Augmented Reality

What is webAR? A Quick Guide to the Latest Rage in Augmented Reality

web-based Augmented Reality is picking up pace due to its simplicity. In this blog, we decode the webAR and why it has emerged as a big deal for brands!

"Augmented reality is the ‘boy who cried wolf’ of the post-Internet world—it’s long been promised but has rarely been delivered in a satisfying way." —Om Malik

 

The distribution factor in augmented reality has been a major issue for some time now. Critics are quick to point out the expensive headsets or heavy mobile apps that have posed a massive roadblock in the mass adoption of augmented reality.

Things are set to change or, in fact, are already changing as we speak, with the advent and rising trend of webAR. In this blog, we are going to discuss this latest rage in the world of immersive technology and why it is such a huge deal.

What is webAR?

webAR refers to web-based augmented reality experiences that allow you to experience AR via your smartphone without any need of an extra app. All you need is a custom URL that opens in a smartphone browser, asks for camera permissions, and delivers AR content in the live environment of the user.

webar-demo-gifSample webAR Demo (Image Courtesy: Google)

To put it in even simpler terms, you are just visiting a website in your smartphone browser to experience the AR content. The sheer simplicity of webAR makes it a huge turning point in the evolution and spread of AR, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones in the world.

While native AR experiences require the support of ARCore in Android phones (limited to certain models), webAR can be experienced on all Android devices running Android 6.0 and above with gyro and accelerometer. That makes it nearly 75% of the android devices that can support webAR (Source: Android Developer). In the case of iOS, webAR can be experienced on iOS 11 and above. This means it is supported on 94% of devices (87% iOS 12 and 9% iOS 11) as per the latest data from the Apple app store (Source: Apple Store).

The recent announcement of Google to display search results in 3D will further give a push to AR adoption in the mainstream.

As more people get familiar with such 3D interactive experiences in their live environment, there will be more incentive for brands to offer such experiences to share their brand story with their customers.

Why is WebAR a Huge Deal for Brands?

By offering a native AR experience through smartphones, webAR has opened exciting new doors of possibilities for brands looking for novel ways to get the ever-elusive customer attention but have been reluctant to experiment with augmented reality due to multiple reasons.

Previously, to experience any AR content, users needed to download an exclusive app that demanded heavy space and computing power. This would not even be an issue if you are a popular brand like IKEA which has a strong use-case of incorporating an AR feature in their enterprise app with an existing user base.

Ikea-Place-AR-AppIkea AR App (Image Courtesy: Ikea)

However, if you are a small business or brand without an app, even the thought of investing in separate mobile app development, not to mention the intricacies of dealing with entirely new technology, is enough to deter you from even trying.

More importantly, your target audience or customers might not even download or use the app as consistently as you might want ( Fun facts: "Almost 3 in every 10 apps will be deleted from users' devices within a month. 21% of apps are used only once during the first 6 months." (Source: Clevertap)

WebAR removes the friction of using a separate app and makes it easier to experience AR content by anyone. The possibilities are endless as you can share the webAR URL just like any other link over multiple marketing channels like on social media posts, digital banner advertisements, email, Whatsapp, and so on.

For instance, check out this sample use-case of webAR in e-commerce where Shopify demonstrates how while shopping online, you can see the products in your live environment from your browser itself.

Not only this enhances the shopping experience but sets accurate expectations from the product through the right visualization something which was a limitation in online shopping.

The story so far and current challenges

A lot has been said and written about the impending AR/VR revolution. The early failures of Google Glass and with billions of dollars invested in startups like Magic Leap with no clear outcome, there are many critics of immersive technologies. Despite the ambitious predictions about the scope of AR/VR by the likes of Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg, critics have been quick to point out the glaring gaps in the mass adoption of this technology.

For common people, AR has been limited to the massive craze of games like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter Wizards Unite or social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook which support AR experiences within the app. WebAR gives you a level playing field where your brand does not need to be dependent on these platforms or develop a separate app to deliver an immersive experience to your customers.

Yes, there are certain challenges with webAR as well. While it can be accessed on the majority of modern smartphones, the experience requires a decent internet speed to work well. Plus, due to intensive experience comprising of 3D content and animations, browser caching cannot be leveraged properly that might sometimes lead to laggy user experience. But most of the times, the novelty of the experience is enough to give you a huge spike in the user engagement despite these challenges.

Only time will tell whether webAR will be able to solve the challenge of mass delivery of AR in an effective way or not. But with the future of sophisticated and affordable AR glasses for consumer market still seems far away, it has definitely emerged as an exciting avenue for brands looking to try something new. Stay tuned to this space for more updates on immersive tech!


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