The Definitive Guide for Using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to Elevate
Your Business

The Definitive Guide for Using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to Elevate Your Business

October 15, 2020

Virtual reality and augmented reality technology has evolved exponentially throughout the years. While once projecting a pixelated and graphically obscure translation of a virtual world, the landscapes and backdrops of VR and the components represented in these scenes now appear so real in their replication that the mind can easily adapt to the new virtual space. The graphic quality of today’s VR has enhanced and transformed the gaming experience, delivering detailed and lifelike worlds and new realms filled with artistic renderings of futuristic—or even prehistoric—structures, creatures, characters and settings. Yet, VR and its offerings extend beyond games and entertainment. Stepping into the virtual world projected in VR also benefits businesses; this technology has the potential to amplify the customer experience, better facilitate employee training and perhaps even boost client satisfaction and retention. How can the use of virtual reality benefit businesses? [] VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY & THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE Utilizing virtual reality to amplify the customer experience doesn’t involve VR headsets or complicated consoles. VR and its uses are multi-modal, and integration of VR isn’t the same across industries. Augmented reality technology includes virtual assistants (like Alexa), interactive exhibits (like in museums), virtual tours (for real estate or the tourism industry), interactive customer service apps and even virtual reality product showrooms (for cars and fashion!). VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS AND AUGMENTED REALITY Augmented reality is ingrained in daily life. Most smartphones now come equipped with a virtual assistant like Siri or Alexa. These interactive assistants also serve as a prototype for a virtual customer service associate. If your business offers an automated customer service line—with an integrated voice-activated assistant—then welcome to the world of automated reality. While many businesses want to embrace a personalized approach to customer service, and, therefore, still utilize real-life human beings to assist customers with any issues, virtual customer service support does provide accessible and more simplistic assistance for time-harried customers. For simple tasks like paying a bill or checking an account balance, virtual assistants can navigate requests easily and quickly by guiding customers with simple prompts and voice-activated virtual menus. This reduces a customer’s wait time and streamlines simple requests and basic account queries. Virtual customer service assistants also can be utilized online via personalized chats. Customers type their question or concern, and the assistant is programmed with the applicable solutions and guidance. While this type of automated reality doesn’t take place in a separate realm, it is hosted in the virtual sphere, exists separately from a human interaction and incorporates the intelligence and data of the computer. Other businesses and industries, however, facilitate customer service interactions by using VR/AR to identify project issues. Software or apps can now recognize products and identify them for customer service reps. Although this technology isn’t a ‘virtual assistant,’ the technology is an extension of VR/AR. [] VIRTUAL EXHIBITS & TOURS Virtual reality gives users the opportunity to experience scenes and adventures that may have once been out of reach for them. Museum exhibits can utilize VR by allowing visitors to step into prehistoric worlds or maybe even explore a painting. The tourism industry has taken a financial hit because of Covid, but virtual tours provide a vacation experience that’s safe and relaxing. Now staycations from home can involve virtual excursions to historic sites or even a hike through the canopy of a rainforest. Virtual tours also are utilized in the real estate industry. Potential homebuyers can preview the home of their dreams with online tours and walkthroughs that allow them to see every room and all the home’s amenities and features. THE 360-DEGREE EXPERIENCE OF VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS The Coronavirus pandemic has challenged and changed daily life, and these changes (and challenges) reverberated throughout the retail sector. Visits to stores beyond the necessities were either limited or simply not an option (when restrictions shut-down nonessential businesses). Survival for many stores meant changing how customers shop for clothes, cars and other goods/services. Online shopping became the dominant force, but not all businesses could best display their products in the two-dimensional world of computer imagery. Consumers shopping for a new car need to see details up close, and they also want to view the automobile from multiple vantage points. Standard photos even in high-resolution cannot translate images to 3D. To provide an in-person experience from the comfort of home, some dealerships offered their own