Here’s to another fantastic year for the augmented reality community–many unique projects have been brought to life! Let’s see what’s been done and explore what the future holds as AR merges with the world of blockchain and leads into Metaverse.

1) Harrods windows display awakens in augmented reality

One of the UK’s favorite department stores, Harrods, is famous for its annual Christmas window extravaganza. The retailer turned four of its store windows into large-format AR markers this December. Once scanned, a creative 3D animation comes to life. We love how the Visualise team has delivered an awesome experience to the last detail. Seeing this spectacle covered across various news channels, we suspect the retailer can also celebrate extra footfall.

2) Moonpig supercharges its ad campaign with WebAR game

AR has proved its worth across both mediums, from brick-and-mortar to online retail. In fact, research shows that users are 70% more likely to retain sales information when delivered through AR than traditional advertising. It only makes sense that the eCommerce business, Moonpig, launched an augmented reality campaign alongside its TV adverts this year. Available through WebAR, the mini-game asks shoppers to catch gifts falling from the ceiling using a Christmas sack. An excellent way to drive engagement, entertain customers and promote products.

3) Marker-based AR Christmas decors serve as event entertainment

Continuing the Christmas theme, the next industry to benefit from augmented reality opportunities has clearly been the events sector. A great project was brought to life by one of the World’s Top 30 agencies, Skudras Metropole. As large-scale events are kept to a minimum across the world, the agency’s team delivered a Christmas AR gift set that acts as a full-fledged event package. Once scanned with the Overly app, users can experience exclusive content, such as virtual meetups with Santa, an astrologer or tune in to a rock concert. Coming from an event agency, it seems natural that their gift set takes some pressure off party hosts and organizes activities for them.

Museums, art galleries and artists themselves have been particularly active in the augmented reality sphere in the last year. It has been particularly challenging to choose one case to highlight. So, we’ve included a few to cover different AR approaches.

4) RIXC launches a location-based AR exhibition

In 2021, RIXC Center for New Media Culture launched Sensus Art. It is a GPS-based augmented reality app that invites people to attend virtual exhibitions outdoors. Its current collection of virtual artworks is located next to the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga. People can safely enjoy the outdoor display free of charge and at their own pace.

*Photo courtesy of sensusart.rixc.org

5) Botanical gardens simultaneously host the same exhibition in 12 locations worldwide

Similar projects have been brought to life worldwide. An amazing and larger-scale example was created as a collaboration among 12 botanical gardens around the world. The augmented reality exhibition Seeing the Invisible was launched as part of the Eden Project and opened simultaneously in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Works created for the exhibition address themes around nature, environment, sustainability and explore the interplay of the physical world with the digital one. What is wonderful is that there is no other way for artwork to simultaneously be in multiple gardens if it was a physical exhibition. That’s why AR allows people to experience things that would otherwise be inaccessible.

6) Berlin’s AR artworks get worldwide access

While GPS-based AR experiences inspire people to go places and interact with real-world surroundings, the restricted travel opportunities can also interfere with attending cultural events in other countries per se. That’s why we’ve selected another great example in the exhibition category-Berlin, Berlin. Despite its location-based name, this augmented reality application doesn’t require users to travel. Instead, users worldwide are invited to use the app within their surroundings and bring artworks by Berlin artists into their own homes or public spaces.

7) AR reveals the tensions of the Cold War

Similar to art galleries and artists, museums have also seized the opportunities offered by AR. This year was the 60th anniversary of the Berlin wall construction. Instead of recreating the events of that time via another documentary or a video, the Berlin Wall Foundation leveraged AR to let people enter the storyline rather than merely watch it. The team built an AR app using videos, photos, and testimonies from their archives to remember the difficult time in history. The app enables people to place the wall’s replica in their personal spaces and experience how tense the situation was at the time.

8) SACEM launches virtual exhibition “Musique et Pub!”

On a brighter note, we very much enjoyed how SACEM, Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique, celebrated its museum archive’s 50th anniversary. The organization commissioned LISAA School of Art & Design students to create AR vinyl albums to showcase the evolutions of commercial music. With four albums in total, each cover features an AR marker that can be brought to life using the Overly app. Once scanned, the graphics turned into musical animations that all resemble the respective decades.

9) Augmented reality becomes host to NFT collectables

Along with the growth of augmented reality, we are also increasingly hearing such buzzwords as crypto, blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). And they are all connected. Anima has opened up an AR stage to help artists showcase their digital creations while offering NFT owners the opportunity to interact with their assets in real life. NFTs are expected to generate fresh revenue streams for artists and other content creators, so we really enjoy seeing the industries merge so well.

 

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AR leads the way to Metaverse

As you’ve seen, this has been a productive year for augmented reality creators and consumers alike. And the success that we have shared on this blog is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s been going on and what’s yet to come. In particular, we didn’t want to wrap this blog without mentioning the hottest tech industry trend, Metaverse, and AR’s role in shaping its future.

 

Mark Zuckerberg is claiming leadership in this virtual reality space by rebranding Facebook to Meta. The platform is bidding to drive social connection by building a fully immersive and limitless 3D world. Users will be able to create personalized avatars and tune out from their real-world experiences. 

 

While this does sound like an cool idea for a virtual reality gaming break at work, we are backing John Hanke’s AR Metaverse vision instead. As Hanke puts it, “Technology should be used to make human experiences better—not to replace them.” After all, blocking out reality to enhance human connection does sound like an oxymoron.

 

If anything, the last two years have shown us that we don’t want to spend our days immersed in technology. We’re all Zoomed out, and we will gladly skip the next conference call regardless of the fact if it requires wearing a VR headset or not.

 

In the meantime, the above examples show that integrating technologies in our lives can improve our connection to each other and the real world. We’ve seen AR enable cultural participation, we’ve seen it entertain and grant access to experiences otherwise unavailable. We also see the AR world merging with other technologies and becoming a trading place for NFTs. No wonder, that the analysts expect the sector to grow by 31.5% annually in the next five years. And that’s the Metaverse we can all be a part of.

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