Immersive technologies are becoming an indelible part of the holiday spirit. As digital immersiveness advanced to the point where you only need a smartphone in hand to take the plunge, it is now easier than ever to add an augmented twist to familiar celebrations. Taking it further from last year’s Christmas frenzy, augmented reality keeps finding its way into our shopping and entertainment habits. Now with Easter fast approaching, it’s curious to look at how AR is set to reimagine family holidays as we know them.
The Augmented Playground
Just a year after the famous Pokemon Go release, Microsoft pioneered Easter egg hunt in AR with its HoloLens game in 2017. Somewhat awkward graphics and limited spatial coverage made the game look more like an experiment rather than a mainstream product, yet it was another important step in AR’s broader acceptance.
HoloLens is a bulky headset, though, and not that easily affordable by families in search of new Easter entertainment. Instead, handheld devices, as simple as smartphones, are taking over the augmented reality domain. Thanks to ready-made toolkits released by Apple and Google, mobile AR now holds a much bigger potential for widespread adoption. This trend keeps showing up in more recent AR inventions in time for this Easter season.
Released last year, Lightweave’s Bunny Hunt AR became another take on the beloved Easter game. This time, the developer managed to overcome technological limitations and presented a successful augmented reality app that is now adopted internationally.
This April, the City of Brisbane is hosting an Easter-themed live event for kids using this location-based app. The organizers invite kids to color in their own bunny and then bring it to life with the help of eight scannable AR markers found across the city. Brisbane is for sure showing a good example of merging physical and digital realities into one exciting holiday experience for its citizens.
Another option to keep children entertained on their Easter holidays is augmented reality board games. For the last couple of years, new titles have been sprouting on the market so frequently you won’t have trouble finding just the right one.
For example, Star Wars fans can play the iconic Dejarik, a chess game popularized in the movie, via an AR-based iPhone app. Kickstarter has also seen a slew of AR tabletop games successfully funded recently. Among them, Spacial offers a holographic multiplayer AR game enabled through a specially designed tabletop gadget called the Spacial MRX. Sold for $60 each during the crowdfunding campaign last fall, the devices are expected to be delivered in March 2019 – right to the Easter table.
A Lesson from Last Christmas
This year’s AR advances into the Easter season don’t come from nowhere but have a whole history of ‘augmented holidays’ behind them.
Last Christmas was a good chance to see augmented reality in action. Brands just couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to take part in the customer engagement race, and came up with innovative AR uses to win over Christmas shoppers.
Walmart was quick to launch its Christmas Sleigh Ride in between its retail stalls early in December 2018. Sponsored by many consumer goods brands like Pepsi and M&M’s, this proved to be a win-win strategy for the retailer to attract Christmas shopping crowds with 3D animations, games and more entertaining options – all made possible by AR.
Retail stores aside, there were also options to augment domestic spaces with holographic Christmas trees and decorations. Apps like Deck Your Halls or Augmented Christmas Tree helped users to avoid all the hassle and put up festive decor without spending a penny on it.
At the same time, Easter treasure hunts have definitely stemmed from similar AR quests released last Christmas season. Although they came in many different shapes, treasure hunt apps shared the same game logic: to use a phone camera to scan surroundings for hidden markers that blended the physical reality with entertaining digital overlays.
When it came to Christmas presents, it stands to reason augmented reality had plenty to offer. From interactive gift guides, such as the one released by Magenta magazine, to “come-to-life” storybooks filled with heart-warming Christmas symbols, augmented reality added a bit of magic and fun to otherwise plain and familiar objects.
We printed 100 @hugeinc 2018 Magenta Gift Guides with a little something extra ✨ #limitededition pic.twitter.com/LuRlgfMGX7
— Derek Fridman (@hellofridman) December 3, 2018
AR: A Godsend for Holiday Marketing
There is one particular reason why augmented reality is so much in demand around holiday seasons. For brands competing on the grounds of customer experience, AR offers a powerful marketing tool – the one that beats many others in this respect.
Augmented reality is a blessing in the sky for companies looking to engage their audiences in a completely new way. As an emerging technology, AR still has this capacity to make a wow-effect and differentiate a brand as a forward-thinking one. That is why every announcement of a brand launching into AR resonates so much with the community and earns that brand much media coverage.
Just last year, Oreo partnered with Google to release its own augmented reality treasure hunt. Available for free, this app is unlikely to contribute anything to these multi-million brands but a spike in publicity and recognition. As a form of brand loyalty generation, AR marketing campaigns are likely to become quite popular as they keep proving their effectiveness.
At the same time, AR is bringing marketers’ dreams about ultimate personalization to life, literally. Even when designed for multiplayer experiences, an AR app still allows each user to interact with it personally and create unique stories. These stories can often be made public then, as many of such personalized AR experiences include social media sharing – the feature that makes this big AR groundswell even bigger.
These outstanding capabilities to engage and personalize make AR a game changer for brands, especially those in the retail scene. It’s little surprising that Shopify, ranked #3 among ecommerce platforms, introduced AR to its out-of-the-box features last November. This way, the company hopes to help brands engage with their buyers at all stages – from brand discovery to offline marketing activations and post-purchase service.
A New Dimension
Christmas and Easter have already become major playgrounds for immersive technology that put a new spin on how we see and interact with the world.
While AR apps are mostly reserved for entertainment, they also show a potential to create more meaningful interactions between brands and their customers – both around the holiday time and beyond it. As augmented reality is expected to make a huge leap in its worldwide adoption in 2019, we’ll be keeping an eye on how the technology delivers on this promise.
About the Author
Tatyana Shavel is a VR/AR Technology Analyst at Iflexion. She works in the intersection of business and technology exploring the practical use of augmented and virtual reality for smarter business and a better world. In addition to keeping a constant pulse on industry trends, she enjoys digging into data and conducting research.