Augmented reality – the overlaying of digital data in the real world using a computer or smartphone’s video camera as an interface – is an exciting and relatively new technology. This excitement isn’t lost on Starbucks, which launched its “Cup Magic” app (see video above) just in time for the holiday season.
Many of you have probably heard of augmented reality and even wondered how you can put it to use in your own digital marketing efforts, but let’s get one thing straight: There’s augmented reality from three years ago and there’s the augmented reality of today. Augmented reality in 2008 consisted of cute little animations, not unlike Starbucks’ holiday promo, that did their cute little animated thing when you held something up in front of your computer’s webcam. It was a fun and entertaining distraction, but that’s about it.
Then there’s today’s augmented reality. Sure, there are still plenty of cute little animated things in AR land (although they’re much more polished and interactive than they used to be), but augmented reality has evolved beyond sheer entertainment, and has crossed over into a usefulness that helps the technology live up to the “reality” in its name.
A good example of this usefulness, albeit from outside the food and beverage industry, was launched a few months ago by De Beers. We’d try to describe the jeweler’s use of augmented reality, which allows visitors to their website to “try on” various necklaces, earrings and bracelets, but our description of the technology wouldn’t do it justice. To experience it for yourself, check out the My Forevermark Fitting website or watch this video.
For food and beverage marketers, the uses of augmented reality – entertainment (Starbucks), education (apps like TagWhat) and brand interaction (De Beers) – are still up for grabs, although most grocery brands, like Cadbury’s recent “Qwak Smack” game, tend to focus on entertainment. That’s understandable, of course, but we think it’s only a matter of time before food and beverage brands find a way to put their products in the hands of consumers in much the same way that De Beers put diamond-encrusted pendants around their necks.