The Future is Augmented

If you follow tech news or own a phone that was made in the last couple of years, there’s a good chance that you’ve experienced the ever-growing technology known as Augmented Reality. From gaming to construction, retail to marketing, it has a variety of uses to help enhance the user’s experience, promising to be a valuable tool moving forward into the future.


So, what IS it, anyway?

Augmented Reality, or AR for short, is the marriage of visual media and reality in a live, interactive sense. This can be anything from placing glasses on your face before buying them to fighting fictional monsters in the park. It is a form of media that uses your smart device to place objects into real space for entertainment as well as practical uses.


More than a toy.

For many, AR is a sort of fun gaming experience, whether it’s racing imaginary cars on a real track in your living room, defending yourself from alien invaders, or catching cute animal characters on your daily walk… but it has much more value than simply a form of entertainment.


You may want to see how a new couch will look in your living room alongside your other furniture. You might need to check if something is level or take large-scale measurements when a ruler won’t suffice. You may be considering getting a new haircut or want to buy some new clothes. Using your phone or tablet, you could experience all these things without ever having to reach for a tool, set foot in a store, or even leave your home.


How does it work, though?

At its core, AR uses technologies found on your phone or tablet to project imagery into real life as seen by a camera. It works one of two ways: Marker-Based or Markerless.


AR Markers

Using AR Markers, you can place 3D models into real space, virtually.


Marker-Based AR uses specially designed objects, or “markers” (similar to QR codes, posters, special cards), as a reference point and places visuals on screen based on the marker’s position. They require the marker to stay in view but allow the user to move and rotate the images by moving the markers. Posters, business cards, notice boards, and trading cards work exceptionally well with this approach. They can display images and play videos, as well as give extra info, which offers a more enriching experience than what you’d normally see in person. A movie poster might show a trailer; a business card may display a product, show a map to their location, or even link out to a website/social media without the need to go searching.


AR Markers look similar to QR Codes.
Both contain data.


Markerless AR is a little more complicated. It uses technologies your phone or tablet has (like a gyroscopic sensor, accelerometer, level) to map a stage based on what the camera sees. Once an environment is established, the app puts 3D models, effects, and other kinds of imagery in the scene as if they naturally exist there. Even as you walk about, the objects on screen stay in place as if they’re actually there.


Pichu is there and not there.
(Pokémon GO (c) Niantic, Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, Game Freak)


How approachable is it?

Augmented Reality is obtainable from both sides of the programming food chain. An experienced app developer can make use of a variety of tools to create a rich and engrossing experience, but the same is possible for someone with little website building experience.


Over the years as a web animator, I’ve learned a few things about JavaScript (JS) and HTML – the two most used languages for building webpages. In a nutshell, HTML is the base framework of a webpage while JS supports dynamic and interactive aspects. Using a few lines of both HTML and JS, one can easily bring a 3D model to life on a user’s device.


Basic HTML and JS make it work. It’s easier than it looks, I promise!


There are a handful of easy-to-use interfaces to bring AR to a compatible device over the web. For example, I’ve been focusing on Google’s own ‘model-viewer’ over the past few weeks – a web component that lets you drop 3D models into reality, straight from a webpage without the need of an app! Other such setups include Babylon.js and three.js, and there are many more out there for different purposes.


Decorating the office couldn’t be easier.

The future is augmented.

With the state of things worldwide as they are, the notion of being able to ‘see’ what things look like up close without having to be near that thing in-person is, no understatement, appealing. You may want to try on some new glasses or buy a new car. You might need new shoes or want to furnish a room in your home. Using AR, you could see yourself with those glasses on, or see that car in your driveway before buying. You can get a close look at those shoes and try them on without having to leave your home!


With these interfaces, which are constantly being updated (and with more emerging), there are limitless possibilities with what a business can do, be it promoting an upcoming product, allowing someone to ‘try before buying,’ or to simply offer some fun and entertainment. AR experiences are getting richer with each passing year and technological advancement.


As a marketing tool, Augmented Reality is gaining traction and more and more companies are catching on. Whether it’s showing off a new product (or one not yet released), as a useful tool in day-to-day application, or an educational/entertainment service, I look forward to what the future will offer, phone in hand.



Justin Reid
Web Animator
m5, St. John’s

m5 is one of the largest independent agencies in Canada. If you think we could help your business grow, let us know.