Most people know about Virtual Reality, but there are a lot of people who don’t realize they use Augmented Reality (AR) on a day-to-day basis. With the advent of AR, the future is here. The term, Augmented Reality, coined in 1990 by Boeing researcher Tom Caudell, refers to a digital image that is superimposed onto a screen that otherwise shows the real world by using a camera. With everyone owning a mobile phone these days, AR is more accessible than ever--by 2024 it is estimated that there will be 1.7 billion mobile AR users. With that said, let’s take a closer look at this innovative technology.
What types of AR are there?
Technically speaking, there are several types of AR. There is Marker-based AR, which uses either an optical marker reader (OMR) or a QR reader to scan a code, which leads to the AR experience. Then there is Markerless AR, which scans the environment for information on where to place the AR content. There are several types of Markerless AR, including location-based AR, overlay AR, contour AR, and projection-based AR.
In marketing, there are two types of AR to look out for: OS-based and app-based AR. Programs like ARKit from Apple and ARCore--also known as Google Play Services for AR--from Google are built right into the hardware and OS of the phone and are compatible with desktop OS. Then, there are programs like Meta’s Instagram Camera Effects and Snapchat’s lenses that are built straight into the app. These two types of AR can both be used in diverse ways for advertising.
Why use AR for marketing?
A great example of AR use is smart glasses. Smart glasses are used for a variety of things, both by consumers and by businesses. For businesses, Smart glasses are especially relevant as they can do things such as remote streaming to ease collaboration and increase efficiency or allow workers to share data and information in real-time. Smart glasses like Vuzix are becoming increasingly relevant, in 2026 it is projected that 8.6 million units will be sold. These examples and projections illustrate that AR technology is only becoming more widespread and useful as it evolves. If businesses can use AR in this way, think of the myriad of ways they could be used for marketing. They would reduce the friction that comes with opening an app or scanning a QR code--just by virtue of being on the consumer’s face!
AR like that used in smart glasses affects the brain, but not in the way you may think. In one study, it was found that memory response was 70% higher in people who used AR for a task than people who did not, and visual attention was close to doubled. These findings suggest a greater emotional response and a higher level of engagement, making AR ideal for marketing. Whileusers aged 35 to 44 make up 27% of the market, 35% of augmented reality users are between the ages of 16 and 34, making younger people a greater part of the market. Generation Z alone accountsfor 20.35% of the population, while Millennials account for 23%. As Gen Z and Millennials continue to use technology on a frequent basis, AR may be ideal in reaching these groups and building long-term brand loyalty.
What are the downsides of AR marketing?
While there are many benefits to AR content, there are downsides as well. AR can be expensive to create and can pose data security and privacy risks. . Since AR is a recent technology that is still being developed, the technology can be a prime target for hackers. The security risk comes from the fact that AR technologies see what the user is doing on camera and, additionally, AR collects quite a bit of data about the user. The data collected is valuable and leaves people vulnerable to things like malware and ransomware attacks. Apart from data security, the time to develop the technology can be extensive. The development time for an AR program can take up to six months to complete. Lastly, there are personal safety risks. It is easy to become immersed in AR and not be observant of your surroundings. You can easily risk physical harm this way--though one can argue this is a risk with mobile phones in general.
In summation, AR has quite a bit of use as part of a marketing toolkit. It reaches a broad, tech-loving audience with its versatility and on-the-go utility. While there are negative things about AR, its power and increasing presence cannot be ignored. Whether you plan to use it or not, it is good to know the ins and outs of this kind of content. As time passes by, AR is only going to become increasingly relevant.