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Expert View: Taming the Wild West of AR

Why AR will require permissions in the future

By Caspar Thykler, Co-founder and CEO of Zappar

At the moment, we are experiencing the ‘Wild West’ of augmented reality (AR). Companies all around the world are experimenting with the technology, finding new ways to engage audiences. Almost anything goes. And as a relatively young industry, new practices and techniques are being found by developers and producers each week. For example, we’ve found that people stepping into a virtual world boost their engagement. Or if it is linked to packaging, then AR can provide value by showing the analytics behind how people use products. No location-based permission required – at least, for the last few years.

At the moment, we are experiencing the ‘Wild West’ of augmented reality (AR). Companies all around the world are experimenting with the technology, finding new ways to engage audiences Click To Tweet

Currently, anyone can place AR characters anywhere in the world. A Squirtle from Pokemon Go can stand near the Eiffel Tower, and a dragon can roar fire on top of the Flatiron Building. GeoAR – the use of geo-tagged AR locations – will grow in prominence as brands launch their location-based tech. But soon, the freedom period will end, and building-owners will want better control of their virtual space. Over time, companies will want to protect both the physical and virtual layers of their properties. In the 2020s, we expect all GeoAR experiences to require ‘permissions’ before use.

Permission to place GeoAR

Take movies. In the UK and US (among many other countries), all producers require permission from the building-owner or council before filming on-site. These agreements can be complex, with restricted filming angles and topics, and extensive paperwork. For the owners of these locations, they are a necessary precaution for the protection of their property.

Currently, anyone can place AR characters anywhere in the world. A Squirtle from Pokemon Go can stand near the Eiffel Tower, and a dragon can roar fire on top of the Flatiron Building Click To Tweet

‘Protection’ is the keyword here. The concept is vital on the physical plane; no owner wants their buildings to be damaged by the production process. That’s why Manhattan in New York has a strict timetable for companies filming in the city center, to balance the needs of inhabitants with filming opportunities. The same logic extends to the virtual plane as well; property-owners will want to own the space, to ensure it is not abused by external parties.

Safety for the sake of privacy and protection from abuse

For example, let’s say you own a fast-food chain called ‘Grills’. Grills has plenty of protection for all its restaurants across the country; locked doors, CCTV, and security guards are present in every location. Physically, the brand is safe.

Take movies. In the UK and US (among many other countries), all producers require permission from the building-owner or council before filming on-site Click To Tweet

But one day, the owner of Grills notices that their main rival, Roasted, placed GeoAR ads of their products in the same location as every Grills. The ads say they are cheaper and better than Grills, and they should hop next door instead. Any customer can take out their phone and see ads that compare the two chains, on the virtual plane. And you have no control when it happens. In this case, Grills needed to control their permissions. Without the process, Grills is vulnerable to other companies using the location for their own ends.

A campaign opportunity

Not all examples will be intentional. At the height of Pokemon Go’s popularity, they needed to remove their PokeStop which appeared in a Holocaust museum. But for many companies, it could open the gateway for more shadowy campaign tactics. The process will change with time as companies want to protect themselves with permission-based GeoAR systems. Darabase, who lays the framework for permission-based AR, is one company working to solve the problem, in partnership with Zappar.

The process will change with time as companies want to protect themselves with permission-based GeoAR systems Click To Tweet

But it is not all doom and gloom. The framework also provides brands with an opportunity for campaigns that resonate with consumers, shifting their shopping habits by using the space people own. Having a permission-based system means property-owners will receive remuneration for their participation, which is standard practice for other mediums like film and TV. And like with any great partnership, the agreement can be mutually beneficial, depending on the campaign. For example, if a wine brand wants to be associated with the fields its grapes grow in, then the virtual layer of said fields can display ads for their vintage. The deal would benefit both farmers and companies.

Having a permission-based system means property-owners will receive remuneration for their participation Click To Tweet

Like with any medium, AR can be used well or badly. As we continue through our Wild West phase, we must be careful about the kind of campaigns we can run. For the sake of protection, companies will likely adopt a permission-based system that is standard with other industries. But after that? The creativity of campaigns born afterwards can only be dreamed of.