The attraction to virtual reality is that it allows viewers to see things that aren’t really there. This also spawns some reluctance, as a fully immersive virtual experience can be disorienting for participants not ready for such an intense visual commitment. Meeting these consumers halfway is the realm of augmented reality, which merely adds visual aspects to the real world as it exists rather than creating an entirely new world like virtual reality tech does. Popularized by gamified mobile applications like Pokémon Go that superimpose digital characters onto real world scenes, augmented reality is a more familiar concept today than it ever has been. There are still many intricacies yet to be understood however, and many frontiers of the technology yet to be pioneered. NanoLumens has recently started exploring the potential of augmented reality in the large-format LED space, and has investigated the creation of an entirely new interactive multidimensional experience. The driving force behind this foray into augmented reality is a desire to create an augmented experience that can be enjoyed and shared by several viewers at once, without requiring any sort of world-enclosing viewing goggles. Ideally this will foster an increasingly social experience that offers a more jointly interactive alternative to the solitary immersion of virtual reality.

The collaboration of direct view LED technology with augmented reality is an exciting endeavor, but the ambition to create a more collectively enjoyed AR experience is not at all new. This common goal is represented in several other fields beyond large-format LED where augmented reality has taken hold. The AR trends in these industries will be useful to identify and discuss, as there is much the LED industry can glean. Recognizing what these trends are and the implications they foreshadow will prove a valuable exercise in keeping pace with the rapidly evolving AR industry. Here are a few developments that could show the way for expanding the presence of LED in AR:

Reproducing Brick & Mortar Physicality in Online Retail

The potential utility of augmented reality in online retail is enormous. What AR offers for online retail shoppers is chiefly a way to replicate the physicality of the brick-and-mortar in-person experience. This is particularly true for online users shopping with their mobile device. Thanks to mobile features like Snapchat’s facial filters, AR is already incredibly familiar to most smartphone users, and soon, shoppers will be able to use AR features to digitally superimpose items like clothing or smaller fashion accessories onto their person, in effect reproducing the experience of modeling those pieces in a physical store. Shopping somewhere in-person has an experiential physicality that consumers find value in, but if smartphone-integrated AR tech is able to create a reasonable facsimile of this experience, online sales could rise even more sharply than they already are.
Of course, there are examples where AR tech can stoke brick & mortar sales as well. Home-improvement giant Lowe’s has incorporated AR into its marketing strategy by encouraging customers to augment digital images of their home with new floors, or new utilities. This type of easily accessible visualization can spur consumers to action. Seeing a purchase completed creates a psychological desire for it to remain that way; this is why clothiers encourage customers to try on their clothing: they know once you have tried it on, you will have a hard time taking it off. AR supports this sort of purchasing model because it allows consumers to “try it before they buy it,” so to speak.

Taking the Game One Level Deeper

AR has been involved in the sports world for a lot longer than most people realize. The yellow first down line you see imposed on a field during football broadcasts? That’s AR. So is the strike zone box that hovers over home plate when baseball is on TV. These advances have long been welcome additions to improve the experience of those watching at home, but athletes and coaches have also found utility with AR as a tool to enhance practice time without the physical restraints that live-ball practice usually entails. Like retail, sports is another field (excuse the pun) where AR’s replication of physicality can provide innovative ways to reimagine essential processes. Contact is a core element of most sports, but repeated exposure takes a predictably degenerative effect on the human body. Thanks to innovative applications of augmented reality technology, coaches and trainers will be able to provide digital defenders for their players to replicate game situations without the physical toll of real world contact. As AR further incorporated into the sports sphere, fans will enjoy a more comprehensive television product while players see their performances (and careers) enhanced and extended.

Augmented Information Keeps Troops Safer

Much like the world of sports, military excellence requires an immense amount of training time, but also like sports, it can be difficult to create training programs that accurately simulate real world action. The potential consequences attached to military environments are of course far more dire than those of sports, but this is an area where augmented reality can and will prove exceptionally useful. Many military applications of AR tech were showcased at the Defense and Security Equipment International 2017 conference in London. Some of the tech highlighted included wearable display units that can project key data points onto battlefields, as well as topographical data projectable within and analyzable from command centers. Like its application in online retail and sports, AR tech in the military sphere will replicate physicality. This will help keep on-the-ground personnel safer, and decision-makers better informed.
AR revenue is projected to reach $90 billion by 2020. With a forecast this robust, the industries looking to integrate AR technology need to do so fast in order to capitalize on a wave that could revolutionize the way they do business. Augmented reality allows us to digitally enhance the world around us while still remaining grounded. NanoLumens hopes to use these digital enhancements to create real ones. To find out more about how NanoLumens is pioneering new frontiers in the LED space, take a look at our work with glassless touch screen technology.