How could Pokemon and Snapchat deliver valuable lessons for Scottish businesses?

by Kenny Murray

Monday, July 11th, 2016

As Augmented Reality becomes mainstream, we explain how this exciting new technology can boost your public relations

Pokemon Go Press Image showing a user playing gameAUGMENTED Reality is used every day by people who wouldn’t know that they’re using the technology. In fact, when I asked 10 Edinburgh locals, only two could get close to telling me what the term meant. Yet when asked about apps on their phones, eight of the 10 had used it.

So what is it?

 Augmented Reality – often referred to simply as AR – could be best described as, a technology which allows a superimposed series of images or other items to be placed over a real world view.

An example of this would be Snapchat Filters, which allow computer animated graphics to be placed over a photo or video a user takes using their mobile phone.

This is a revolutionary new way to engage with an audience. With communications being a vital part of PR, businesses hoping to effectively engage with a digital audience can’t ignore the potential of Augmented Reality as a PR tool.

How is it being used?

 When the technology was first developed in the 1970s it was well beyond the mainstream user and indeed, most businesses. Then in the 1990s, the term ‘augmented reality’ was coined by Thomas P. Caudell, a former Boeing researcher and specialist in artificial intelligence.

That was the cue for this emerging tech to be picked up and featured in a host of sci-fi movies, including Minority Report, Mission Impossible and Independence Day. Though it still felt a long way from mainstream.

However, the technology has come a long way since then and it’s now being used by the military – as noted by The Daily Mail two years ago, in order to map out terrain and to provide soldiers with vital information on the landscape, the culture in the area and other points of interest.

Augmented Reality Image as used by military

That’s great, but how does that relate to my business and PR today?

 In 2014 Augmented Reality was mooted as the next big thing. Silicon Valley was abuzz with potential at the launch of “Google Glass”, spectacles with built-in AR technology which allowed wearers to read foreign languages using instant translation tools, get directions with information appearing within the Glasses and even allowing users to watch YouTube clips.

However, privacy concerns, lack of battery life and the sheer “dork factor” of wearing the bulky specs (which saw wearer’s dubbed “glassholes”) meant they never took off and Google later quietly shelved the program.

However, that isn’t the end for AR.  Pokemon Go and Snapchat are the most recent and relevant apps to use Augmented Reality in a way that it becomes second nature to a large audience of young peope. Indeed, plenty of tech-savvy people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond are also keeping a close eye on this emergent sector.

Pokemon? Snapchat? Are you serious? What’s that got to do with business?

 Within the last year, Snapchat, the popular messaging platform has seen a massive spike in use of its “filters” which instantly give a scarily accurate overlay on your picture in real time. Want to look like a panting puppy? Check. Or keen to know what you’d like in a natty floral crown? Or what it would be like to spew a rainbow? Snapchat’s got you covered! In fact, so fast and accurate is the technology it can even show how you and a pal (or a celeb) would look if you swapped faces.
The vast majority of users by teens and 20-somethings. But inevitably as it grows in popularity, it is increasing being found by those over 30 – as this image provided by our director, Scott (47 and counting) shows in glorious technicolour.Image of Holyrood PR Director Scott Douglas using a Snapchat Filter

 So far, so fun – but a big, fat case of ‘so what?’, when it comes to business.

Well consider this. Snapchat also allows businesses to create their own geographic filters to take advantage of any special events in a geographical area – at quite a reasonable cost too. Which means your bar, restaurant, store or attraction could create its own, customised, Snapchat filter, and encourage customers and visitors to share those with their friends and family.

If you’re still not convinced and want another example of how compelling AR can be, then check out Pokemon Go. But be warned – I recently lost an entire weekend to the game, which is the most recent development from Nintendo. It allows users to use Augmented Reality to interact with the real world, while capturing Pokemon and ‘battling’ with other players.

This app combines Augmented Reality, Google Maps and other sites to educate users on important landmarks in their area and to let them chase down Pokemon everywhere. Even at the office. In fact, I even managed to catch a Shellder from the comfort of my desk!Screengrab from Pokemon Go

In fact, so many people are playing this app, it has surpassed the number of users for either Twitter or dating app Tinder in less than a week. Let that sink in, more users than Twitter or Tinder, in a matter of days, and it hasn’t even been officially launched yet.

 Aside from just being a fun game, this upsurge in interest has added $7 billion to Nintendo’s value overnight.

Likewise it mean that your business should be making some effort to understand Augmented Reality – and fast.

With communication being vital to most businesses, there will be an entire generation to whom this technology will be considered the norm, not science fiction – if you learn how to effectively engage using this technology, you could reap the rewards in terms of PR.

What does that mean for my business?

With Augmented Reality firmly seeing resurgence and users are getting used to using it on a daily basis, it’s important to take advantage of this technology for first mover advantage. This presents a PR win in itself.

Imagine you were the first bus tour company to offer bus tours of all the Pokemon hotspots in a specific area. The media would be talking about that worldwide if it was to receive an effective PR treatment.

Scottish business doesn’t have a whole lot of this type of app and this presents tremendous advantages. An example of an app that appeared in 2014 which could be massive for Scottish textile companies to emulate would be, SnapShot Showroom.Snapchat Showroom Screengrab

This technology allows businesses to let users test out the aesthetic of their products within their own homes, without having to purchase and getting home only to realise it looks horrible with the colour scheme.

If you’re a textiles business, this is certainly something you’ll want to have developed soon. If you’re interested, get in touch – we could recommend someone. We could even do some PR around the launch…

I don’t sell products like this, so how does this affect me?

 With Satnav companies and Google Maps using Augmented Reality within their latest software, to give directions and recommendations to users (ie “restaurants near my office”) it’s important to ensure that your digital profile is up to date, has a strategy in place for receiving positive reviews from customers and that you utilise best practice in digital.

Digital-Vishnu-(2-of-2)Trying to master the digital realm can you leave you feeling as though you don’t have enough pairs of hands. Well, relax – and check our guide to becoming a digital guru and mastering business communications in the online era 

A great example of Augmented Reality that quite literally saved my life would be Google Translate. Using their Augmented Reality translation services, I managed to translate a menu in Turkey to avoid a dish that contained nuts which could have killed me.

Now, you don’t need to do anything to use this app – but what it could do, if you run a restaurant, café or a bar is allow users who don’t read English to interact with your business without the need to pay for translations of all your menus and signs!

To take advantage of this, all you need to do is when you create your menu design, ensure it can be read by this app – and why not advertise the fact this service is possible?

Want to gain first mover advantage? Then you need to speak to our award-winning PR agency

We love trying out new stuff (check out our Google Cardboard demonstration) and we think it’d give your business a PR boost. Get in touch to find out how.

We’re a chatty bunch and you can phone us on 0131 561 2244, or you can simply take a few seconds to complete the contact form, below, and we’ll get straight back to you:

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