Augmented Reality: A Comprehensive History (Part 1)

Many think of augmented reality as recent technology, but there have been iterations of it since the early 1900s. From the sword of Manocles (more on that later) to an app that features users vomiting rainbows, this story is not linear.  But it is pretty interesting.  So come along as we unpack the fits and starts that make up the history of augmented reality.  Let’s go.

History of Augmented Reality-In the Beginning In the Beginning, There was AR-ish

Once upon a time in 1901, L. Frank Baum, beloved author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, referenced something AR-like in his novel, The Master Key. He used the term “Character Marker” to describe a set of special glasses.  These glasses could project a key onto the foreheads of others.  The wearer could tell from a single letter whether someone was good (G), evil (E), wise (W), foolish (F), kind (K) or cruel (C). “Thus you may determine by a single look the true natures of all those you encounter.” Read More “Augmented Reality: A Comprehensive History (Part 1)”


Augmented Reality Advertising: App vs Web

When it comes to augmented reality advertising, there are currently two routes to consumers: in-app and web. Both have benefits and limitations, though they may not be immediately clear to marketers looking to maximize their advertising efforts. To better understand these distribution channels, let’s take a look under the hood of AR as a whole, from both a technological and user experience perspective. By the end of this post, we’ll know, unequivocally, the answer to one of 2018’s great mysteries…


Native vs Web AR – which is better?

Lightbulb High Level

From the top, augmented reality involves placing 2D and 3D content into a user’s environment in real time. Mobile AR, made possible via the high-fidelity camera built into later model smartphones, is the focus of this particular post. Down the road, we’ll all come to expect hands-free AR experiences as part of our daily lives, but for now, the reach of AR is through the lens of the smartphone. Read More “Augmented Reality Advertising: App vs Web”


How to Advertise in Augmented Reality on Mobile Web

If you’re new to our blog, this is a 3-parter. Check out parts 1, AR Advertising on Snapchat, & 2, How to Advertise in Augmented Reality on Facebook, for a deeper dive into in-app AR campaigns. And now for the good stuff… mobile web AR – a how to.


Mobile Web Icon AR Advertising on Mobile Web

Many people may not be aware of this, but you don’t have to be on Snapchat or Facebook or even in-app to experience augmented reality ads. Thanks to updates in the latest versions of Chrome and Safari in 2017, AR is possible just about everywhere… with the right technology, of course.  What does this mean for marketers? For one, AR experiences can be delivered on mobile web programmatically via standard ad tags which means the transparency of browser-based advertising, as opposed to in-app, can be applied to AR. Furthermore, it allows marketers to track traditional online advertising metrics, use mature datasets for targeting, and get AR-specific engagement measurements.  More on that later. Finally, scale. Delivery on the web means access to literally anyone browsing the internet on their camera-equipped mobile device. Sounds great, right? But how? Let’s start with the creative.
Read More “How to Advertise in Augmented Reality on Mobile Web”


How to Advertise in Augmented Reality on Facebook

If you’re new to our blog, this is a 3-parter.  Check out Part 1, Augmented Reality Advertising on Snapchat.  In this second post, we cover everything you need to know to launch an AR advertising campaign on Facebook. High level: AR advertising experiences are available in-app and on mobile web. The two major apps where brands can build and deploy AR creative are Facebook and Snapchat. An alternative to the walled gardens, the route with the greatest scale, and our bread and butter, is mobile web. Comprehensive AR campaigns may leverage all three. But how? And where to start? Not to worry, we’re here to help! In this three-part series, we’ll explain best practices for augmented reality advertising on Snapchat, Facebook & Mobile Web, as well as how to use the same assets across platforms. And now for the good stuff: how to advertise in AR, this time on Facebook.

Facebook Icon AR Advertising on Facebook – How It Works

Facebook, similar to Snapchat, allows branded AR lenses within the Facebook, Instagram and Messenger ecosystems. These include both front- and rear-facing camera experiences. Unlike Snapchat, brand access to sponsored lenses started purely as a content play, without any media-based distribution into the platform. This is great for creators looking to explore what works in AR, as Facebook has made it relatively easy from the start for users to create and deploy their own AR experiences. Upon activating branded lenses found in the camera carousel, marketers must rely on organic sharing and posting of their AR advertising experiences by Facebook users. At Facebook’s annual conference, F8 2018, the company announced numerous updates to its AR product.  These include media-based opportunities for bot-delivered AR experiences in Messenger, thereby allowing marketers a more direct path to AR experiences as ads. But, more on that later. Read More “How to Advertise in Augmented Reality on Facebook”


How to Advertise in Augmented Reality on Snapchat

Augmented Reality advertising has arrived and while marketers are eager to get their brands in on the action, many aren’t entirely sure where to start or what their options are. High level: AR ad experiences are available in-app and on mobile web. The two major apps where brands can build and deploy AR creative are Facebook and Snapchat. Alternative to the walled gardens, the route with the greatest scale, and our bread and butter, is mobile web.  Comprehensive AR campaigns may leverage all three. But how? And where to start?

