4 years in, augmented reality in smartphones has yet to catch on

Bad examples of AR turned off users, but that could change as companies get creative and make apps more engaging

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Other AR approaches for use with handheld devices are also emerging. Seacoast Media Group, a regional newspaper chain in the Northeast, plans to launch in June a free AR app for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets called SMG Shine.

A photo, headline or ad in one of SMG's six print newspapers could act as a trigger to launch a streaming video or other content, according to Colin Smith, digital marketing specialist for SMG.

"You might hold your phone or tablet over a picture of a high school basketball player taking a jump shot and get to see the rest of the play and other game highlights," Smith said. "From an advertising standpoint, if you see a picture or a listing of a house in a real estate ad that catches your attention, you could 'shine' a tour of the house immediately, rather than looking up the website or calling to hear information."

Smith said he understands how some users might want to avoid an AR app that promotes ads, but said the "strength of the idea is that it promotes user-engaging advertisements. Users hate advertisements that don't deliver content ,and this app sets up a platform for that content to be delivered in an entertaining way."

User-driven engagement is more important than ever in advertising and marketing, Smith said. "The movement happening in content marketing, whether digital or not, is user-driven," he said. "We are doing this for users, not advertisers. The app obviously requires success from an advertising standpoint, but we are far more excited at the prospect of having users of the app feel more connected to both our printed materials as well as local companies in general. My goal is to make the experiences richer. It's not a trap at all, just technology making an experience deeper."

There's little doubt that AR apps will be used with Google Glass and other emerging wearables, although its value might take years to be fully realized, analysts said.

"AR hasn't been that successful yet because it is still looking for that killer 'must have' application," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group. "It remains more of a science experiment now."

Gold said AR "isn't ready for prime time yet, certainly not with current smartphone tech" and only in beta for headsets and glasses. "It will likely be several years before AR is consumer grade and ready for mass deployment."

This article, 4 years in, augmented reality in smartphones has yet to catch on , was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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