For most people, the first introduction to Augmented Reality came via Pokemon Go, way back in 2016.
Way back in 2016, you hear me say? This is a world where technology moves ever faster, remember.
And before you say it, don’t tell me it was only for kids. Pokemon Go plonked AR into the wider public consciousness and adults took it up with gusto.
Chasing those pesky yellow monsters took people to all sorts of unusual places. A little fellow called Squirtle (for the record he’s blue) even turned up on the wing of a plane. While it was in mid-air.
The point is, people were walking, talking and engaging with places they had never been to before. The magic word here is footfall.
The makers of Pokemon Go, Niantic, aren’t a company that stands still and they’re due to release Harry Potter: Wizards Unite at some point in 2018. Watch out for that one.
The Gruffalo app in use
Last year, Gruffalo trails were the big thing and families were to be found chasing monsters (this time they were hairy) across acres of forest and green space in England. It proved so popular that many attractions have extended their Gruffalo trails into 2018, having originally intended to run them only during 2017.
Again, outdoor spaces saw record footfall as young and old gathered around their screens to find the next Gruffalo location. Quite a way to get people out in the fresh air.
Here at Laduma, we created an AR dinosaur hunt for the James Milner Charity Ball in November. The foundation approached us with a challenge they had, which was to create more engagement at the event itself by encouraging people to explore the venue and also add the wow-factor to their evening. Laduma therefore created a bespoke app using a system of AR markers, party-goer were challenged to chase a trail of virtual dinosaurs during the evening, with a prize at the end. A pretty simple concept you might say, but paired with the cutting edge technology, it created a buzz, got people engaged and increased footfall at key locations.
Notice the magic word, once more? Yeah – footfall. That’s where Augmented Reality is set to make an even bigger impact in 2018.
People know AR is all well and good, but it needs to produce tangible results to be useful in the often harsh word of business.
One of the key questions we get ask by clients is, how do we increase footfall? How do we bring customers to our shop, display or even kiosk? In these days of click and collect, that is more important than ever.
The beauty of AR is that if done well, it will direct consumers in exactly the right direction. That’s what business want, right?
In 2018, that is where Augmented Reality will come into it’s own.
Imagine a football stadium, for example. You create an AR hunt that takes people to various locations in the stands and kiosks, offering information and perhaps even collectable momentos. So where does it all end – the club shop. Clever, eh?
It’s the same principle at a music event, for example. Create the chase – maybe offering exclusive content about bands and personalities – before ending at the merchandise stall.
Or even in a school. Have children chase a series of virtual characters (they love this digital malarkey) that perhaps teach them about healthy eating. Then have it end in the canteen, where fruit and vegetables are on offer. Brains wired, point made.
I could go on, but you get the point. In 2018, AR will be a fantastic opportunity to direct people in certain directions. For commerce, for information, for education. And I bet you can think of a few more.
Of course, there are others where Augmented Reality is set to make its mark in 2018.
Take AR and surface detection. This expands on the original concept and uses flat surfaces to display digital content. So for example, you can point your device at a flat surface in a museum and immediately, content about nearby exhibits is displayed. Or a local business.
In 2017, Apple and Google laid out the playing field with their ARKit and ARCore technologies. Essentially, these are the tools that make surface detection AR possible. This extra functionality is being added to more devices this year, presenting the opportunity for companies like Laduma to take advantage.
This technology takes the real world and makes sure that any suitable surface can display content relevant to that location. Like the museum, this could stretch to ‘call to action’ points, where a potential customer can contact companies via a virtual website or email link. All from the content they see via AR. 
This can of course enhance AR that uses markers, creating a truly mixed experience. Imagine being able to actually walk inside a piece of AR technology. Laduma have created a portal app which can do exactly that!
Or, in the case of our own dinosaur hunt, visitors would be able to physically walk around a three-dimensional model of a dinosaur via their device, rather than simply viewing it in front of them.
The key to AR right now is there isn’t a killer app out there. You know – this year’s Pokemon Go, or Gruffalo Hunt.
Apple and Google are certainly hedging their bets and is AR edging closer to a spot in the centre of people’s lives.
Get that right and will people will look way back at 2018 in a few years and remember it as a time that AR truly made a name for itself.
By Tommy Pickersgill