virtual showrooms online to display inventory. Others could guide shoppers to the Relay Cars virtual showroom for panoramic views of many different makes and models. Manufacturers or dealers also offered virtual test drives of their automobiles. This virtual test drive model had different functions for dealerships; some scheduled test drives via an app and delivered the car to the consumer for an at-home test drive. Others, though, actually created a virtual test drive that was truly virtual and could be experienced on a phone or computer screen—no keys necessary! The virtual showrooms extended to the fashion world, too. Fashion retailers pre-Covid operated on a dual selling model—customers could order online and they also could view (and try on) items in the store. The retail shutdown meant that those who needed or wanted to preview items in the store didn’t have that option. Like the automotive sector, some boutiques embraced a virtual showroom, allowing consumers to view the entire store in 360 degrees. At some online retailers, customers can view garments from multiple vantage points to assess drape, style and length from different angles. While this isn’t a solution for those who want to try on an item before clicking ‘buy,’ the interactive viewing options may enhance the understanding of a garment’s shape and fit and provide more input for a hesitant buyer. [] VR AND AR FOR EMPLOYEE TRAINING Across industries, virtual reality and augmented reality also is transforming employee training. This technology is used in flight simulators for pilots, in training simulations for automobile manufacturers, and, per NPR, some simulations teach retail workers how to deal with a robbery. The optimization of this technology depends on the industry and the business’s individual needs. However, the options are seemingly endless. VR TRAINING SESSIONS FOR EMPLOYEES STRIVR is one of the big players in the business of VR training; the company provides training sessions designed for the retail, financial services, logistics, manufacturing and technology industries. For the retail sector, these interactive sessions address job roles in multiple areas including customer service, fulfillment, new hire assessment, manager training and culture and values. Employee training sessions can address how to handle customer service issues, help employees learn about new processes in the company, how to most efficiently pack shipments, assess individual skills/weaknesses (e.g. “new hire assessment”), and provide interactive lessons on company culture. Logistics training sessions can include interactive lessons related to onboarding and safety, while lessons/sessions in the financial services sector include fraud protection, sales training, manager training, contact center training and safety training. Walmart and Verizon have used STRIVR for employee training. VR TRAINING SIMULATIONS FOR PILOTS While flight simulators have been around since the early 20th century, virtual reality simulators created a more realistic experience for pilots in training. In 2018, Wired reported that these simulators now provide an integrated sensory experience; the new technology developed by FlyInside provides pilots with the sense of feeling all the switches and dials they would use during a flight. VR FOR TRAINING AND EVALUATION PROTOCOLS IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY The automotive sector has utilized virtual reality for safety evaluations and to aid technicians in making repairs. For this industry, VR may be an important tool in detecting design flaws or to simply streamline the visual appeal of the model. Varjo partnered with Volvo for a VR headset—or, rather, a “mixed reality test drive”–that can be used to assess a car model or prototype while driving. The technology allows the driver to test safety technologies and other aspects of the automobile. Porsche’s “Tech Live Look” combines smart glasses with a software platform to help technicians to more easily make repairs. The glasses magnify tiny areas (like screws) and illuminate dark areas for better visibility during repairs. The technology was introduced in 2018. During Covid, Ford utilized virtual reality in its design process. Team directors wore VR headsets to view prototypes in a virtual space, and directors could switch vantage points within the program to view the car from a different angle. Virtual reality ensured that the design process didn’t come to a screeching halt as industries were forced to transition to work-from-home environments. VR AND AR TO BOOST CLIENT SATISFACTION AND RETENTION Success for any business depends on keeping clients and customers happy. Virtual reality and augmented reality also can be used to ensure client satisfaction, which, in turn, leads to retention. Virtual reality experiences can be used to elevate the shopping experience or to simplify the buying process. [] VR TO VISUALIZE INTERIOR DESIGN Furniture stores sometimes offer interactive experiences for buyers that allow them to photograph a room and upload it to create a virtual simulation of the space. This takes the guesswork out of buying new furnishings, as the simulation may allow buyers to better visualize hues, texture and size/shapes. Macy’s, for