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The 101 of Augmented Reality

27 Aug 2020 by Jeremy Sweetman

By now you've heard about Augmented Reality (AR), but are still really confused about what it all means. What makes it different from VR? Are there different kinds and do I need a device, goggles, 3D glasses or...

Immersive Experiences
the 101 of augmented reality jeremy sweetman

by now you've heard about augmented reality (ar), but are still really confused about what it all means. what makes it different from vr? are there different kinds and do i need a device, goggles, 3d glasses or something else to experience it? read on to have all your questions answered and to find out ar’s potential for your business.

for many the altering of reality, with holograms, interactive displays and 3d projections, is still the stuff of science-fiction. the truth is that all these things already exist and are playing an ever bigger role in our life experiences. as ar capability is being built into our devices (by default), its technology is set to dominate more of our daily lives. this ongoing advancement means delivering ar experiences to customers, prospects, employees and other stakeholders is becoming more affordable and accessible for business. and that’s exactly why you need to get your head around the basics of ar as a business opportunity.

a quick breakdown to start with.
before we explore more of the stuff within ar, it’s best we break a few things down and address some of the confusion that currently exists around what-is-what. there are typically three approaches that come under the umbrella term of extended reality (xr): 

  • ar (augmented reality)this is where your content appears over real-world views, usually in the form of digital images and sounds. often this is experienced through your smartphone. 
  • vr (virtual reality)this is where you deliver fully immersive experiences in an artificial world. typically this sort of content is delivered via headsets.
  • mr (mixed reality)this is where content combines both ar and vr elements so digital objects can interact with the real world. again, a range of specialist headsets allow for these types of engagement 

although this article is about ar, it’s important to understand the family of differing approaches this experience belongs to.

so, what is ar?
as indicated, augmented reality is the approach that expands the real world by adding layers of digital information onto it. it does not create an artificial world but enhances an existing real environment by adding digital sounds, videos and graphics to it. if you’ve ever tried to catch a pokemon, virtually move furniture around a room (via an app) or used a qr code to activate a video, sound or animation then you’ve probably already experienced ar. 

how does ar work?
this is probably more technical than most really need to know, but the short story is that ar overlays data (images, animations, videos, 3d models), via a range of devices (more on this later), to add computer effects to a real world setting. this is achieved via a combination of elements such as:

  • cameras and sensors. these collect data about a user's interactions and send it for processing. cameras on devices scan the surroundings to locate physical objects and generating 3d models. 
  • processing. ar devices act like computers, requiring a cpu, a gpu, flash memory, ram, bluetooth and/or wifi, a gps, etc. to be able to measure speed, angle, direction, orientation in space, and so on.

there are other elements, like projection and reflection, which are also core to many ar experiences but they need a more complex explanation so we’ll leave these for another time.

what types of ar are there?
the two most common ar types are marker-based or marker-less:

  • marker-based ar: this requires a special visual object and a camera to scan it. it may be anything from a printed qr code to a designed symbol or icon. the ar device uses the marker to know it needs to start the digital experience.
  • marker-less ar: can also be referred to as location-based or position-based ar, marker-less uses gps, a gyroscope, a compass, and/or an accelerometer to provide data based on a user's location. this data can determine what ar content you get in a certain location. with the widespread availability of smartphones, this type of ar can be used to produce maps or directions, nearby businesses' info or additional supporting content like words, numbers and video.

other ar types include projection-based (typically 3d projections on to a mapped out surface) and super-imposition-based (using object recognition to replace part or whole objects).

what devices are used?
many devices, from smartphones and tablets to gadgets like google glass, support ar. these generally fall into these categories:

  • mobile handheld devices (smartphones and tablets) – the most available and best fit for ar mobile apps, across gaming, entertainment, business analytics, sports, social networking and more.
  • special ar devices, designed specifically for ar experiences, such as head-up displays (hud), that send data to a display directly in the user's view. such devices already have applications in aviation, automotive industry, manufacturing, sports and other areas.
  • ar glasses (or smart glasses) like google glasses, hololens, laster see-thru and others. these display data from your smartphone or tablet, allowing hands-free access to content. we see a great example of this technology driving business improvement with boeing’s assembly lines.

device technologies continue to evolve. samsung and sony are developing ar contact (smart) lenses and virtual retinal displays (vrd) are also in development, creating images by projecting laser light directly into the human eye.

what are the possible business applications of ar?
ar business applications are growing at a rapid rate. these include:

  • retail - driving better customer engagement, retention, brand awareness and sales. some features help customers make wiser and quicker purchases, liking providing product data with 3d models of different sizes or colours. 
  • real-estate such as 3d tours of apartments and houses that haven’t been built yet, allowing potential purchasers to visualise themselves in them and make design decisions.
  • education and training with interactive models for learning, from mathematics and chemistry right through to simulating real life work situations.
  • medicine and healthcare to help diagnose, monitor, and train.
  • military for advanced navigation and real time data.
  • tourism, with data on destinations, navigation, and directions.
  • broadcasting, to enhance live events and event streaming with overlayed content.
  • industrial design, allowing the visualisation and modelling of potential solutions.

why we love ar so much?
as a strategic communications agency that works across both physical and digital mediums, we’ve really embraced ar as a tool to help our clients communicate more effectively with their existing and potential customers, with their staff and with the wider community. in all cases, our goal is to build engagement, grow perception, and to drive actions that align with our clients’ objectives. here’s why we think it’s so effective:

  • ar is multi-sensory, making it particularly effective in driving engagement, recall and association. 
  • brands are formed from people’s experiences and ar experiences are rich and immersive, helping drive positive associations with your brand. 
  • one of the key challenges for business is getting audiences to make multiple contacts across their sales, social, web and other touchpoints. ar has the potential to bring many of these together in one experience.
  • finally, ar is cool and interesting. therefore it has a curiosity factor that will make audiences want to try it. they engage with you when otherwise they may not have.

and as ar technology advances and becomes even more accessible, we see the business benefits and possibilities continuing to escalate.


augmented reality explained, augmented reality 101

10 things to consider when creating engaging office environments.

