Augmented Reality, aka AI, is no longer some kind of futuristic, out-of-reach technology, and with many of the latest flagship smartphones offering built-in AR features, it's actually starting to become part of our everyday lives.

AR also happens to be a fantastic marketing tool for brands. In this blog, we take a look at how retailers are already using augmented reality in stores, and digitally, to enhance brand awareness and make the overall shopping experience more enjoyable for customers.

What is augmented reality?

Known as AR for short, augmented reality essentially overlays computer-generated content into the real world that exists around you. Take for example the popular game, Pokemon Go. The game is based in the real world, but as you physically walk around the streets in your own neighbourhood your smartphone will begin to show augmented objects (in this case - Pokémon) around you. You can then interact with them through your device.

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AR is related to, but not the same as, VR. While virtual reality transports you into a completely simulated world, augmented reality brings something digitised into your current environment. This is why it's often known as mixed reality.

Augmented reality in stores

Plenty of retailers are already incorporating augmented reality in stores to help customers get even more out of each visit. From magic mirrors to virtual fitting rooms, it seems like the possibilities are endless for brands. Below we've selected some of the coolest AR examples to be found in stores across the world.

Charlotte Tilbury's Magic Mirror

Working with augmented retail solutions provider Holition, global beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury launched its 'Magic Mirror' in its Westfield store to great success. While typical beauty makeovers can take anywhere between 20 to 50 minutes, this virtual mirror enables users to try on 10 of Charlotte's signature makeup looks in a matter of seconds.

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Standing in front of the mirror, the user simply needs to select a look (e.g. the Dolce Vita or the Vintage Vamp) and makeup will instantly be applied to the user's reflection. Using real-time tracking and intelligently considering the skin tone and colour, the result is a flattering beauty look that showcases some of Charlotte Tilbury's best products.

Charlotte Tilbury isn't the only beauty brand to incorporate digitised makeup into its stores either. Beauty giants Sephora, Bourjois and L'Oréal have all trialled something similar, and it seems makeup and augmented reality go hand in hand.

Timberland's virtual fitting room

Wish you could try on clothes with the touch of a button, rather than having to waste time getting changed time and time again? Timberland's virtual fitting room offered the perfect solution, debuting in Moscow back in 2014.

Created by Lemon&Orange as part of the brand's campaign, customers could quickly and conveniently try on clothes from Timberland's latest collection without having to take off a single item. Advanced augmented reality technology made sure the clothes would always fit and be able to adapt to any movement.

Timberland isn't the only brand to introduce this concept. Topshop has also trialled the idea of a virtual fitting room, and Amazon's Echo Look offers a similar experience, acting as an Alexa-fuelled style-assistant that will offer outfit suggestions based on what you currently own.

Airwalk's invisible pop-up shop

Airwalk sneakers really pushed the boundaries of AR back in 2010 by introducing invisible pop-up stores. Using a combination of geolocation technology and AR, virtual stores were created to launch a limited-edition pair of trainers.

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Shoppers had to download an app and capture virtual trainers that could only be found in specific locations across New York and Venice Beach, California. Once the virtual trainer was obtained, the user would then receive a unique code which could be used on the Airwalk store to buy one of the 300 exclusive pairs of shoes.

Augmented reality shopping apps

Augmented reality isn't just limited to retail stores either. The online shopping experience is also being transformed by innovative AR apps.

IKEA Place

Online shopping can be tricky, especially if you're browsing for new furniture and struggling to envision how it'll look in your home. IKEA Place, launched near the end of 2017, aims to solve this problem.

Originally created with Apple's ARKit, with an Android version released soon after, the app enables you to see what certain IKEA products will look like when placed in your home. Just launch IKEA Place, select one of IKEA's 2,200 products (such as a chair, sofa or bed) and virtually place it in your home.

Using your smartphone's camera and motion sensors, you'll see a to-scale digitised version of the item in your home through your mobile's screen.

Kabaq

Food-focused AR app Kabaq is about to transform the way we order food online, or even in an actual restaurant. While still in development, the aim of this startup is to transform the decision process and put an end to diner's remorse for good.

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Never again will you envy what someone else has chosen at your table. Using a menu powered by Kabaq, you'll be able to view a virtual version of every dish available, so you'll be able to see exactly what you're getting before placing your order.

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