example, offers the Virtual Room Designer. After the image of the room is uploaded, buyers can rearrange furniture and add in new pieces to see how they may look at home. This feature allows buyers to know if a nightstand will complement the bed…or look completely out of place. It also ensures that the piece of furniture will fit in the space! Ikea also offers a virtual showroom. Ikea’s Virtual Home Experience, however, is only available in store. The functionalities of the showroom, though, let users delve deep into their creative imagination. Ikea’s website notes that the application lets users swap in furniture, change lighting (to see how the room may look at night or during the day), and opt for different fabrics and hues. Ikea’s VR application is powered by the Oculus Rift. AR TO CHANGE OUR APPEARANCE AR can change the way we look…without changing anything! VR/AR programs allow users to upload photos and make changes to their hair, try makeup hues and, yes, even view plastic surgery results without undergoing the surgery. Wonder how you might look with a smaller nose? There is an AR technology to preview the new virtual you. Sephora and other big beauty names allow users to upload a photo and try on products virtually. On the fence about a lipstick hue? Try it on virtually and see if it’s flattering…or a fail. For Sephora and other companies, this convenient tool may help reduce returns and maybe even lead to more purchases. If more than one eyeshadow looks amazing via the virtual preview, buyers may be more inclined to purchase multiple hues…especially if there is less uncertainty about the purchase. Going for a bold short chic haircut may seem like a big decision. In the past, the potential answer to the burning question of ‘how will it look?’ remained a mystery until the style was completed. However, with AR apps like The Hair Styler, users can try on different styles and colors. Cosmetologists may see a benefit from these apps, as now their clients can show them specifically what they want and how they want it to look. Since the new style will be displayed on the client’s own photo, the style request can be visualized a bit more accurately. In the past few years, cosmetic surgeons have seen an uptick in younger clientele. Today, it isn’t unusual for someone in their 20s to request fillers or perhaps even Botox. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner, who has openly admitted to having lip fillers, also have made these minor cosmetic procedures much more acceptable. However, more invasive procedures like rhinoplasty or face lifts may cause a bit of trepidation for those who are unsure what to expect from the augmentation. Face Touch Up helps take some of the guesswork out of these procedures; surgeons can use this app to show patients the final look after surgery. While the photos might not be an exact recreation, it can help patients visualize the results post-surgery. [] AR FOR A VIRTUAL FITTING ROOM Retail fashion stores shut down during Covid didn’t have the means to let customers try on clothes. Even now, those fitting rooms may be locked for sanitation reasons to help stop the spread of the virus. FXMirror may transform the way consumers shop for clothes in the store, as the technology eliminates the need for the store to have a fitting room. FXMirror includes a processor, Kinect camera, a wifi router, a virtual fitting application and a Cloth Authoring Tool (aka CAT). The technology works by taking a snapshot of the individual in 3D; measurements are captured that allow for a personalized avatar (choose your own image or a generated avatar). According to the website, users can change hairstyles, skin complexion, and rotate the image for a rear view of an outfit. FXMirror also allows users to change their facial expression. FXMirror can access the full inventory of the boutique or store. While many fitting rooms are shut during the pandemic, these closed spaces also may present a risk for shoplifting. FXMirror and technology like it may help stores decrease the risk of theft while still providing a convenient virtual space for trying on clothing. Virtual reality and augmented reality offer many benefits to businesses. This technology can help facilitate more seamless customer service interactions—especially for simple requests—and it also can improve employee training programs and give a boost to customer satisfaction/retention. Virtual customer service assistants are a primary example of how many companies already utilize this technology. In addition, companies that offer VR training for employees may be the wave of the future, as more industries look for ways to better prepare employees for different scenarios they may face in their new job. VR/AR used as a way to provide insight about purchases can amplify a company’s customer satisfaction and retention rates; virtual reality showrooms, AR programs that provide previews of beauty products and even a VR virtual fitting room all provide customers with the means to see a product before they make their purchase. VR may be a solution to ensure that the customer is always right, while simultaneously minimizing the risk of returns or losing customers because an employee wasn’t right for the role.

