Creative trend: Why augmented reality is an essential tool for the future

Creative trend: Why augmented reality is an essential tool for the future

The augmented reality (AR) trend is one of the fastest growing across the technology, marketing and advertising industries. It’s estimated that by 2020, the AR market will be worth £90 billion, and with such impressive financial projections, now’s the time for creatives and marketers alike to explore and experiment with AR, and make the most of it while it’s still fresh.  

These days, iOS and Android devices can power through demanding augmented reality apps with no problem, and developers are more optimistic about its future than ever. Having already proved popular, AR opens the door to a whole new world of technological possibilities, including three dimensional advertisements, immersive storytelling, virtual tours, interactive decorating and style apps, engaging games and much more.

In retail, companies are always looking to create fresh, immersive brand experiences that leave an impression in consumers’ minds, meaning AR presents an incredible opportunity for creative agencies to offer cutting edge services around it. Brands such as Tesco and Ikea have worked closely with agencies to develop apps that allow customers to experiment with furniture in their homes, while Lacoste and Converse created apps that let users try on virtual shoes before buying the real thing. Agencies are also helping brands to liven up conferences and exhibitions with the creation of location-based AR events, where visitors can engage with rich virtual content as they move around. And now that creative agencies are mastering AR and realising its potential, they’re better positioned to deliver unique and innovative campaigns for clients all over the world. As part of this, they’re assisting brands in the development and visualisation of concepts, and are working hard on UI and UX design to produce AR experiences that are both appealing and easy for customers to use.

With Apple launching powerful tools like ARKit, and Microsoft spending huge sums on their HoloLens mixed reality headset (including the billion dollar acquisition of Minecraft-maker Mojang to bring the popular game to the device), it’s clear that industry giants are taking tremendous steps in their pursuit of the AR top spot, and are committed to making the new technology a success. With that being said, it’s apparent the creation of engaging content that provides realistic interactions while offering unique technological value is the way forward for companies hoping to turn AR into the next big thing.

The story so far…

Believe it or not, AR technology was first developed back in 1968 at Harvard University. Although extremely primitive, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland had successfully produced an AR head-mounted display system that used computer-generated graphics to show users basic wireframe drawings. In the years that followed, university laboratories, private companies and governmental organisations began researching and experimenting with the technology, and in 1990, Tom Caudell, a researcher at Boeing, gave it a name – ‘augmented reality’.

Throughout the 1990s the technology advanced rapidly, and by 1998 the NFL adopted AR, using it to display a yellow marker on the field during the broadcast of a live game. Over the next few years, developers became more familiar with AR, and in 1999 Hirokazu Kato developed the ARToolKit. Still popular today, the open-source computer tracking and software library is designed to allow developers to create augmented reality applications that are capable of overlaying virtual imagery on the real world through the use of video tracking functionality. Having already made the jump to entertainment and media, AR was finally ready for consumer audiences by the end of the noughties.

Augmented reality today

By extending live experiences far beyond the screen, AR is proving to be an industry-shifting trend, and audiences are responding well to the technology even though it’s still in its infancy. It’s already a part of our daily lives, with sport and news broadcasters regularly relying on AR to bring statistics, stories, newsrooms and more to life. Games are changing too, and have come a long way since the days of Snake – people of all ages and demographics downloaded Pokemon Go (which had an incredible 45 million daily active users at its peak), and were encouraged to take to the streets in search of their favourite creatures. With such a huge user base, it was a positive sign for AR.

Despite this, British police logged an unbelievable 290 incidents relating to the game in 2016, demonstrating its real world influence and forcing developer Niantic to urge players to “abide by local laws” while gaming. A couple of months after launch, the number of daily users had fallen dramatically and continues to drop, showing that developers need more than initial intrigue and excitement to keep users coming back to their AR apps.

Snapchat filters are used by millions every day to liven up everything from a casual selfie (what would teenagers do without the dog filter?) to large group photos. Snapchat’s AR filters have even managed to become popular memes – everyone remembers the horrifying face swaps with inanimate objects, the dancing hotdog and rainbow vomit, and it’s safe to say that the app’s AR capabilities are a key part of its continued success with younger audiences. In their first proper attempt at taking AR mainstream, Apple’s upcoming Animoji with iPhone X is sure to make traditional emoji more exciting and engaging.

