AR is the future. Here’s why content creators should start preparing now.

Jason_Friedlander_HeadshotBy Jason Friedlander, Senior Director of Product Marketing

I’ve already written about my belief that augmented reality (AR) will be the wave of the future, because it enables face-to-face social experiences in a way that virtual reality (VR) doesn’t. The success of Pokemon Go shows that people want to be in a park hunting Charmanders and Pikachus with their friends more than they want to be isolated in their own independent reality inside a VR headset.

Well, it looks like 2018 might be the year AR finally comes into its own. Previously, AR tech was the province of only high-end smartphones like the iPhone; however, this past November, Google announced that even its most inexpensive Android phones were getting AR capabilities. On the high end of the market, a slew of new AR glasses and goggles are due to be released in 2018. While many are still expensive and cumbersome, or designed for highly specialized users (competitive cyclists, drone pilots), others show true mainstream appeal and a modest price point. Their capabilities go far beyond simply overlaying a 2D Charizard on a smartphone screen. One product demo’d for Rolling Stone can make it look like human actors are performing a scene right in the room with the viewer.

What does this mean for content creators? It means that soon, content creation itself will change. Shows won’t just play on flat TV, laptop and mobile screens; the characters might come to life right in your own living room —and even follow you into the kitchen when you make a cup of tea. Consuming content will become as immersive as VR advocates ever dreamed, minus the isolation from the outside world.

Before we even get to that point, though, the rise of AR will already have transformed how viewers consume content by changing how they interact with their existing devices. As smart TVs become integrated more tightly into smart home platforms, users will be able to ask Alexa or Google Home questions about the content they are watching. Instead of typing queries into their phones, viewers will say out loud: “Alexa, who’s that actress?” “Google Home, where can I buy that shirt the newscaster is wearing?” “Fiona, how much does the video game from that advertisement cost on Steam?” Advertisers will also use data from smart home devices to target their advertising more precisely, binding the entire ecosystem more tightly together.

Content creators can prepare for this new (or shall we say augmented) reality in a few ways.

  1. Rethink content formats. While it will be a few years before episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” start playing out in your own living room, it’s not too early to start thinking about the way AR technology will change how content is consumed. Immersive, interactive experiences will soon become the norm, so it’s time to start thinking about how such experiences fit into the future of your own content.
  2. Be prepared for interactive and embedded ads. For Google Home to answer the question, “Where can I buy the shirt that newscaster is wearing?” the user’s smart TV needs to know which shirt is in the frame. These IoT and AR technology integrations will require video to come with richer metadata than it has today. Ad placement, too, will need to evolve with the times. Rather than breaking up a video narrative, why not project a static ad on a user’s living room wall?
  3. Reduce network latency as much as possible. This is already a priority for most major content creators today, but in the future it’s going to become even more vital. The rise of AR will make enormous demands on content delivery infrastructure, thanks to the rich data that will need to be streamed to multiple devices in each household. Latency will become even less tolerated than it is today, and CDNs with edge computing capabilities will be necessary to interact with the many devices with access to the cloud. Content creators can help themselves prepare for this future by ensuring they have best-in-class content delivery infrastructure in place today.

It can be scary to think about a future where the real and the virtual mix together so seamlessly. However, I suspect that once it gets here, advanced AR technology will come to feel as natural a part of our lives as smartphones do today. We’ll no longer have to choose between enjoying our technology and cultivating our human relationships, because AR technology will allow us to do both at the same time. It makes sense for content creators to start thinking now about how they’ll adapt to — and thrive in — this mixed-reality future.

Want to learn more about what the future holds for media? Schedule a meeting with us at NAB.