Dealer Handbook 101: Buying A Car Online

Dealer Handbook 101: Buying A Car Online

September 16, 2020

Buying a car in-person can be a long and, quite frankly, annoying process. Few people can say they actually enjoy going to a dealership. The long negotiations with a salesman, possible hours of waiting for financing and processing paperwork, and walking through a dealership to look at and test drive several cars to find the right one can overwhelm and turn off many potential buyers. Today, the Internet and technology have completely transformed the car buying process and consumers now have the option of buying a car online. Now, shoppers can get all the information they need without even having to step foot into a dealership. Buying a car online is becoming easier and easier and will likely be the preferred way to shop for a vehicle in the future. Because of this trend, more and more consumers are doing the research before the buying process even begins, and they are becoming more knowledgeable about the vehicles they are shopping for. This can make a dealer’s job even easier as working with knowledgeable shoppers means you can have a more meaningful selling experience. On the other hand, you might come across prospective car buyers or leasers who are jumping into the online car shopping experience blindly. Common questions that car shoppers might be asking themselves are: * Which car is best? * Which car is right for me? * Can I afford it? * Am I getting a deal? * Where should I buy it? Guiding your client virtually can help them get the answers they need and help you guarantee a sale. WHICH CAR IS BEST? Figuring out which car can best suit your client’s needs takes some research and time. Your buyer might be eyeing a few options already but are not quite sure which make and model would be best. Generally, buyers already have an idea of what they might be looking for before they even get in contact with you. However, you might get a few who have not done any research or are in need of a vehicle as soon as possible. Assisting them in the research stage of the car buying experience can help give you a leg up and is an opportunity to educate yourself on what is currently available on the market. Quite often consumers are concerned with: * Fuel mileage * Style * Ease of operation * Safety features * Affordability Providing this information upfront online can help your client become more knowledgeable and confident in your credibility. That being said, the “best” car out there might not necessarily be the “best” car for your client. What you need to focus on is understanding what your client is actually looking for and know which car features will fit their needs. [] WHICH CAR IS RIGHT FOR ME? Buyers are often searching for a car that will fit their lifestyle but also their budget. Dealerships today need to be interacting and communicating with buyers before they even come into the showroom. Providing information and a truly immersive online shopping experience can help buyers easily figure out which car is right for them. Along with including detailed photos and information about each vehicle, dealers can also bring the experience of shopping at a dealership to their buyers virtually. Buyers want to know more and more about the vehicle they are purchasing and to do so from the comfort of their own home can help you make a sale right away. A virtual showroom can help clients find the right car for them and guarantees a sale for dealers. Virtual showrooms are now much more than a gallery full of photos. Thanks to A.I. companies such as RelayCars, dealerships can now give clients a more in-depth and detailed look of vehicles online. Virtual reality showrooms can give buyers the experience of actually being inside the car without even having to go to a dealership. They can find the right car for them and explore a vehicle’s interior and features all from home. Virtual reality showrooms are truly the key factor in setting your dealership apart from the many different online auto shops. Your buyer is likely looking for a car that not only has all the right features they want but also the price that they want. CAN I AFFORD IT? Once a buyer finds the right vehicle for them, the next step is to find the right price point. Some buyers might even start the process in reverse. They may have a set budget in mind then use that as the basis for their search for the right car. Understanding what an online car buyer is looking for in terms of financing can help you determine what tools and information they may need. Dealers should then include the information on their virtual showroom site. A monthly payment is often not the only financial woe that online buyers are considering. When it comes to a car budget many salesmen only think of what the buyer will be spending for the vehicle itself. However, remember, today’s online shoppers are more knowledgeable and want to know potential repair costs, maintenance, and gas mileage. They want to know not just the actual value of the car but also what they will likely be spending on the vehicle in the long run. Of course, a big part of the car buying process for a buyer is getting a good deal on a vehicle. You will likely come across very few buyers who are willing to pay the presented price on a vehicle. However, in a virtual buying experience it can be difficult to implement the same negotiation tools and processes without meeting in person. So how can you help your buyer get the best deal for them and for you in an online experience? [] AM I GETTING A DEAL? Even after finding the right car and maybe even with the right price point, buyers still want to make sure they are getting the best deal they can