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But un­like many dig­i­tal fads, there are also plenty of solid ex­am­ples of AR in ac­tion. On the pub­lish­ing side, the Washington Post has launched a se­ries of sto­ries with AR el­e­ments, which will al­low its au­di­ence to ex­plore ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders. The first in­stal­ment fea­tures Her­zog and de Meu­ron’s stun­ning Elbphil­har­monie con­cert hall in Ham­burg. How does the AR work? Read the story on the Post’s IOS app, and point your smart­phone at the ceil­ing, and you’ll see the Elbphil­har­monie’s unique acous­tic pan­els ap­pear above you, com­plete with an­i­ma­tions that show how they dis­perse sound waves to cre­ate near-per­fect acous­tics. There’s a com­mer­cial up­side too. The AR com­po­nent is spon­sored by Audi.

If AR is to flour­ish, ad­ver­tis­ing and spon­sor­ship need to be part of the pic­ture. Snap, the par­ent of Snapchat has been ac­tive in mon­etis­ing AR through its spon­sored lenses. The most re­cent cam­paign saw Snapchat users turn their heads into tacos with a lens spon­sored by Taco Bell. Sure it’s silly stuff. But it’s a pow­er­ful brand mar­ket­ing tool on a plat­form that has mass youth ap­peal. Whether it’s cost ef­fec­tive is another ques­tion. The fil­ter re­port­edly racked up about 224 mil­lion views, and ad­ver­tis­ers pay be­tween $300,000 to $700,000 for this sort of cam­paign. Did Taco sales in­crease? Who knows! Un­de­terred, Snap is launch­ing an aug­mented re­al­ity ad unit that lets mar­keters add graph­ics to the front-fac­ing cam­era. Ad­ver­tis­ers like Warner Broth­ers, Net­flix and Dunkin’ Donuts are al­ready queue­ing up to use the new ads.

And other brands are at it too. Mc­don­alds has launched an aug­mented re­al­ity game in Swe­den called Beatquiz. The game, which is part of the Mcdon­ald’s IOS and An­droid apps, au­to­mat­i­cally gen­er­ates mul­ti­ple­choice ques­tions based on the music play­ing in restau­rants. Con­sumers have re­port­edly re­sponded pos­i­tively. But, again, whether they buy more Big Macs as a re­sult is yet to be seen.

But not all AR ac­tiv­ity is brand new. In 2013 Ikea launched an aug­mented re­al­ity app that lets users see what any item of Ikea fur­ni­ture will look like in their home. Point your cam­era at that awk­ward nook, and you can see what some Swedish-de­signed, flat-pack units will look like there. This sort of ap­pli­ca­tion seems far more likely to be a com­mer­cial suc­cess as it’s pro­vid­ing a valu­able step on the cus­tomer’s path to pur­chase.

For now AR is prob­a­bly set to re­main the play­thing of those with the deep­est pock­ets, as the bar­ri­ers to en­try are high. But this may change, es­pe­cially as the likes of Facebook try to mon­e­tise AR ac­tiv­ity at scale. If this hap­pens, the chal­lenge will be to use the tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate some­thing of value for au­di­ences and cus­tomers. Pub­lish­ers and con­tent cre­ators need to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to cre­ate con­tent and cam­paigns that buy into to some tech­nol­ogy zeit­geist, but don’t re­sult in cus­tomers buy­ing their prod­ucts.

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