Ever since the Pokémon Go craze, interest in augmented reality (AR) has skyrocketed among marketers. The technology continues to evolve quickly, fueled by new developments and exciting possibilities. But the market is complex and can be intimidating for brands that want to get started with AR. Ed LaHood, CEO of augmented reality platform Thyng, spoke with eMarketer’s Victoria Petrock about the state of the AR ecosystem, how it's changing and what that means for marketers.
The AR landscape is complex and fragmented. Can you break it down for a newbie?
There’s AR hardware, which includes computing devices, such as iPhones or Android devices and head-mounted displays [HMDs] including Microsoft HoloLens—and even gloves.
And there's AR software, which is fragmented. There are games like Pokémon Go and single-function apps. There are software development kits [SDKs], which help programmers create these apps. And there are high-end content-modeling tools like Unity, Adobe 3ds Max and Maya that let you create 3D objects and animations.
Has this complexity kept marketers from implementing AR sooner?
Yes. The business model—and the whole AR ecosystem—has been restrictive. Up until recently, you’d typically need to hire an agency and a developer. They’d use an SDK and content-modeling tools to create an AR app that brought a product or printed piece to life.
You’d then promote it with an ad campaign for 30, 60 or 90 days. People would download your AR app, look at it once and then never look at it again. And it was very expensive—you might have paid $100,000 or even $500,000 for a one-of-a-kind app that only activated one product.
A marketer looking at this layout might think, ‘Oh my gosh, it seems like I need a lot of expertise and technical knowledge to jump in.’