Augmented Reality: The Best Examples and Activations



Augmented reality, not to be confused with virtual reality, is a fast growing and exciting piece of the digital industry, and a great playing field for a variety of brand experiences. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of some of our favorite augmented reality examples, to show off some of our own work and explore some of the work others have created that inspire us.

Augmented Reality Examples

Dan Brown Inferno

augmented reality examples

When Dan Brown asked us to create an AR experience to build hype for his book Inferno, we set about engineering one of our most rewarding augmented reality mobile apps of recent memory. As is the case with most of our favorite projects, this one called upon pretty much every muscle we had to flex—3D motion graphics video production, multi-platform mobile development, integrated social campaign and (as always) an intense visual design effort.

Star Trek Transporter

Mac Star Trek

In partnership with the new CBS Star Trek series, MAC Cosmetics released an exclusive collection of Starfleet-styled products to celebrate Star Trek’s cosmic women. Seeking out a way to capture the excitement on social media, we worked with the teams at MAC and CBS to create a Transporter App, literally beaming fans into the great beyond!

Facebook VR/AR

Zuck recently demo’d what Facebook has been playing with in their R&D lab—an augmented reality social world inside of a VR headset. While this screams of the horrific future described in Fahrenheit 451 we better come to grips that it is soon to be a reality. Facebook’s goal here is to create a way to interact with your friends as if they are in the same room as you are, even if they’re halfway around the world.

Google Tilt Brush

When people ask you what the coolest new thing is out there. You now have the answer. Google’s tilt brush is mind blowing. While Facebook is hoping to capture minds with creepy sci-fi social experiments, Google is creating amazing experiences. if I get my hands on this one I’m never taking it off. Watch the video, any description just won’t do it justice.

Disney Augmented Reality Coloring Book

This may be 2 years old already (which makes it OLD by tech standards), but Disney has always had a way of making the future. An incredible way of implementing AR simply because it puts bleeding edge tech together with such a simple application, these coloring books show how AR can become a real and inspiring part of our every day lives. And considering this concept is already 2 years old, implementing it in 2016 will have even more stunning results.

Contact Us About Doing Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality: What is it?

Augmented reality (AR) as described in wikipedia “is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” Did we clear that up? Nope. Not only because that was really confusing but also because, well, we can’t. Augmented reality is an amorphous term. It’s a concept to be grasped.  It’s kind of like when your friend asked “What is a meme?” And all you could say was…”um it’s an image with text over it.” While that’s true, it doesn’t really touch on what a Meme is.

So if AR is a concept, how can I understand what it is? Lets run through quick quiz.

Q: A mobile app uses your camera to show live video. You point the camera at a building.  A speach bubble pops up and says “The public bathrooms on the 3rd floor have the softest toilet paper.”

Is this augmented reality? YES.

Why? It’s taking a live view of the world and overlaying a computer graphic element.

What’s not augmented reality? An iPad mounted outside the building that says “NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS.”  That’s just an expensive sign.

Q: A game like Pokemon Go tracks your position in the real world via GPS and shows where you are in the virtual game. When you walk down the street, your position in the virtual game changes.

Is this augmented reality? YES.

Why? It’s placing you into a simulated world that you are controlling by your real world movements.

What’s not AR? If you were to control your position via a joystick. That’s just a video game.

Q: A tablet app that you aim at your coffee table and it overlays a 3D like view of an NFL game.  You can walk around your coffee table with the tablet in hand and see the game from every angle.

Is this augmented reality? YES.

Why? It’s overlaying a computer graphic onto a real world object and is modifying the imagery to match your position in the real world.

What’s not AR? Watching the NFL on your Oculus VR headset.  That’s VR, something totally different (though often associated together.)

Q: An app for your phone that lets you take a video selfie with a dog’s nose and ears over your face.

Is this augmented reality? YES.

Why? It’s taking a live view of your face and adding computer graphics over top.

What’s not AR? Printing out a photo of your mean boss and sharp-y-ing his teeth to look like they are missing. That’s just a good way to get fired.

Now you may start to see similarities in these examples.  In every case there is a computer graphic element and a real world element. Those elements can be different between examples but as long as there is one of each, then 1 + 1 = AR. You may start to wonder if you can change or add to those elements. We used mobile device cameras in a lot of examples (because that is VERY common in AR), but what if we used say a sensor instead? Like a smart watch that displayed your heart beat on your phone? Nope, that’s just a cool technology. But if your heartbeat was effecting the music you were listening to such as playing relaxing music to help lower your heart rate–that would be augmented reality.

The History of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is not exactly a new technology, though it still lives on the bleeding edge for two primary reasons. The audience has not been greatly exposed and technology advancements continue to breed new possibilities. Nearly a decade ago augmented reality was first known for the use of holding symbols up in front of a webcam and a Flash website would display an overlaid video.

The biggest headline buster was when Esquire Magazine released their augmented reality issue with multiple activities. Editorial content and advertisements displayed markers in the magazine that would activate various videos in their desktop companion app. This was a game changer for augmented reality. It reached millions of readers and launched with a PR blitz across a multitude of media outlets. The downside was that they pushed the boundaries so far that some of the capabilities would only display within a desktop application.  Not a website. So in order to see anything you had to download and install a giant app.  Something that scares everyone.

As soon as viewers hear “install” they react much like when they are walking down 5th ave. and some bubbly 20-something says “HI! Do you have 5 minutes to…” “NO!” And, oh, when I said some of the capabilities would only display within a desktop application, some didn’t even do that. The techniques used were very processor intensive and most home computers were just not capable of keeping up with the playback. It’s the old adage, you only get to make a first impression once. And as with all advertising, the work is paid for by companies wanting to reach an audience. If they don’t see a positive response, they are quick to turn towards other options.

Luckily for AR as it was in it’s younger years, it was cool enough and easy enough for any good geek to play around with. So it lived on. Nasa made a really cool app that you can interact with 3D models of various craft. And augmented reality was even incorporated into Valpak’s app so you could see where the coupons could be used in your local area. But as mentioned, AR has been kept alive by cool geeks making cool geek stuff.

Where Augmented Reality Is Now

Augment reality is like a 20 something living in it’s parent’s basement but with a job on Wall Street. It’s matured enough to be a valuable resource, but still growing. Quickly. AR is most commonly seen in mobile apps. We at Sanborn made an augmented reality app for Dan Brown’s current best seller Inferno. Open the app, select the AR section and point the camera towards the book to see the cover art come alive.

In a similar technique the addition of object detection–more specifically facial recognition–Sephora’s Virtual Artist App uses augmented reality to let participants select makeup and get to see how it looks on them in real time.

The really cool bleeding edge of AR is integrating with VR. I know, I said AR and VR are two separate things earlier, they are.  But you can meld them together like pasta and cheese to make something greater than themselves. VR headsets visually immerse you in a virtual reality (VR-get it?), but they also let you have a live view in front of the headset so now the developers can completely control the augmented reality view. It’s much like AR on a mobile device except with the VR headset you get a panoramic view that you control by moving around. The PGA made and incredible VR/AR app that lets you tour courses in great detail.

So there you have it, some augmented reality examples and an explanation of augmented reality itself. If you’re interested in building something for yourself, give us a shout!