28 Jul 2020 by Steven Giannoulis

Moving into a new space or renovating an existing one is a fantastic opportunity to consider how to use the environment to engage key audiences like customers and important stakeholders. Their experience at your office...

Immersive Experiences
10 things to consider when creating engaging office environments. steven giannoulis

moving into a new space or renovating an existing one is a fantastic opportunity to consider how to use the environment to engage key audiences like customers and important stakeholders. their experience at your office will help reinforce what they know about you and how they feel about your brand. just as importantly, office environments play an important role in shaping culture, strategic alignment and effective communication with your people. the environment becomes the canvas for working more effectively as an organisation. 

the following are 10 starters we often talk about with clients when planning the brand and staff engagement layer of their office fit-out. 

1. user journey 

start by identifying the key journeys through your space. where will visitors enter? what will they see first? do they go to reception and then a waiting area before being taken to a meeting room? what are the opportunities along this journey to tell your story? 

the same questions apply to staff. when they come out of the lift, where will they go? lockers? kitchen? their desk? what will they walk past? what are the places they will visit during the day? most people will visit the photocopier, the kitchen, the watercooler and the toilets. these spaces are all opportunities to tell and reinforce your story. 

stand children's services, wellington 

2. your brand story

for external audiences the public facing side of your office environment is a great place to tell your story. this could be information about your history and evolution, your business, your purpose, your brand promise, your products, your customers and your service proposition. use the journey identified above to layer your story so that each one builds and reinforces the earlier one. 

transpower head office, wellington 

3. strategy & culture 

the office space is also a great way to engage your staff in the business. visually express key culture messages that reflect what matters around here. demonstrate and reinforce your values in bold and proud ways. reinforce diversity, inclusiveness and other elements that are core to who you are. use the environment to reinforce who the customer is, key products and customer touchpoints. demonstrate the important things everyone needs to do to deliver to customers. show your people in action, especially when your team is located in many places and/or where the core business is conducted elsewhere.

mercury head office, auckland

4. navigation & safety

don’t forget the importance of helping everyone in the business know where to find things – bathrooms, kitchens, elevators and exits. create a system around naming meeting rooms and congregation spaces that make it easy for people to find and remember them. use the environment to communicate core health and safety messages in ways that relate to how people use the space. for example, wellbeing messages about looking out for each other in spaces where people meet. 

mercury head office, auckland 

5. multi-experience

some messages are about reminding people about the things that matter and we use the space for regular repetition. other messages require more engagement. these may require digital experiences – like video and animation - where sound and movement help increase engagement and memorability. others involve audiences doing and experiencing things to become more involved. this is where interactive displays, ar and vr could come into play. and while you’re at it, think about places for staff to engage back – things to comment on; places to write, draw and express themselves; even places for them to take photos to post on instagram. an engaging office environment will have a mix of these. 

mercury head office, auckland

6. personality

most office fit-outs use neutral colours generally for hard (and expensive) surfaces like walls and floors. use colour, texture, movement, typography, photography, art, plants, soft furnishings and interesting objects to bring the space to life. the office environment should reflect your personality, your energy and the people who work there. while there is an overall personality, also think about zones where the tone may need to change; for example, quiet reading and working areas vs active socialising spaces. 

lion, olympic park, sydney

7. use what’s available

most modern office spaces are open plan and are surrounded by a bank of glass. the available walls for communicating are limited. you have to use what you have and this includes ceilings, floors, stairwells, pillars, lockers, partitions, meeting rooms and even the bathrooms. there’s always a clever way to hang or project something where other options don’t exist. lighting and sound also become important storytelling dimensions in these spaces.

meredith connell, auckland

8. design consistency 

you can usually see far into the distance with most open plan offices meaning they can become visually cluttered. have a clear – and single-minded – design idea, supported by a cohesive tone and feel. be clear on your colour palette, fonts, graphic and photographic styles and stick to them. otherwise you could be adding to the noise. 

nz post, wellington

9. noticeboards 

build-in ways to keep people updated about the everyday things that are happening in the business. electronic noticeboards in and/or by lifts, in kitchens, bathrooms and by photocopiers are great (and cost effective) ways to tell people about an upcoming event and to celebrate international women’s day, maori language week and other similar milestones. they reduce the cost, clutter and ugliness of lots of posters stuck up all over the office. 

nz drug foundation, wellington 

10. durability 

offices spaces are living environments. make sure that all materials are hard-wearing and can be changed out or updated in an easy and cost-efficient way, when necessary. think about portability as well - moving things around provides opportunities to freshen things up and to keep staff engaged with your space.

lion, sydney cbd

see a portfolio of full case studies of these and other workplace engagement examples here.

office fit out, company culture, corporate culture, staff engagement, office environment, internal branding
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