Similarly, ARKit – which was introduced with iOS 11 – is, in Apple’s own words, a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad. Users can combine digital objects and information with the environment, allowing apps to break free from the confines of the screen and interact with the world in real time. ARKit utilises powerful A9, A10 and A11 processors to provide breakthrough AR performance, and comes packing TrueDepth Camera for robust face tracking, Visual Intertial Odometry (VIO) functionality to effectively track the world around it, and Scene Understanding and Lighting Estimation to ensure everything looks as it should.

What does the future hold?

With so many advancements and landmark developments over the last couple of years, the future looks bright for AR. Powerful design tools are allowing developers to be more creative with the technology than ever before, and evidence and research suggests that audiences are eager for more. It’s estimated that AR headset sales could hit almost £1 billion this year, and with Microsoft going full steam ahead with HoloLens and rumours of other tech companies such as Google, Apple and Samsung following suit, that figure looks set to grow. It’s even starting to play a part in social media strategy, with marketers looking for innovative ways to engage with customers online.

Whatever happens, AR is up there with VR as a soon-to-be essential technology for marketers and content creators (click here for our kit recommendations), and it’s definitely worth striking while the iron is hot to put yourself ahead of the competition.

If you want to know more, give us a call on 03332 400 888 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

NAB 2017: Panasonic showcases next gen technology and solutions to support 4K smart entertainment and connected stadiums

NAB 2017: Panasonic showcases next gen technology and solutions to support 4K smart entertainment and connected stadiums

Panasonic have revealed that their NAB highlights this year will include the 4K AK-UC3000 studio camera system and the HD AK-HC5000 high-speed camera system, 4-sided LED videoboards, ballooncam, and augmented reality projection.

Panasonic Corporation showcases its leading video solutions supporting 4K content creation such as broadcast / video production, stadium business and stadium entertainment at the 2017 NAB Show in Las Vegas from April 24 – 27.

“One of the big themes of NAB 2017 is the confluence of Media and Entertainment Technologies,” said Masaki Arizono, Executive Officer of Panasonic Corporation, and Vice President of Connected Solutions Company in charge of Media Entertainment Business. “This is exactly the business direction Panasonic is now aiming to pursue. It is our mission to become a truly indispensable technology partner for customers in this industry with diverse solutions, making full use of Internet connectivity and other technologies from across our portfolio.”

The Panasonic booth (C3607) at the Las Vegas Convention Center has two zones – Connected Stadium Zone and Production Zone. It is designed as a sports stadium to demonstrate how a total solution contributes to guests’ experience. Booth technologies and solutions range from next-gen sports shooting systems to the latest display devices used to engage spectators, including large LED display systems, digital signage, and other equipment for shooting, editing, transmission and distribution.

For broadcast / production, Panasonic is showcasing technologies that respond to the needs of the 4K era, such as:

– AK-UC3000 4K Studio Camera System compatible with UHD (4K) output and HD/SD simultaneous output.

– AK-HC5000 HD Studio Camera System capable of 1080p 4× high-speed shooting.

For video production, Panasonic is demonstrating product lineups that respond to evolving to high-quality content:

– VariCam 35 4K Cinema Camera/Recorder, which has already built a reputation for its HDR color reproduction, low light capability and wide dynamic range.

– VariCam LT 4K Cinema Camcorder.

– VariCamPure 4K Camera Module for V-RAW 2.0 Recorder: the camera module of the VariCam 35 directly linked to the V-RAW2.0 recorder capable of uncompressed 4K RAW acquisition.

Other 4K cameras on display:

– The AG-UX180 4K Premium Handheld Camcorder which is equipped with the industry’s widest angle 24 mm + optical 20 × zoom, 1.0 type MOS sensor.

– Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera features a 20.3Megapixels, 4K 60p and 4:2:2 10-bit video at 24/30p.

