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Augmented reality is the new QR code

Last year, QR codes were the go-to technology that marketers used to connect with tech-savvy consumers. While the medium is still a big force in mobile, augmented reality is increasingly making a name for itself and marketers are embracing all forms of the technology to offer a new type of engagement.

Although augmented reality has been around for a while now, it is more popular in Europe than it is in the United States. Marketers need to continue to embrace the technology and persistently implement it into their day-to-day initiatives to stay on trend.

?QR codes are quickly being replaced by augmented,? said Vivian Rosenthal, founder/CEO of GoldRun. ?There are two main types of AR ? GPS-based and computer vision.

?GPS-based AR works simply through geo-fencing a location and having the content visible to you by being in that location without needing to scan anything, whereas computer vision AR requires you to scan a product or logo,? she said.

?We?re seeing augmented reality being used in retail, entertainment, sports and CPG.

New vision
Nowadays, marketers are implementing all forms of augmented reality because it offers a new type of engagement that moves beyond the Web and into users? lives.

This makes the experience more immersive, experiential and shareable.

?Brands and agencies will increasingly use augmented reality platforms to create deeper engagements with consumers that go beyond a "Like" or comment on Facebook and instead create a call-to-action that allows users to interact with their products and characters in a more personal way,? Ms. Rosenthal said.

?Users are then offered rewards for sharing their photo on social networks, leading to revenue for the brand, either by driving foot traffic to a brick and mortar or offering a coupon on an ecommerce site,? she said. 

Augmented reality helps bridge the physical and digital world.

According to Trak Lord, a spokesman for metaio, augmented reality helps marketers take visual recognition and search and apply it to a more immersive experience in which the user can experience digital in the real world, rather than essentially literring the world with anonymous hyperlinks.

?It?s less that augmented reality is the new QR code than it is the evolution of mobile camera technology,? Mr. Lord said. ?The QR code is really just a very base form of computer vision.

?QR codes are actually extremely simple for the camera to recognize and take an action, which is why they?re probably integrated into so many campaigns,? he said.  ?Every day there is a new marketing campaign that uses augmented reality as part of its promotion.

?Macy?s recently launched an in-store AR campaign that let mobile users interact with 3D jungles, soccer players and Brazilian dancers and IKEA just released their 2013 catalog, with 43 instances of image recognition and augmented reality experiences.?

Seeing clearly
Augmented reality is a way to visualize information in the real world.

?It?s a technology with almost limitless applications in a variety of industries and sectors,? Mr. Lord said.

When evaluating an augmented reality campaign, the most important aspect is the user experience.

If marketers add an AR element to their campaigns, they should make sure that it will compliment the campaign rather than just be there for the sake of being there.

Additionally, the augmented reality element should not overly complicate and distract from the purpose of the campaign. It is crucial that the technology is implemented seamlessly.

?Augmented Reality has always had strong roots in industrial applications, but engineering projects are rarely used for promotion and are often below the public?s radar,? Mr. Lord said.

Image recognition and augmented reality is a destroyer for QR codes, per Jessica Butcher, marketing and founding director at Blippar, London.

?No longer do you have to have a black and white ugly square to drive engagement,? Ms. Butcher said. ?Augmented reality has become a trigger for interactive engagement.

According to Ms. Butcher, marketers have not fully-embraced AR, but are dabbling in the technology and trying out different things.

?Augmented reality and image recognition provides marketers with a way to enhance the real world,? Ms. Butcher said.

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York