find. Making sure you are advertising your promos and offers on your website and virtual showroom can help you attract more buyers. If you are working with an online buyer, you can offer to have a virtual appointment with them to discuss promos and negotiations. This can also give you a chance to provide a personal touch to the online shopping experience. Including features such as a car calculator or leasing calculator to your virtual showroom can give your buyers an idea of what they could be saving and spending on a vehicle and gives them a base price to start off negotiations. WHERE SHOULD I BUY IT? Online car buyers are likely not like your average shoppers that walk into a dealership. These clients are smart, tech savvy, and knowledgeable. Most likely they are not in a rush to purchase and want to spend enough time researching and making their decision. This means dealers need to provide ample information and be just as informed as they are. Buyers online are more careful and thoughtful before committing and signing. Often they will check various dealers online before contacting a dealership. So, how can you make sure that you are attracting online shoppers? First, by providing online features that can help them become informed about the vehicle they are shopping for. As mentioned, having more than a gallery of photos can set you apart from other online dealerships. A virtual showroom can entice and impress potential buyers. They are able to view the car as if they are actually at the dealership, but they are at the comfort of their own home. Second, dealers should still create a personalized experience online by providing chat options on the virtual showroom so shoppers can still talk to a salesperson online. Dealers can even take it a step further and video chat with shoppers in order to show them the car online and shoppers can request specific angles or footage of the vehicle they are potentially buying. Finally, being transparent with your potential buyers can help build that same rapport and credibility that you build in person. Your virtual showroom should still provide as much information as possible for your shopper to be well informed. The site should also include information about vehicle costs as well as loan and payment information. SELLING ONLINE BRINGS PROFITS Ultimately, selling online can completely revolutionize how your dealership does business and can help to improve sales. Remember, online car buyers are well-informed and careful about their purchases, which actually means they are likely to be more committed to signing once they find the right vehicle for the right price. Providing an online experience that replicates a visit to the dealership through a virtual showroom can help them make an informed decision and helps you lock in a sale. Companies like RelayCars can provide an interactive online shopping experience for buying a car online that can even exceed the in-person environment. You can interact with buyers from all over the world and provide an overall experience that can enhance the online buying experience for clients.

The 2020 Guide to Augmented Reality

The 2020 Guide to Augmented Reality

September 15, 2020

While once a technology considered futuristic, augmented reality now interweaves into our daily lives, elevating experiences and helping us to understand buying choices. Augmented reality has become so widespread both in business and personal use, that by 2025 this sector is expected to hit nearly $200 billion. In 2019, only about 13 percent used augmented reality in some capacity. Now, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, most of us are using a platform or app that offers this technology. What is augmented reality and how do we use it? Here is our Ultimate Guide to Augmented Reality. AUGMENTED REALITY VS. VIRTUAL REALITY Don’t conflate augmented reality with virtual reality. Both technologies are unique and offer different user experiences. Virtual reality technology provides users with an alternative virtual world to create a real-life experience in a digital space. Virtual reality is popular for video games and is used to take the gamer into the world of the game; these virtual video games usually include headsets that the player wears to interact with the gaming realm. Virtual reality also is commonly used to create simulations for employees as training tools. Examples of this include flight simulators used by pilots or even customer service simulations for new retail employees. These simulations are created using special headsets that transport users into a virtual realm where they can interact with virtual characters and navigate through different scenarios. Stores and automotive dealerships have used virtual reality to create interactive shopping experiences that can be accessed remotely. During the pandemic, dealerships and automobile manufacturers provided customers with a virtual showroom that allowed them to view all aspects of a vehicle model. These virtual reality platforms sometimes allowed shoppers to change paint colors or other features, too. Clothing stores may have offered virtual options, too, so shoppers could view products from different angles. While virtual reality transports users into a separate digital space, augmented reality, as defined by Live Science, “is the result of using technology to superimpose information — sounds, images and text — on the world we see.” Augmented reality is used in the gaming world, too, and one of the best examples is Pokemon Go!; this game takes players on a hunt for Pokemon characters by projecting their virtual images into real-life backdrops. The use of augmented reality, though, is most commonly found in