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Earlier this year in his blog recapping 2016 as the Year of Live Streaming, my colleague Brent Martino noted that we’re just starting to round the corner toward increased immersion into a “360-degree world” through continued advancements in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). As our physical existence collides with the digital technologies meant to enhance it, we marketers need to pay close attention to how this will impact the new ways people will soon experience the world around them – not just as consumers but applied across every aspect of our daily lives.

Although VR can be used to share some experiences – like gaming or reliving the thrill of your distant cousin’s neighbor’s baby’s first steps – it’s typical goal is to essentially block out or replace the world around you… Think headset or holodeck stuff. AR, on the other hand, is all about enhancing the world you’re actually in by layering purposeful tools upon it with a goal of providing additional opportunities to engage in it.

As a result, there’s a good chance that AR may actually leapfrog VR, at least in terms of realistic applications across our daily lives. In fact, in its recent coverage of Apple’s focus in this direction, Bloomberg cited Global Market Insights as predicting the global market for AR products is poised to surge a whopping 80% to $165B by 2024.

Of course for the time being (until Elon Musk’s recent investment in chip implants pays off), we’ll continue to experience AR through our mobile devices and, increasingly, wearables. Now I bet you’re thinking of Google Glass and what a flop that was, right? But someone had to make the first move and there are many, as Dan Rowinski cites in his excellent post on the subject, that agree with CNET editor-in-chief Lindsey Turrentine’s assessment that Google probably knew it was “falling on its sword for the rest of the industry.”

So what was their demise and how will it be overcome? Turrentine asked self-described “Glasshole” and futurist Robert Scoble, who wore the device constantly for an entire year, for his thoughts. Scoble believes that, at the time, Google Glass simply did not offer enough functional value to the wearer to outweigh breaking the unwritten social code of establishing eye contact with another person.

Do you remember the first mobile phones and how “look how important I am!” the people toting around the suitcases they required seemed to be? Well, despite that, it wasn’t long before they became portable enough, affordable enough, and most importantly, critical enough that the masses had to get their hands on the next generation, was it? And look how quickly they’ve advanced since then.

It’s not that different for wearables. As the technology quickly matures, the social construct will evaporate as the benefits become too compelling to ignore. It won’t take long for consumers to demand they be exposed to similar offers and experiences to the people around them (albeit customized to them). Imagine walking down a city street and having offers you want, from merchants you like, based on reviews you believe, displayed in your natural field of view. That’s a simplified version of where we’re headed. In fact, we’re already well on our way.

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Consumers have already been exposed and are becoming increasingly accustomed to AR, and not just through the incredible success of PokemonGo last year. Most of us have at least heard of heads-up dashboard displays. Auto brands like Hyundai and Audi have started to introduce apps that allow consumers to get to know their vehicles through their mobile devices with AR user manuals that correlate with their screen view. Other retail brands like Lowes, for their Lowes Vision tool, and Wayfair for their WayfiarView app, are diving headstrong into 3D AR to improve the shopping experience as mentioned in Gavin Finn’s recent Forbes post. Both are deploying Google’s Tango technology platform on these efforts.

Just as compelling will be applications that help us work more efficiently; you won’t want to be the business person that’s missing out on the tools your colleagues have. Rowinski offers a great example, as illustrated by Scoble, where a salesperson’s competitor on the trade show floor has access to everything they need to know about a prospect who’s approaching their booth – their name, their title, their company, where they went to school, their company’s annual purchase volume. Any business advantage is critical and it won’t take long before everyone demands it. Already, the technology is well-established in some development and training environments.

So what names should you be paying attention to right now as the stage is being set? Here’s a handful (along with their backers) that you’ll be hearing a lot about if you haven’t already: HoloLens (Microsoft), Magic Leap (Google), Oculus (Facebook), Meta (Dolby) and Roar for starters. 

As marketers, we’ll be integrating the technologies these and other firms will introduce us to at breakneck speeds as we amp-up the brand experiences our B2C and B2B clients will need to deliver. So put your thinking caps on; we’ve got a lot of multi-dimensional branding to do, with opportunities for customers to engage with brands in ways we’re only now starting to realize are possible.

Are you ready?


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