In the Connected Stadium Zone, Panasonic displays technologies and solutions that take the stadium experience to a new level of engagement: 

– ballooncam combines a drone with the hovering capability of a large balloon for a unique video platform. With unique shooting angles, the ballooncam can be used to enhance the fan experience at sporting and other stadium events.

– Gigantic four-sided LED screens, hung in the center of the field, offers premium viewing from all stadium seats.

– Window Augmented Reality Projection. See how transparent film applied to ordinary window glass can serve as signage to display pristine images. At stadiums, Window Augmented Reality Projection can be used to enhance the experience by showing player stats and high-impact video.

– LinkRay-equipped LCD Displays. These displays support Panasonic’s LinkRay light ID communication technology. Users can download info instantaneously by pointing their mobile devices at the screens.

 

If you want to know more on the biggest and best NAB Show releases, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter‘Like’ us on Facebook or take a look at our roundup post.

How iPad is making it easier for DFS customers to find their perfect sofa

How iPad is making it easier for DFS customers to find their perfect sofa


As the UK’s leading furniture and upholstery brand, DFS are always looking for ways to move their business forward and deliver a better customer experience. They built a 3D augmented reality app that would help customers find their perfect sofa, either in store or at home, and then used a group of staff champions to ensure it was a success on the shop floor.

“The main thing we wanted to try to achieve was making the experience of buying a sofa easier for our customers,” explained Russell Harte, DFS’s head of multichannel development and delivery. “We developed our app to do that, and we focused that primarily on Apple devices because iPad is something our customers are very aware of from a brand recognition point of view.”

The decision to keep the app on iOS was also due to the second half of DFS’s app campaign: at the same time that the app appeared on the App Store, it would be rolled out as a sales tool to 100 of their branches across the UK. Salespeople could then use the app with the customers to help them make a more informed purchase. “Our store guys all intuitively knew how to use iPad, whether they’d got their own or not,” said Russell. “There is something about iPad which means that people can use it without any significant training.”

DFS' room planner iPad app

Finding staff champions for the new app

The DFS app allows customers to create a 3D model of their room, complete with windows, doors and stairs, then position DFS’s sofas and chairs in the space to see which is the best fit.

“DFS’s app is a great example of how mobile devices can make decision-making fun,” says Martin Wright, Jigsaw24’s iOS developer. “It brilliantly combines 3D models with your camera, letting you turn your living room into a showroom and inviting you to explore more options before buying, so customers get a better idea of everything DFS has to offer.”

In order to prepare for the rollout (and check that the app was suitable for use in store), DFS’s senior team chose nine stores around the country to receive in-depth training on the app. Managers from those stores would then go to other branches in their region and act as champions, explaining how the app worked.

“We visited those store managers individually, and then over a period of weeks they got to understand when was best to use it with a customer, at what point in the conversation to use it, [how to gauge] whether it really helped or whether it just made the choice too much,” explained Russell. “They passed on that expertise to other store colleagues in their regions, and that’s how we rolled iPad and the app out.”

Having champions on the sales floor also helped to reduce internal resistance to this new idea, and iron out any kinks in the app before it hit the App Store. “They fed back a lot of things to change, so we took that on board before we launched it to customers and the rest of the estate,” said Russell. “In the room planner aspect, we got a lot of requests for doors that showed the opening arc, because a lot of furniture ends up having to fit behind a door. And then there were bits of feedback about usability – about moving the furniture around and how we displayed information and prices.”

DFS' room planner app

Preparing for an Apple rollout

Although they are primarily PC-based, DFS already had a management system in place for staff iPhones and their small contingent of Mac users, so “in terms of infrastructure we were ready for iPad, but process-wise we still had a bit to learn.” Russell’s main concerns have been around ensuring that updates to the app appear seamless to end users, and that the size of the updates doesn’t overtax the company network. However, the update process is so smooth that the company are now rolling out extra iPad devices in some stores and recently they’ve been given to senior managers to make working easier when they’re on the road.

