Have you heard of augmented reality? Augmented reality (AR) is kind of like a two-dimensional barcode, or QR code, on steroids. I have to admit, prior to yesterday I’d never heard of it, but this technology has been out there for a few years. Last year, Esquire magazine published an entire issue using AR. I’m not an Esquire subscriber nor am i in the magazine’s target audience, so this bit of information never made it across my news feed.

Yesterday, though, my husband received a T-shirt from his company, Cisco. The T-shirt came with instructions for the user: go to the Cisco.com/app website, download the app, point it at the T-shirt, tap “Wake Up T-Shirt” and then view the T-shirt through the app on a supported device. I’m a tech geek — albeit one who is obviously a bit behind the times when it comes to AR —and I have to say that this is the coolest corporate T-shirt I’ve ever seen.

It’s hard for me to describe exactly what augmented reality is, so I’ll let this video describe it:

As you can see, you scan an AR-enabled item with your iOS or Android device and the product comes to life. I immediately associate this technology with QR codes but AR is more of a QR code on steroids. With an AR ad, businesses can educate consumers about their products via video and sound as well as provide quick access to a variety of information.

QR codes serve a similar purpose but AR presents the data in a more eye-catching, dynamic and feature-rich setting. I’m not a marketing expert, but I think that AR could definitely be the future of high-tech advertising campaigns, especially since you can pretty much turn anything into an AR product — even a T-shirt.

The photo at the beginning of this blog post is the T-shirt that my husband received. The photo below is a screenshot I captured while the video was playing on my iPhone. My 11-year-old son watched the T-shirt come to life and was absolutely amazed. Then he quickly said, “that means they can use AR in video games!” Smart kid, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. This AR stuff is pretty cool — and to multiple generations of tech geeks.

Even though I’m new to the AR bandwagon, I’m not alone. In a December 2012 guest post for VentureBeat, Trak Lord shared his five reasons to get excited about augmented reality in 2013. Reason number one: AR-equipped glasses.

“A few companies have however made some pretty impressive technological leaps this year: this fall, Vuzix debuted their monocular AR prototype for industrial use at the annual InsideAR conference; Innovega showcased their Augmented Reality contact lens prototype at the 2012 Consumer Electronic show, for which they’re currently seeking FDA approval; and researchers at the University of Washington successfully displayed a single pixel on an eye (albeit, that of a rabbit).”

As the head of U.S. Marketing for Metaio, an augmented reality technology leader, Lord is an AR expert. If he’s excited about it, then I know that I’m in good company.

What do you think of augmented reality – game changer or another gimmick?

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