Not to worry, we’re here to help! In the following pieces, we’ll explain best practices for augmented reality advertising on Snapchat, Facebook & Mobile Web, as well as how to use the same assets across platforms.

We’re going to focus this first post on in-app augmented reality advertising experiences, specifically within Snapchat. For a deeper dive into what makes a compelling AR ad campaign, check out our most recent blog post aggregating our favorite AR campaigns to date.  In the meantime, let’s review the basics.

Snapchat Icon Augmented Reality Advertising on Snapchat – How It Works

There are two types of “sponsored” interactive AR lenses on Snapchat: World lenses (using the rear-facing camera) and face lenses (using the front-facing camera). Both include 2 & 3-dimensional designs tracked to points in the user’s world. Read More “How to Advertise in Augmented Reality on Snapchat”

Augmented Reality: A Comprehensive History (Part 2)

Augmented reality history is a longer story than one might expect.   Magical AR glasses existed in novel form as early as 1901 and AR technology was conveying the weather long before global warming was a topic of conversation.  To read more about these early developments, check out Part 1 of this particular series, covering the history of augmented reality from the beginning.  Part 2, on the other hand, involves AR as most of us know it – social, mobile, making waves.  But what are the defining moments that got us to now?  Stay tuned. We’re about to find out.

History of Augmented Reality - for Everyone AR FOR THE MASSES

It’s official. We’ve made it to the advertising portion of this story. Augmented reality, compelling and interactive by nature, is an obvious fit for marketing.  But it wasn’t until 2008 that it was first incorporated into an advertising campaign. Very early adopter, BMW teamed up with Munich-based advertising agencies Buzzin Monkey and die agentour to create an AR campaign for the Mini Cabrio convertible. 

Consumers were encouraged to scan a magazine ad with their webcam to view a 3D model of the vehicle on their screens. It was specific to Internet Explorer/ActiveX browsers, but it did include AR tracking with the car model turning as the user rotated the ad.  We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years, but this pioneering print campaign was the first to allow manipulation of a digital 3d model in real time.  Critics recognized the early innovation and the campaign won multiple awards.

BMW AR history

Just two years later in 2010, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown met at Stanford University. The three began work on and then launched an app they called “Picaboo”. The name didn’t stick (due to a lawsuit), and in 2011 the group renamed their company Snapchat and adopted the Ghostface Chillah logo. Predicated on reality, in which moments are fleeting, Snapchat provided a place where users were more likely to be themselves. Despite privacy concerns, by the end of 2012, the app had over a million daily active users. The company continued to grow, along with their audience.  By 2015, Snapchat was a staple among social media platforms and a requirement among social teens.

In 2016, Snapchat, all grown up, reintroduced itself as Snap, Inc.,“a camera company”, and filed for an IPO.  As of February 2018, Snapchat reported 187mm daily active users with 1mm snaps created every day.  While they are still proving their own concept with mixed reviews from critics, users and brands, Snap has definitely earned its place in augmented reality history. Most of what we think of as mobile AR today is largely thanks to Snapchat.  

Snapchat - Augmented Reality History

Winner Icon  Upsets & Underdogs

As Snapchat was building out its in-app AR and camera technology, Google was looking for ways to offer similar capabilities hands-free. In 2011, a prototype was created resembling eyeglasses but with a heads-up display (HUD) in place of one of the lenses.  These innovative glasses also weighed a whopping 8lbs, a good indication more work was in order.  Two years later, Google released Google Glass to roughly 8,000 interested users.  These users, dubbed “Glass Explorers”, expressed their interest in the product on Twitter via the hashtag #IfIhadGlass, a marketing campaign on its own.  By the time of their initial release, the glasses weighed less than .08lbs or the weight of an average pair of sunglasses.  Still, they received mixed reviews. 

From a functional perspective, Google Glass worked with various apps and software that project into a user’s field of vision, similar to Tom Caudell’s early design for Boeing.  Although the healthcare, publishing and manufacturing industries readily adopted the frames, they didn’t catch on as easily with the general public, mostly due to aesthetics and privacy concerns. In July 2017 Google released an Enterprise version of the glasses for US-based companies.  According to a 2016 Forrester Research report, nearly 14.4mm US workers will wear smart glasses by 2025.  No small feat, though we imagine Google us up to the challenge.  

Google Glass EE

While AR wearable technology had yet to make the splash many in the industry were expecting, a little game from Niantic was about to change everything.  With the release of Pokémon Go in July 2016, augmented reality was hot hot hot.  Geolocation and very basic AR added a new level of interactivity to mobile gaming.  

