AR without boundaries: why it pays to have your own engine

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by Dan Wilchesky, Partner @Seed_Interactiv

The promise of augmented reality is boundless. The ability to create a new layer or dimension of communication for consumers is nothing short of transformative. Much like string theory allowed us to conceive of a new physical dimension, AR allows us to ideate within a new dimension of communication. Specifically, augmented reality offers an opportunity to change the way people interact with physical objects and space. While this transformative power extends far beyond products and brands––it touches on medical science, psychology, industrial design and beyond––its powerful ability to affect the brand/user relationship cannot be ignored.

Marketers know the importance of the relationship between product, brand and consumer. Within our studio, we have begun to touch on the myriad ways that product or brand interactions can be effected. Some, like our Tim Hortons program, demonstrate how we can create real world tabletop gaming in typical restaurant environments, using static tables and cards that exist physically but can be magically enhanced to create 3D game worlds. Or, our museum program, which brings artifacts to life by allowing the artifacts themselves to communicate their own history and story through 3D artifact reenactments. After all, who better to tell their stories than the artifacts themselves?

AR also powers our newest LabelSnaps product. LabelSnaps is the first web-based recognition and delivery system that allows users to snap a picture of a logo or packaging label and retrieve data, like text, video or audio. Several use cases, including promotional content, nutritional and ingredient information and instructional content are being tested, and that is just to start. The system is a first, enabling an ‘in-situ’ capability that entertains, informs and educates.

Our AR and VR lab (mixed reality) is currently exploring more futuristic AI-based opportunities, such as transforming fantasy football teams into actual teams that play AI-based games. Users play offensive and defensive coach, all while watching the live, virtual action unfold in the real world.

In all of these cases, we’ve provided the consumer with never-before-possible experiences that enlighten and entertain while forging deeper connections with real world products, spaces, and brands. For us, the limitless potential of AR was always clear. But the challenge that remained was the ability to deliver relevant and meaningful experiences across vastly different spaces, products and brands. Any single AR engine might be able to work well within a specific context, but could be rendered ineffective if this context changes. Moreover, using an existing ‘off-the-shelf’ engine risks uncertainty in terms of costing, placing us in a dependency on the whims of various providers. It was this combination of experience constraints and costing risks that drove us to create our own AR engine.

Having our own engine in-house allows us to be both hands on with our own source code, and to make any adjustments necessary to bring our ideas to life within virtually any context. Most importantly, a proprietary engine facilitates the ability to create more diverse, visionary content, which is why we engaged Ryerson University to collaborate with us on this build. Several years worth of development has given us a powerful working engine, but we continue to work with the university to further develop and enhance new and existing features and functions. This partnership, along with a previous collaboration with Seneca College, has allowed us to pursue myriad opportunities to test and then deploy our engine in practical and compelling ways.

Whether opportunities simply arise or we seek them out ourselves, we are confident in our ability to deliver across a broad range of potential applications. With so many opportunities ahead of us, we needed to be sure our own short sightedness in terms of using other people’s software was not a barrier to our long term vision.

As the landscape of experiential marketing continues to evolve, our engine gives us the ability to stay agile and remain at the forefront of AR.

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