Augmented Reality (AR) is a development that has been heard of for a long time and whose spread is now gaining momentum. This trend, often referred to in connection with virtual reality, is repeatedly praised by the media as an innovative technology for a variety of applications. However, the differences between these two phenomena are very large. We explain to you what Augmented Reality is all about, where it is already being used and what potential it offers for corporate marketing.

What is Augmented Reality?

„Augmented space is the physical space overlaid with dynamically changing information. This information is likely to be in multimedia form and is often localized for each other.” – Lev Manovich (Media theorist and professor for computer science)
From this statement of the media theorist Lev Manovich can several conclusions be drawn. On the one hand, in contrast to virtual reality, where users completely immerse themselves in a virtual world, the user remains stuck in Augmented Reality, or AR for short, in the “real” world. With virtual reality, on the other hand, virtual and real worlds remain separate at all times. Furthermore, AR integrates virtual content into the real world. A digital layer is placed over the real image (or view) in order to enrich the perception of reality through computer-assisted elements. Thus a fusion and hybridisation of the world is taking place, which now consists of analogue and digital content.
Technically, not much is needed – basically just an internet-enabled device in the form of a smartphone, tablet or other device equipped with a camera. This camera recognises certain image points and key data and thus captures the space on a three-dimensional level. Thus, even complex objects can be recognised and used as markers to provide the information. Many apps use tracking tools such as GPS, accelerometers and position sensors to better track camera movement and make image flow smoother. In this way, the image can be adjusted to the position of the smartphone. With the digital layer, a layer of virtual content is placed over what the camera captures, so that the image can be enriched with information, routes, or other images or animations.
The following can therefore be said: Virtual Reality is a parallel virtual world that is separate from the real world, whereas Augmented Reality represents the fusion of digital and analog content in the real world, so that every point in space can be filled with information.

Recent Releases

In recent months, the topic of Augmented Reality has been pushed by various leading tech companies – above all Apple and Alphabet (Google).  Since autumn 2017, for example, the Google “AR-Core” has been the basis for Augmented Reality technologies. The corresponding framework for integrating Apple is called “AR KIT” and has been available since the introduction of iOS 11 in September 2017. Apple has also bought the technology for this in Germany. In 2015, the US group acquired the German software start-up Metaio from Munich, which is specialised in merging digital content and the real world. By providing the frameworks, the companies also hope to increase the involvement of developers in the AR area.

Augmented Space Moves in Many Areas of Life

The ability to fill points in a room with information is attractive for many fields of application. In addition to the games industry, which is often a pioneer in the adaptation of technical innovations, museums, for example, are already beginning to see their exhibition rooms as black boxes rather than white cubes, in which nothing should distract from the exhibits, whereby each point in the room can be filled with digital information that can be called up via additional devices such as a smartphone.  These can be or sounds, video clips, or simple information. Among other things, guided tours can be made more interactive. This type of exhibition can also create a whole new learning experience and a more emancipated scope with new technologies.

Application Areas in Marketing

Especially in marketing, Augmented Reality opens up many new possibilities. At the end of 2017 the online mail order company in the USA released its App AR View, with which it is possible to place products virtually in one’s own home before buying them in order to get a better feeling of space for them. In addition, the product can be resized and freely rotated and turned 360 degrees as desired. A few thousand products can be viewed in advance within your own four walls (and, of course, elsewhere) without having to place an order beforehand, thus creating returns and unnecessary delivery routes if you do not like them. This is a remarkable and future-oriented step, even in times of increased order volumes, congested roads and ambitious climate targets.  Unfortunately, the app is only available in the USA and also there only for Apple devices with iOS 11. A download in Germany is not yet possible.


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Similar functions are also offered by the furniture giant Ikea, which has linked App with the product catalogue and offers its customers the opportunity to imagine their own home already furnished through the lens of a smartphone or tablet.

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In addition to applications that can help the customer imagine clothing, furniture or other things on their own or in their living room, there are already other fields of application. Not only online shops can benefit from the technical innovations. In offline stores, too, raffles can be held using Augmented Reality, for example, in which items “have to be hidden” and found in the sales room. AR apps can also be used in fashion stores to capture individual pieces of furniture and display exactly the matching accessories, just as is the case in modern online shops, which further enhances the attractiveness of offline shopping. In addition, such applications can potentially be used, particularly in the large cathedrals of consumption, to guide buyers to a specific product of their choice. This can reduce tedious searching, save customers time and at the same time enjoy a smoother shopping experience.
Other possibilites are:

  • Interactive product presentation
  • Advertisements enriched with AR elements. For example, film posters can be scanned with a mobile phone camera and trailers and movie times can then be displayed in the nearest cinemas.

Benefits for Online Shops

Not many shops offer applications with Augmented Reality elements yet. This allows you to differentiate yourself from the competition and create a real competitive advantage. Augmented Reality allows you to create another interface between the digital and analog world, for example by allowing your customers to capture products with the camera while providing additional product and background information.
Moreover, the entertainment factor should not be neglected either. As a technical innovation, Augmented Reality is particularly appealing simply because of its unfamiliarity, and as a “technical gadget” it also contributes to user entertainment.


Augmented Reality could develop into one of the biggest digital trends in the next few years. The fields of application are not limited to online shops, which allow you to view products at home in advance, but can also be attractive for offline shops and offer customers real added value and an improved shopping experience. The option of including additional information at the point of sale extends the shopping experience to another dimension that has many different facets to offer.