If you’ve been following My Metaverse Minute, you’ve almost certainly heard about augmented reality (AR), which is largely about blending virtual objects into the physical world. Nearly everyone in tech believes that AR smart glasses (sometimes called head-mounted devices) will replace the mobile phone as our primary interface with the digital world. However, AR is a device-agnostic way of interacting with digital content — it is not limited to smart glasses and can be experienced in different ways.
In fact, AR is already having a real impact right now through different form factors. Currently, we can use our mobile phones for augmented reality in what is sometimes called mobile AR. Some famous examples of this include Snapchat, which blends virtual “filters” onto a user’s face, or Pokémon Go, which blends the game’s creatures into your environment by using your phone’s front camera.
AR experiences can also be placed directly in a web browser. This is known as WebAR. WebAR is one of the easiest ways for organizations to start using AR to engage their audiences. When interacting with a WebAR experience, users only need their phone’s camera and a web browser — no expensive headset, no app, and no sign-ups. Presently, users can spend around two minutes downloading and signing up for an app just to use it for an experience that lasts 30 seconds. Instead, WebAR can be directly embedded into existing websites or placed on its own URL, providing a smooth user experience, making it ideal for marketing teams looking for an edge.
WebAR’s Biggest Use Cases
In a LinkedIn post from earlier in the year, Tom Emrich, product vice president at a WebAR platform and AR thought leader, pointed out some of WebAR’s biggest use cases. The first is to enhance editorial and sponsored content, and the second is to facilitate virtual try-on/try-out of products while shopping online.
In regard to the first use case, Yahoo and USA Today used web-based augmented reality as part of their storytelling, and USA Today launched a WebAR Hoops experience along with its March Madness sports content.
Dozens of brands have explored the second use case. To help customers get a more personal look at beauty products while shopping online, Essie, Nykaa, Barry M, Bobbi Brown, and Coty were just a few beauty brands in 2021 that integrated WebAR try-on on their sites. Fashion brands like ANAYI and Carolina Herrera both added a feature to their e-commerce sites to let shoppers place AR models in their surroundings to get up close with the apparel. Another example of the second AR use case is how art marketplace Society6 launched its “View in Your Room” WebAR integration to boost consumer confidence in the purchase of art from its website.
WebAR in Business Packaging and Printed Materials
WebAR can also play an important role in packaging and printed materials. Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands like Coca-Cola have included QR (quick response) codes on their packaging to allow users to engage with their products in a new way. In a similar way, printed materials like pamphlets, business cards, flyers, and letters can also lead users to WebAR experiences that can engage and educate users better than just print can.
This isn’t limited to profit motives — a billboard or poster run by the city may be brought to life through a QR code that leads to a WebAR experience. This WebAR experience could, say, show pedestrians the history of that part of town or educate them on using public infrastructure via AR overlays on their mobile phone devices. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Italian agency ViewToo built a WebAR experience showing users how to properly use a mask. This technology is a powerful addition to marketer toolboxes across all industries.
It goes beyond marketing, though. With some creativity, you can probably find an application in your business regardless of the industry. If you’re a restaurant, maybe you want to let users scan a WebAR QR on the menu to see a dish before ordering it. Or maybe you use the same technique to provide instructions on how to operate equipment for new employees, or how to assemble furniture from IKEA. Just think: Is there anything in your workplace that would benefit from having some information or animated content overlaid onto it? Or is there a product or process that users might like to see as in a digital incarnation placed directly into their environment?
Besides QR codes and direct embeds into websites, WebAR can be accessed in other ways. You could also use a shortened URL, short message service (SMS), social media, or near-field-communication (NFC) in the same way that you can do contactless payment with a phone. Each method has its ups and downs, but the bottom line is that they’re all extremely easy ways for users to start using AR. Some platforms to consider for building your WebAR experience include Zappar, in particular Zapworks, as well as 8th Wall and Queppelin.
No matter if you’re a non-governmental organization (NGO) trying to spread a message, a business trying to drive user engagement, or a municipality trying to add some spice to the bus stop posters, you’ll find that WebAR is a great place to start your participation in the coming augmented reality revolution.