Gauging the customer response

DFS’s app has been doing incredibly well on the App Store, with over 120,000 download and a 3.5 star rating. It’s faring well in store, too. “From a purely anecdotal point of view, when you sit in a store and watch a customer interaction, the app leads to really, really good conversations,” said Russell. “This is a purchase that is reasonably expensive for most people, and it’s a fairly infrequent purchase as well, so trying to make sure you get absolutely the right one is very important. If you ask the store staff, particularly the ones who use iPad a lot, they will say that it allows them to have better customer conversations around the products.”

DFS' room planner app

Choosing an Apple partner to move forward

“We already had an existing relationship with Jigsaw24, so we originally approached them to see whether we could get hold of iPad and other Apple devices [for the rollout],” Russell explained.

“Working with them was all very straightforward, pricing was competitive, and delivery was on time and in full, so it was all very easy for us, and that’s all you can hope for when you’re trying to get hardware out there quickly. Jigsaw24 do what they say they’re going to do, they’re very straightforward, and they allow you to get on with running your business and moving it forward, which is what you really want to be focusing on.”

The company’s next project? Building Mac-powered kiosks that will let customers interact with a larger touchscreen, and other digital signage to access marketing content that’s created at head office and distributed and scheduled in the cloud. “Everybody’s keen that, as the market leader in the UK upholstery market, we continue to develop things that keep us in that position and move the market forward. If you want a device that’s intuitive to use, has got high brand awareness and needs minimal training, iPad works really well.”

Want to know more about how iPad can support your sales team? Get in touch on 03332 409 305 or email B2B@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and recommendations, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

App of the week: junaio Augmented Reality Browser

App of the week: junaio Augmented Reality Browser

By now we’ve all seen augmented reality in action, and while a good chunk of the iPhone-wielding public have download an AR app only to dismiss it as a gimmick, for businesses it provides a wealth of opportunities for visualising and working in a more dynamic way.

What is junaio?

junaio by metaio is one example of augmented reality being put to good use – primarily a developers’ platform, it allows you to create and then publish your own location-based experiences to several million users (or a select few if you’d prefer…) via the junaio app in the App Store.

How does augmented reality and junaio work?

Augmented reality is the process in which virtual, computer-generated elements (sound, video, graphics or GPS data) are added to real life visuals to modify a view or enhance a view.

The junaio app is an augmented reality viewer that allows you to tap into the channels developed in junaio’s developer community. Within the app, you can:

– recognise imagery and add virtual overlays
– add interactive computer-generated elements to magazines and other publications
– tap into GPS data to find a local store or service
– scan QR codes
– read barcodes
– and more…

As an app user, all you have to do is download it from the App Store, load it up and download content from any of the channels in the built-in library. Take a look at junaio’s video below to see some of these examples in action.

Who’s junaio good for?

While the junaio app already includes thousands of options for viewing everything from the location of tweeters to the nearest place to get a hangover cure, for businesses, it will really benefit anyone who needs realtime visualisation in situ. On a basic level, it’s possible to create a store channel with details of all shop locations for the end user to find their nearest option, but it would also be possible for visual merchandisers to develop apps that scan shops for to identify product placement.

Construction is another area where junaio comes into its own. So much so that Apple have even put together a case study on how engineering and construction giant, Bechtel use junaio alongside Autodesk 360 on their iPad to view mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems over images of a construction site. The built-in GPS in iPad is used along with junaio to plot their location within the site for accurate visualisations. Take a look at the case study and video here.

Our favourite feature

When it comes to augmented reality, there have been a fair few duds released over the years for mobile devices (i.e. they didn’t quite manage to recognise imagery as well as you’d hope, and you’d be left shaking your phone in an attempt to get the virtual elements to catch up), but that’s just not the case with junaio – it’s actually incredibly accurate.

The big benefit here is that it has real business potential, as the Bechtel case study above proves. The accuracy and reliability with which it adds virtual content to real life imagery means that you can develop uses for the app which take a lot of the guess work out of visualisation.

Where can I get it?

The viewing app itself is available from Apple’s App Store and is completely free – click here to head on over there now to download. For businesses wanting to develop bespoke uses for junaio on iPad, head on over to the junaio site here.

For more information about business uses of iPad, get in touch with our team on 03332 409 306 or email business@Jigsaw24.com.