For most of us, we had our first real taste of augmented reality (AR) back in 2016. Offering what some have described as a “revolutionary smartphone experience” by layering digital information over what is happening around you in the real world. Pokémon Go saw players wandering through public spaces glued to their smartphones in search of elusive virtual creatures.
Looking back, industry experts described the incredible success of this augmented reality game as a craze that totally transformed how people looked at their smartphones and paved the way for where mainstream augmented reality is headed.
But before we get into that, let’s quickly explain exactly what AR is all about. Merriam-Webster defines augmented reality as “an enhanced version of reality created using technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera)”.
This basically means that AR creates the illusion that virtual objects are in the same space as real, physical objects by overlaying these virtual objects over images of the real world. It differs from virtual reality (VR) in the sense that AR users are still very much a part of the real world; they’re just interacting with virtual objects. With VR, on the other hand, users are totally isolated from the real world as they become immersed in something entirely fabricated.
So what value does AR hold beyond gaming?
In short, a whole lot. The combined market for AR and VR is expected to reach $108 billion by 2020; with AR contributing close to 75% to this value.
AR presents a new world of opportunities for modern businesses. Especially businesses looking to innovate and come up with new and creative ways to enable customers to interact with their products and services. Take GAP, for example – the popular clothing and accessories retailer is using AR to allow customers to create virtual 3D mannequins and try on clothing without even having to set foot inside a changing room.
Within the financial services space, we’re seeing banks around the globe embracing this technology.In an effort to improve customer service, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Halifax in the UK have introduced AR “home finder” apps. These apps use AR technology to give users an overview of data on houses on the market as they pass them on the street. The National Bank of Oman now helps customers find their nearest ATM or branch with the help of an AR-enabled map. Finally, Wells Fargo, a US financial services business, has created an AR system that lets customers interact with bank tellers in a virtual space laid over reality’, a move that has prompted some industry experts to question if AR has the potential to replace the physical bank branch.
These financial service businesses aren’t only embracing customer- facing solutions – they’re also using AR to improve employee experiences and reimagine their current operations. Something as simple as offering staff a more intuitive AR interface makes a huge difference by providing a visual representation of large quantities of data. These AR-enabled data visualisation tools make it easier for analysts to understand complex data streams and results in better, quicker decision making.
While these are only the very first steps, AR has the potential to transform the financial services industry, and so many other industries, in the future. It presents new ways for businesses to meaningfully and creatively connect with their customers. If you’d like to keep pace with the ever-changing world of business and technology, our monthly newsletter holds a wealth of insights. Subscribe below.