allows end-users to understand complex data and training modules with a longer rate of retention of knowledge. This understanding of a product or process will ensure a longer stickiness in your end-users mind driving a higher cognitive recall. 

Marketing & Experiential

“Traditional electronic commerce (e-commerce) is limited because it cannot provide enough direct information about products…The technology presented in this paper shows how Augmented Reality (AR) can be used to help overcome the limitations and enhance e-commerce systems.” – International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction

Creating Signals above the Noise for customers is more important now than ever. With the average American adult spending 3 hours, 43 minutes on a smartphone device per day we are more apt to disregard traditional marketing efforts within social media, websites, and installed apps. Creating Interactivity within AR experiences delivers a more immersive experience which will drive up a higher usage and retention of information. Spikes in browsing interactivity must be triggered by “new” experiences that a user has not come across yet. 

Retail & Conversions

“AR-based product presentations generally provide effective communication benefits compared to web-based product presentations and the positive relationship between interactivity/vividness and usefulness/enjoyment is mediated by a sense of immersion.”  – Journal of Interactive Marketing

Augmented Reality experiences are currently impacting customers’ shopping habits that drive higher engagement and conversion. Options such as “see before you buy” allows customers to place any product where they want and interact. In a similar vein, AR features allow consumers to “try on” clothes before buying them without the hassle of actually putting them on. 

Data & Visualization

“The main benefit from the implementation of the MR approach is human experience improvement…visualization allows convenient access to huge amounts of data and provides a view from different angles…Furthermore, it ensures actionable insights that improve decision making.” – Journal of Big Data

Creating interactive data and seamless interactions within digital objects allow users to understand and grasp complex findings unseen in the 2D world. Placing the most essential data in the central area of the human visual field in Mixed Reality would allow one to obtain the presented information in a short period of time without significant data losses. Improving visualizations by using cognitive psychological principles and by implementing the most natural interaction with visualized virtual objects is destined to yield the best results. 

Augmented Reality is changing the landscape of customer engagement. Its adoption is far more rapid than experts had previously predicted. Its ability to create effective and meaningful experiences for your target audience is undeniable. Augmented Reality is here and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. 

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Emerging Tech: Terminology & Acronym Guide

It can be a daunting task to keep up with the ever-growing list of acronyms and trending buzz words in the technology space. With the more rapid and widespread adoption of spatial computing and mixed reality technologies, we thought it would be helpful to dive into what they mean and how they differ from each other. 

 

Types of Experiences

AR – Augmented Reality – Digital objects within your real-world setting  

XR – Extended Reality – Less often used term for AR 

VR – Virtual Reality – Fully Immersive experience where you see none of the real-world 

MR – Mixed Reality – The encompassing spectrum related to AR/VR/XR

Marker Based – Within the real-world a QR code or some other real-world marker, or point of reference, is needed 

Non Marker-Based – No real-world marker is needed 

Windowed AR – Using AR via a Smart Device 

Immersive AR – Using AR via a Headset / Wearable 

Room Scale – An experience the size of the room 

Table Top – An Experience that is the size of a…table top 

 

Global Terms

Spatial Computing – An umbrella term for the more immersive kind of digital experiences within the digital world, it is the engine that drives the core of the experiences, input and output of data from both the processing unit to the users’ vision

API – Application Programming Interface, is a computing interface that encompasses interactions between various software intermediaries.

CDN – Content Delivery Network

Wearable – Something that a user will wear

Tethered – A device that needs to be connected to another unit and or power source.

FOV – Field of View, how much a user can see

Hologram – Interactive 3D object that appears in front of the user

Light Field – The ability to capture the depth of a space

Spatial Mesh – The visual representation output of a light field that can be seen by the user/computer system

Digital Twin – Creating a 3D Model replica of a space or object

SDK – Software Development Kit

Eye Tracking – Tracking of eye movement on a headset

Hand Tracking – Tracking of the hands via a headset

Controller – Device held to interact with objects

TPU – Tensor Processing Unit – Processing AI-based information such as photos or video

A.I. – Artificial Intelligence

Machine Learning – Teaching a computer to learn a task

Visual Search – Uploading photos and finding similar photos

Voice SEO – Conversation Based experience that provides value to business/user

 