the gadgets we rely on daily. ARE VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS AUGMENTED REALITY? Virtual assistants are one of the most prevalent uses of interactive technology. Calling out ‘Hey, Siri…’ will summon the iPhone’s virtual assistant. This simple command might not seem so high-tech, but the capabilities of these assistants illustrate the future complexity of augmented reality. Siri, Google and Alexa now can control our daily activities and, in the case of Alexa, our homes, too. The intelligence of these assistants goes beyond the mundane task of simply calculating a simple math problem or finding a local restaurant. Alexa, Siri and Google, while programmed to search the web and its contents, also hold control over other gadgets in our lives. These virtual assistants can schedule tasks and appointments, remind us of important details and meetings, make calls or send texts, they can dictate notes, but they also can manage the Internet of Things. Our homes were once hardwired with cord and plugs; to turn an appliance or device on or off, we either used a remote control or had to manually make these changes. The Internet of Things (or IoT) has elevated the manual into the digital. Plugs and powerstrips feature a computerized intelligence; electricity may power the lights, HVAC thermostat or coffee maker, but technology links it to our augmented reality assistants. With these smart strips and plugs, Alexa can turn off the lights, adjust the temperature, or even brew the coffee. Alexa, Siri and Google provide convenience in the form of automated technology, but these assistants don’t fit the true definition of augmented reality. However, virtual assistants can represent the future of augmented reality. For example, Amazon has already taken Alexa to the next level with Echo Frames, glasses that can summon Alexa! [] GPS & NAVIGATION DEVICES FEATURE AUGMENTED REALITY Some navigation systems or GPS devices use augmented reality to help drivers better understand their surroundings while driving. Street views may provide a real-life glimpse of the route, while a digital representation of the automobile is shown on the screen in movement. Sygic’s GPS utilizes augmented reality, and the company states “…the AR feature is not only intuitive but it’s also safer than traditional navigation apps. Drivers can rest assured they won’t miss anything crucial on roads or highways, as the real-time camera preview enables them to check conditions on the screen without impacting driving safety.” Many new car models also feature augmented reality built into the navigation system. Smart rear view mirrors utilize cameras to provide drivers with a more precise glimpse of the road—and the vehicles– behind them. These mirrors also may offer an illuminated vantage point in darker road conditions or in poorly lit areas like a parking garage. [] AUGMENTED REALITY FOR THE HOME If you’re in the market to buy new furniture, you might have used an app to preview a paint color or even the look of new furniture. These apps provide shoppers with the technology to try out a design or new look before they make a purchase, and, yes, they are all examples of augmented reality. The Ikea Place app lets shoppers move a new piece of furniture into any space…virtually. Try out a new sofa or desk and see if it complements your living room or bedroom. For shoppers, this feature takes the guesswork out of a new purchase and could perhaps encourage them to try out other accessories, too. Glidden’s Room Visualizer enables homeowners to swipe different shades of paint onto the walls of any room without any commitment. Try out different hues to see which colors best compliment the space and the furniture. Other paint manufacturers and stores offer similar apps and programs. AUGMENTED REALITY FOR MARKETING Companies often use augmented reality to market their products to customers; in fact, this may be a really popular technique to build curiosity and excitement about a new launch. You might have even participated in a few of these unique experiences. Before the second season of the series Stranger Things, Hubspot reported that Netflix used augmented reality to bring viewers into the scenes from the show; Snapchat lenses transported viewers into the Byers’ home…yes, demogorgons were included. Hubspot also reported that AMC used augmented reality in its theaters as a means to encourage guests to check out details on upcoming features. Guests who downloaded the AMC app could snap a photo of a movie poster hanging in the theater to access more information about the movie. Sephora continuously uses augmented reality to help market its products. The Sephora app lets customers try on makeup products virtually. Snap a photo and then see how a new shade of lipstick will look on you! This feature may help Sephora reduce returns, as customers feel confident that a shade complements their complexion. [] AUGMENTED REALITY FOR KIDS Parents could be using augmented reality to keep kids entertained and to elevate experiences. Apps are transforming coloring books and reading, too! Disney’s Coloring Book app integrates traditional coloring fun with interactive elements that turn those two-dimensional images into interactive characters. While kids color the flat images in their coloring books, characters also show up as 3D images on the screen. While Disney’s app takes its coloring pages to another level, Fatherly reports that Holotats takes the temporary tattoo fun to an interactive level. With these tattoos, children can snap a photo and then see them in action…literally. Every design is animated! Kids and adults who sign onto the Wizarding World app (once known as Pottermore), they