Players were able to locate (via GPS), capture, train and battle virtual Pokémon in their world.  By the end of its first year on the market, the game had over 750 million users. By the end of 2017, it was the 9th top-grossing mobile game across platforms, and #1 on Android.  This growth was despite multiple technical problems, including recurring server outages due to extreme usage, and primitive AR technology. 

A social phenomena, news outlets at the time, reported on the dangers of playing Pokémon Go.  Most of these were related to deep engagement, such as walking into oncoming traffic while capturing Pokémon.  Engagement, ladies & gentlemen.

Pokémon Go - Augmented Reality History

History of Augmented Reality - SDKs AR SDKs FTW

While the popularity of Pokémon Go has diminished, it most definitely paved the way for great expectations concerning AR.  But in order for augmented reality to expand beyond gaming, additional software updates were needed.

2017 was the year for major AR SDK and AR builder announcements.  Apple released ARkit, followed by Google shortly after with ARcore.  Both made in-app AR significantly more feasible for developers on iOS (kit) and Android (core).  Up until this point, AR existed in AR apps.  These SDKs allowed AR in essentially any camera-enabled app.  Meanwhile, Facebook launched AR Studio and Snap, Inc. launched Lens Studio, both builder tools for users looking to create AR experiences for distribution on each platform, respectively.  These advancements took AR from a specialized in-app experience to available just about anywhere, with the right technology, of course.

Beyond the confines of AR or VR, there are specialized devices geared toward MR, or Mixed Reality. Magic Leap, founded in 2010, came out of stealth mode in 2o14 with the promise of just such a device.  The Magic Leap One uses proprietary technology to project interactive 3D imagery directly into a user’s retina. Dubbed “Google Glass on steroids” by Gizmodo, the device should be a game changer in the industry.   

Product development, however, has been slow while the company’s valuation continues to rise.  Consequently, the company has been accused of creating vaporware on more than one occasion.  In late 2017, Magic Leap finally announced a release of its headset and software slated for 2018. Their Lumin SDK is already public, and now audiences await the hardware.

Magic Leap has played a large part in augmented reality history to date based on its purported AR solutions. Most recently announced, Oscar-winning VFX studio, Framestore, has been working with Magic Leap as a content creator and strategic partner.  If the famous Magic Leap marketing video (below) is any indication of what’s to come, we are in for a treat.       


Megaphone Icon  Shameless Plug

Also in 2017, yours truly delivered the first AR ad experience served on the web, in partnership with Lionsgate. To promote the release of Jigsaw, the latest installment in the Saw series, Lionsgate looked to create something truly transformative.  A sneak peak into the horror of the film, the AR lens was a digital version of Jigsaw’s deathtrap.  It included a 3D laser collar animated to open and close on the user’s head.   This campaign was incredibly successful and helped us cement our place in the very history we’re sharing.

Jigsaw AR Experience - Augmented Reality History


So what does the future hold for AR?  We’re only halfway into 2018 and there have already been major announcements from the likes of Google, Apple, Snap and Facebook.  Today, as we write this post, augmented reality history is being written.  A far cry from the “Character Marker” described by L. Frank Baum, the opportunities in modern AR are still unfolding. The notion of being able to mix digital and real environments has gone from fantasy to everyday occurrence.  But we’ve just barely scratched the surface. With wearables in the works, cameras and computers improving regularly and exponentially, technologies like computer vision and machine learning creating complex programming opportunities, we can’t wait to find out.

Now that you can recite the complete history of augmented reality, check out some of our favorite AR advertising campaigns.  For some expert-level AR insights, try a deep-dive into the differences between app vs web AR.

Augmented Reality Advertising – How Marketers are Engaging Consumers on Snapchat, Facebook and Mobile Web

Vertebrae Icon - Yellow Save the Date – Augmented Reality Advertising – May 15

Thanks to platforms like Snapchat and Facebook and advances in software and hardware from the likes of Apple and Google, augmented reality advertising is becoming mainstream among innovative brands with the technological capabilities to make truly captivating experiences at scale. But it isn’t so simple. AR advertising requires advanced computer vision technology packaged up into tiny, extremely creative experiences. Read More “Augmented Reality Advertising – How Marketers are Engaging Consumers on Snapchat, Facebook and Mobile Web”

Augmented Reality Advertising Wins: Our Favorite AR Creative on Snapchat, Facebook & Mobile Web

There have been a slew of new AR advertising tools unveiled in the last year, and the medium is flinging the door wide open for a new kind of consumer engagement at scale. We’ve aggregated a few of our favorite, and arguably the best AR ad campaigns from Snapchat, Facebook and mobile web below:

Read More “Augmented Reality Advertising Wins: Our Favorite AR Creative on Snapchat, Facebook & Mobile Web”