Coding Languages

WebXR – an API that allows developers to create XR experiences; 

React360 – a coding framework for the creation of interactive 360 experiences that run in your web browser 

WebGL – is a JavaScript API for rendering interactive 2D and 3D graphics 

Unity3D – Unity is a cross-platform game engine used to create AR Experiences

 

3D Object / Viewers

OBJ – 3D File Format 

GlTF – 3D File Format 

USDZ – 3D File Format 

STL – 3D File Format 

Model Viewer – Google’s 3D viewer for Web pages 

Unity to WebGL – The process to move unity experiences to Web Pages 

 

Cloud Storage Options

AWS S3 – Amazon Storage 

GCP Cloud Bucket – Google Storage 

Azure Blob Storage – Microsoft Storage 

DigitalOcean Spaces – 3D Party Storage 

 

AR Content Delivery Networks

○ AWS Cloudfront – Amazon

○ GCP Cloud CDN – Google

Azure CDN – Microsoft 

 DigitalOcean CDN – 3D Party 

 

Hardware

Magic Leap 1 – Augmented Reality Headset from Magic Leap 

Holo Lens – Augmented Reality Headset from Microsoft 

Oculus Rift – Virtual Reality Headset from Oculus/Facebook 

Oculus Quest – Virtual Reality Headset from Oculus/Facebook 

Oculus Go – Virtual Reality Headset from Oculus/Facebook 

HTC Vive – Virtual Reality Headset from HTC 

 

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Blurred Realities: Understanding Spatial Computing and the Mixed Reality Spectrum

Spatial Computing is an umbrella term for the more immersive kind of digital experiences within the digital world. Spatial Computing uses input from both the user and the environment that they are in. In order to do this, more intuitive interaction tools are required, especially in comparison to more traditional tools like a keyboard and mouse. This includes processing natural human responses, such as speech, head motion, body movement, and eye-tracking. The data from these responses is used to create 3D-like environments that are overlaid onto the real world. These overlays are more commonly referred to as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR). 

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is exactly that – virtual. By wearing a VR headset, you are immersed in an entirely digital world, completely separate from the physical environment that you are currently in. 

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality merely supplements the real world that you’re in. Think of apps like Pokemon Go and Snapchat that overlay filters onto the real world to augment what is seen on-screen versus what is there in reality.

Mixed Reality Spectrum

The best way to understand the range of technology used in spatial computing is to visualize how that technology functions on something called the virtuality continuum, as defined in a research paper by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino called “A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays.” 

This virtuality continuum defines a spectrum, with the physical world on one side and the digital world on the other. Technology is placed upon it depending on how it interacts (or doesn’t) with the physical world and where it “places” the user. With that definition in mind, tech like Augmented Reality is placed on the side closest to the physical world because it takes the user’s environment and merely augments it. Virtual Reality is found on the opposite side, in the digital world. This is because the actual interaction of VR with the physical world of the user is non-existent due to its very nature of existing in a virtual reality.

So, Where Exactly Does Mixed Reality Fall on This Spectrum?

This may be a slightly misleading question. Mixed Reality (MR) essentially is the spectrum, as MR interacts with both the physical and digital worlds- hence the term, mixed reality.

How Exactly Does MR Interact with Both the Physical and Digital Worlds?

Basically, given that MR itself exists on a spectrum, its use of the physical and digital worlds can vary. What makes it different, however, is that although it has the ability to transport users to the virtual world, it also takes into account the physical environment that the user is currently in and uses that to create a digital experience. A common example of this is if a user has a desk in the room, the MR tech would take this into account. If there was something hidden under that desk, the user would have to physically look under that desk in the real world to be able to access whatever is hidden in the digital world.

Given that MR operates on that spectrum, the extent to which it actually transports users to the digital world or augments their physical environment will differ for different systems. It is predicted that headsets that can cover the entire spectrum will be a reality in the near future.

On the most basic of levels, those are the fundamental differences between VR, AR, and MR. Virtual Reality transports its users to the virtual world without consideration for their physical world. Augmented Reality only takes in the physical world to augment it for the user. Mixed Reality combines the functions of both VR and AR. At the same time, all of these fall under the overarching term of Spatial Computing, given that they enhance how users interact and receive data from their computational devices and make them more intuitive and natural to humans.

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