can participate in a virtual sorting ceremony with the Sorting Hat. The app can access the camera to bring the user into the experience. The My Very Hungry Caterpillar app also uses augmented reality. The cute little caterpillar from the story can be integrated in a child’s world—from the house and into nature! This app lets children immerse into the story and the character’s experiences. Star Walk Kids helps children understand the cosmos. Fatherly highlighted this app, which offers interactive features that help decipher the stars. Just point the phone’s camera up at the sky, and the app will illustrate details and explain the viewpoints. While many kids are engaging in virtual learning during the pandemic, there are many apps that utilize augmented reality that can help engage children in the learning experience. The Seek app helps children (and adults, too!) immerse into nature and biological science. Users snap photos of any plant, animal or bug, and the app will identify the species. This app can be used while hiking or exploring outdoors to help better understand all the life that exists out in nature. AUGMENTED REALITY TO REIMAGINE YOUR LAWN DESIGN If augmented reality can be used to preview new furniture and paint color, why shouldn’t it be used to redesign your backyard? For homeowners who want a new look for their landscape, augmented reality allows them the chance to redesign their surroundings. The app iScape lets homeowners add in different trees, flowers and shrubs. Snap images of your yard and start creating a new design by swapping in new landscape details for a preview of your new lawn. The app also provides planting tips. Apps like iScape are perfect for homeowners who aren’t quite sure what look they want to achieve for their lawn. Augmented reality provides an opportunity to play around with different ideas without commitment. While a certain design idea might sound perfect, a homeowner could see it against the backdrop of their home and decide it just won’t work. AUGMENTED REALITY: SOCIAL MEDIA FILTERS AND TELECONFERENCING The most utilized form of augmented reality—at least right now—might just be teleconferencing. Many businesses continue to operate remotely, and this means most employees are conducting meetings virtually using teleconferencing apps like Zoom. How is the teleconference a form of augmented reality, though? If you’ve changed your backdrop to appear as though you’re on a beach or somewhere else, you’ve stepped into the realm of augmented reality during the conference. These features allow us to take the boring backgrounds of our home offices, living rooms and kitchens and transform them into a tropical paradise or even project a window with a beautiful scenic backdrop. Filters also are one of the ways we commonly use augmented reality in the social media realm. Instagram’s filters allow users to modify their images with dog ears and other fun and cute superimposed details. With these features, users can transform their image into something unique…or even perfect their looks. AUGMENTED REALITY TO PREVIEW PHYSICAL CHANGES The need to perfect or streamline aspects of physical appearance may inspire an individual to contemplate cosmetic surgery. Some look to celebrities for the features they desire, but will Angelina Jolie’s features complement an individual’s own unique face shape? Augmented reality apps also can provide physical previews of cosmetic changes. With certain apps, individuals can change the size of their nose or other facial details to see how cosmetic surgery may alter their appearance. Those who are uncertain about the procedure may use these apps to play around with different looks, too. After all, programs and apps aren’t permanent! Even little changes, though, can be previewed using augmented reality. Ever wonder if you would look good with pink streaks in your hair? Or maybe if you should rock a pixie cut. Big hair changes can instill complete fear to those who are accustomed to their current look…even when they crave something new. The Daily Mail cited a survey from Toni & Guy that about 20 percent of women have “burst into tears after leaving a hairdressing salon.” Bad haircuts are a horror that can take weeks, if not months or years, to fully grow out. Augmented reality apps allow an individual to preview a hair change to see if that look really would work. Finding out via an app that a cut looks more like an ‘80s-inspired mullet than punk princess can stop the tears from flowing by dodging a hair disaster. AUGMENTED REALITY IS…EVERYWHERE! Augmented reality has infiltrated our lives in so many ways. Many of us use some type of augmented reality app every day. If you regularly teleconference using Zoom and alter your background during those meetings, you’ve embraced the world of augmented reality. Many companies also use this technology to elevate marketing by encouraging users to explore their products in a semi-virtual realm. Homeowners can utilize virtual reality apps to preview paint colors, furniture concepts and even add flowers and unique landscape designs to their lawn. For children who are in the midst of virtual learning, augmented reality apps also can enhance the educational experience; Star Walk allows kids to explore the cosmos and Seek helps children identify all the life in nature. While virtual assistants aren’t technically a form of augmented reality, even these platforms are stepping into this realm; Amazon’s Echo Frames are smart glasses that interact with Alexa! Augmented reality surrounds us and enhances the way we see the world, shop and interact…and the future developments of this technology will likely integrate into more of our daily habits. []