Augmented reality, the layering of digital information on top of the physical world, has been a buzzy topic for years. Its proponents say it could change everything: Advertising, gaming, reading, art, education or any number of everyday tasks.
But as it exists today for consumers, AR can look a bit cheap. You point your phone camera at a specially designed pattern, and — cool? — a low-res 3-D character appears on your screen. Catchoom CEO David Marimon says that may be neat to look at, once.
“The user is wowed the first time, but there is no useful outcome,” Marimon said in an interview with Re/code. “There’s maybe some brand awareness, but after that they cannot take action.”
Catchoom, it should be noted, comes at AR from the advertising and marketing side, where the need for something actionable is most pressing. And there’s good reason to be skeptical: If an advertiser wants to make an impression, a well-designed magazine ad can communicate information far faster than an ad that only comes alive after a reader recognizes it can be scanned, pulls out her phone, unlocks it, finds the right app and then scans the ad.
But all that hassle aside, Marimon argues that the key to making augmented reality work in advertising will be clearer calls to action, like the virtual “Buy Online” and “Share” buttons in the promotional image above, connecting print ads to the Web. His pitch is that the startup’s design and image recognition tool, CraftAR, makes adding those sorts of items easier.
“There is no more room for gimmicks,” Marimon said.
He said he also expects games to start exploring AR as a new revenue stream by incorporating sponsored products from the real world; for example, players might scan a can of soda to replenish their in-game health.
However, whether or not anyone will add those actionable items or other AR functionality is not up to Catchoom, Marimon acknowledged. Ultimately, developers and content creators will be the ones who get to decide what works.