At The Digital Hollywood Experience this year, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on the phenomenon of AugmentedåÊReality. Or rather, the form most people would more readily recognize it as: PokÌ©mon GO. Yes, the mobile game that was a mega-hit from the moment it arrived on the scene has shown brand leaders and marketers what awaits us in the not-so-distant future. Think of AR as another wave of technological transition ‰ÛÒ similar to the ones that moved us from TV to Internet and desktops to mobile. This, too, will transform the way we interact with each other.

AR is a Very Social Experience ‰ÛÒ Here‰Ûªs Why

It is human instinct to want to connect with those around us. That is why social media took off at such an exponential rate. AR is the next piece of that progression, allowing us to connect to different realities outside of geography or time – even when we are sitting in the same room with each other.

‰ÛÏHuman beings are pre-disposed to love scavenger hunts. Every morning, we wake up, hungry for something that is better. And no matter how much we get, we‰Ûªll always eventually need or want more [and then go looking for it],‰Û said Dmitry Shapiro, CEO, GoMeta. Feeding this desire, GoMeta recently launched a new AR app called Metaverse, that allows users to create their own interactive experiences.

And PokÌ©mon GO harnessed this idea with GPS technology – PokÌ©Stops are found in the world near public art, unique architecture, or public gathering places. Meanwhile, sponsored stops widen the field of which brands can effectively leverage AR and collaborate with the game to reach users in a way that contributes to the growth of both community and revenue. In fact, Sprint became the game’s official first partner earlier this year and NianticåÊannounced last week that 7,800 Starbucks locations would be turned into PokÌ©Stops and Gyms – complete with aåÊspecial-edition PokÌ©mon GO Frappuccinoå¨ , no less.

Panelists pointed out that as soon as it is as easy to create and share AR as it is a Youtube video, this interaction and the ways we connect will only continue to expand as users begin to use the technology in their own ways.

Humanizing the Technology Means Being Stage-Setters, not Storytellers

Like any other platform or vehicle, AR will blend into the fabric of the customer experience and find it‰Ûªs own place in the mix of tools we have. It is marketing‰Ûªs role, then, to build a reason for users to keep coming back ‰ÛÒ whether that‰Ûªs a fully immersed reality change or a sprinkling of brand experiences that complement an existing narrative (similar to how we embed videos now). Right now, we are used to interacting with a 3D world on a 2D screen ‰ÛÒ swiping and tapping accordingly. In the future, a URL will be merely the entry point to a new world – a world that can read gestures, biometrics and even emotions, replicating and transcending the human ways we might experience the world around us. As brands think about ‰Û÷being human‰Ûª and connecting with their consumers, this definitely adds a new layer. We won‰Ûªt just be looking to tailor a 1:1 experience, but will actually need to put consumers in the driving seat of the experience.

‰ÛÏWe aren‰Ûªt storytellers now, we are set creators – so that you can create your own story,‰Û said Don Daglow, CEO, Daglow Entertainment.

The Question Remains: What Will this Bring for Brands of the Future?

When I asked this question of my panelists, most were filled with optimism. As brands learn how to leverage the new technologies, these tools will extend far beyond the reaches of entertainment, Snapchat filters and social media. Just imagine having a Six Flags amusement park with you wherever you go – or visiting a conservancy on the African Savannah for dinner tonight. Now imagine bringing that to a community of people and hosting the dinner or theme park night at a local business.

One panelist,åÊBrian Selzer, and his team at DAQRI are pushing beyond the confines of gaming and entertainment to revolutionize the way we work and live. Their Smart Helmet is capable of delivering onsite instructions, thermal detection, remote assist and more, while their Heads-Up Display projects information directly onto a windshield, keeping drivers’ eyes on the road and increasingåÊoverall safetyåÊbehind the wheel.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg – we still have yet to see all the ways AR can impact our lives and brands. But one thing is certain: you can‰Ûªt be linear. Augmented realities aren‰Ûªt carefully choreographed experiences. Marketers and writers must see this an opportunity to create an entire world with infinite possibilities – not just a product or set storyline.

  • We must become comfortable with creating a loose framework of worlds and goals and then handing over the reins to the users.
  • We have to be ready to take even more data than we are currently faced with, and reduce it into an interface that is optimized for better real-time decision-making and feedback.
  • We have to keep transparency at the forefront of our minds as we move further into uncharted territory. Connected consumers are creating data by simply existing. Privacy laws can‰Ûªt keep up with the speed of technology and the responsibility will continually lie with brands to disclose how the tech and data are being used.

Leveraging a perfect storm of 90‰Ûªs nostalgia, augmented reality and GPS technology, PokÌ©mon GO became 2016‰Ûªs gateway poster child for what AR could do for brands in the future. It has shown that we should never dismiss a teenage obsession as a mere toy ‰ÛÒ for that‰Ûªs where disruption frequently begins.

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This article was co-authored by Averi Melcher, Content Strategy and Development Manager for The CMO Club.

Panelists: Anjali Shastri, Sr. Director, Design Strategy, Client Computing Group, Intel; Dmitry Shapiro, CEO, GoMeta; Craig Allen, Digital Strategist, Creative Leader, Creative Alchemy Incorporated; Brian Selzer, VP, Business and Product Development, DAQRI; Jules Urbach, CEO, OTOY; Don Daglow, CEO, Daglow Entertainment.

**Photo Credits: DAQRI Heads-Up Display using AR technology.