How Augmented Reality Could Change User-Generated Content


In the summer of 2016, the world was forever changed with the release of Pokemon Go. The mobile game took everyone by storm, becoming the most popular and profitable mobile app of all time. Although the initial hype has died down, as of May 2018 it still boasted nearly 150 million active users.

But we’re not here to talk about the game’s runaway success. We’re here to talk about the fact that more than anything before it, it demonstrated the potential of augmented reality (AR).

What Is Augmented Reality, Exactly?

We should start by establishing the difference between AR and virtual reality, as there seems to be a great deal of confusion on the matter. VR is about creating a digital realm that’s more or less entirely disconnected from the physical world and immersing users in it. AR, on the other hand, involves augmenting the real world with digital imagery

This can take many forms:

  • Projection AR “projects” images and functionality onto real-world surroundings. This could be a digitally-projected keyboard you can type on, or a hologram you can interact with. 
    •  Marker or recognition-based AR focuses on image or object detection,  This could be a traffic sign, a landmark, or something like a QR code. Android’s Google Lens is a good example of marker-based AR in practice. It allows you to focus your smartphone’s camera on an object to learn more about it.
  • Location-based AR consolidates data from a device’s GPS, digital compass, and accelerometer to provide ‘smart’ information about the user’s surroundings. Google Glass makes extensive use of this form of AR. 
  • Superimposition AR allows users to digitally modify an object, replacing it with an augmented view. For example, Ikea’s mobile app allows customers to superimpose products into their homes.

What Does AR Have To Do With User-Generated Content?

It sounds like something out of science fiction, doesn’t it? Yet it’s very real. And it has some very real applications in UGC. Snapchat is perhaps the best example of this in practice.

Snapchat combines facial recognition technology with augmented reality to allow users to change their facial features and surroundings. The app also provides location-based features, AR-based games, and the ability to generate a cartoon avatar based on a user’s features. Snapchat provides a rotating selection of filters and an extensive library of user-created filters.

Finally,  Snapchat last year released the pilot of something called Shoppable AR. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. It allows businesses to create branded filters that promote their products and websites.

Snapchat represents only the tip of the iceberg here, as well.  AR is already becoming an essential part of social media, as noted by Forbes small business contributor Lilach Bullock. It has the potential to augment live events, create engaging virtual stores, and generate interactive AR videos.

There are a lot of possibilities, such as:

  • A campaign where users share selfies of themselves using one of your filters or showing one of your digitally-superimposed products in their home.
  • Allowing users to play with an AR mascot and create a curated feed of their experiences.
  • Have your audience ‘draw’ on their surroundings or create their own filters, and showcase the most creative.

These are ways AR is already being used in the context of UFC-based marketing, and as you may have noticed, they share some common themes.

They’re all about adding a new layer of interactivity to user-generated content while still retaining the core of what makes UGC a valuable marketing and branding tool.  About helping the people who create content for your brand have even more fun doing so. About creating more interesting, dynamic content with your audience to ultimately help generate better engagement than ever before.

The ways in which AR and UGC intersect are subtler than you might expect. AR isn’t an industry-shattering disruption. But it’s nevertheless a powerful tool if you can leverage it effectively. As it becomes more widespread, you will need to do just that.

This article was originally published by our friends at Pixlee.

About the author

Steve Hutt

I'm obsessed with entrepreneurship, commerce, and Shopify. If you have the desire to implement what's working today for direct-to-consumer brands on Shopify, I'm excited you're here! Get the Shopify help you need. This industry blog and podcast is my digital brain where my guests and I share cutting-edge marketing strategy, must-have Shopify apps, and marketing platforms that will help you build and scale lifetime customer loyalty. To do this, I'm part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus and host of the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast.