Article

Michael Georgiou
Michael Georgiou 30 July 2018

How Augmented Reality is a Game Changer for Small Business

Most people have heard about Pokèmon Go, which used Augmented Reality (AR) to superimpose images of pokèmon on top of the environment around you using your phone’s camera. But AR is more than just a game; it’s going to transform the tools we use every day.

Most people have heard about Pokèmon Go, which used Augmented Reality (AR) to superimpose images of pokèmon on top of the environment around you using your phone’s camera. But AR is more than just a game; it’s going to transform the tools we use every day.

Although many assume (correctly) that large companies and corporations are leading the AR charge, small business owners have an opportunity to use AR, too.

What is AR?

Augmented Reality (AR) uses software to add artificial elements to real-world images in real time. You can use AR with a smartphone or with a headset, such as Google Glass.

AR is already in use today in many ways. The military uses AR to assist teams in making repairs in the field, while medical students and staff turn to AR to prepare for surgery. One group is trying to create an overlay of underground pipes and wires, so construction crews are less likely to break water mains or accidentally cut someone’s power.

Why SMBs Should Use AR

AR might seem out of reach for small- and medium-sized businesses, but the cost to create an AR tool isn’t as high as you might guess. Companies can add AR to a mobile application with no extra hardware required. Plus, several headsets are almost ready for market with prices similar to an Apple Watch. The Meta, Google Glass, and similar sets project images onto one’s pupil, giving proper depth perception between the real and imagined world.

If your company isn’t consumer-facing or doesn’t need a mobile app, AR has many uses in the workplace, often using headsets. For example, AR can manage complex tasks from picking orders within a warehouse to drug and dosage alerts for healthcare professionals. Both small and large businesses are using AR for employee training; 40 percent of people who receive poor job training leave their jobs within a year, costing thousands in turnover costs.

However, smaller businesses who start using AR now for consumers will stand out among their peers, offering something unique. We’ve talked before about ways AR can benefit a business. 

One frequent example is furniture shopping. Using AR, consumers can see how something will look in their home before buying. Some photographers and artists are using that approach, offering a way to see how your art will look on the wall.

How SMBs Can Use AR

Here are more ways we see AR appear in daily life via small businesses.

  • Retail Store: See additional product information and benefits through a mobile app. A car dealer might give you the full sensation of driving a vehicle using AR. Other stores might highlight recommended items or those on sale. Patrón’s AR app gives you the experience of visiting a tiny replica of their distillery in Mexico. You can even see the agave field and chat with a bartender.
  • Restaurant: Diners can see the presentation of the food before it arrives by pointing their smartphone at the menu.
  • Salon: Not sure about a new hairstyle? Your salon might offer an AR app so you can see how you will look with different cuts and colors before committing.
  • Shoes/Clothing: If you loathe trying on clothes at the store, fear not. Stores may soon offer ways for you to see how something looks on you either at the store or from your own home with AR.
  • Gym: Staying motivated is a challenge. A gym might offer an AR feature so customers can see how they will look six weeks, three months, or a year after regular workouts.
  • Tourism: Use your smartphone to see how a historic site looked hundreds of years ago, with an overlay of facts and data.

Small Business Sense

Mobile apps will be the main entry point for AR for consumers, rather than headsets. Business owners know the value of getting customers to install a branded app on their smartphone. Your brand is now in front of them daily. You can send push notifications and reminders or sell additional items. Adding AR gives consumers one more reason to install that app in their valuable smartphone real estate.

AR also gives small business owners a new way to advertise, standing apart from a static image or even a TV commercial. Yelp is offering ads to brick-and-mortar companies who want to be featured on its Yelp Monocle. Through this app, users hold up their smartphones or tablets to see businesses around them and read reviews.

As reported by The Motley Fool, the AR market could grow from nearly nothing today to $90 billion by 2020. Furthermore, consumers are becoming more aware of AR and demanding such options in their regular tools. One expert says AR will find a full acceptance within five to 10 years, but that in another 20, “We might have an entirely new generation of young people who will be born into the world, assuming AR/VR capabilities are as natural as turning on [the] TV today.”

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