Pokémon Go rocketed toward the top of the App StoreGoogle Play and the top-grossing game charts by the end of the first week since its launch. Pokémon Go is exciting because:

  1. It provides a new experience for those who’ve been fans of previous versions of Pokémon.
  2. It’s a free download. Niantic, Inc. the developer, makes its revenue from in-game purchases.
  3. It’s the first big augmented reality (AR) game.

As an AR game, Pokémon Go mixes real-world images with software-generated graphics and is capturing lots of media attention. Concurrently, the much bigger AR business opportunities are receiving huge investment but much less media attention.

AR advances

Some of you skeptics may be thinking you’ve heard various AR claims before that have all flamed out. It appears this time that advances in software capability, reductions in hardware cost and the ubiquity of smartphones are launching a new era of AR applications.

AR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR or Microsoft HoloLens are now delivering a superior experience than has ever been available to consumers before. The superior experience is due to remarkable advances in screen resolution, positional tracking, movement sensors, computational horsepower, 3-D graphics, audio, and haptic technology that use vibration to create the sense of touch.

AR is best applied to unique rather than routine experiences that include visual elements or emotional intensity. Think of events that are expensive, dangerous, or impossible to show using ordinary video. AR applications are changing how we shop, advertise, learn, and communicate.


In a retail store, the profusion of models, sizes and materials can make choosing a daunting task. AR can create a friendlier, inviting shopping experience in which the customer can preview a product in a real setting or visualize what a customer-configured product will look like.

For example, Lowe’s recently rolled out its Holoroom, which uses Oculus Rift, to help customers make home improvement design decisions in an immersive environment. The Holoroom eliminates trying to visualize what a paint color swatch, a carpet fabric square or a paneling sample might look like on an entire wall, a cupboard or a whole floor.

By introducing AR into home remodeling decisions, Lowe’s:

  1. Improves the customers’ shopping experience.
  2. Increases the number of sales closed in one visit.
  3. Reduces the risk of customer dissatisfaction with the final product.


We’re all bombarded with too many advertising messages that come at us on television, on the web and even via product placement at the movies. AR can produce a memorable, immersive experience for the prospective customer. Such customer experiences deliver a more lasting impression than print, web page or video.

For example, Volvo created the Volvo Reality app for the Google Cardboard Headset to enable a prospective customer to experience an AR test drive of the Volvo XC90 on a smartphone.

By adding AR into automobile purchasing decisions, Volvo:

  1. Builds consumer engagement into the shopping experience.
  2. Expands the location of the selling process to essentially everywhere.
  3. Adds a cool factor to the Volvo brand perception.


We’ve all been bored in a class or a presentation when we want to learn something but the speaker or the audiovisual support is a bust and we doze off. A day later we can barely remember we attended the event. AR can produce an immersive learning experience that enhances learner engagement.

For example, using the VRinOR app created by a company called Medical Realities, viewers from around the globe can witness a surgeon, who is wearing a head-mounted display, perform an operation. The viewers see much more than they would in a well-produced documentary of the operation. Doctors, medical students, and the merely curious can experience the operation in real time with 360-degree control over their vantage points. They experience actually being in the operating room.

By adding AR into immersive learning experiences, Medical Realities:

  1. Enhances learner engagement during the learning event.
  2. Improves knowledge retention.
  3. Reduces the risk of accidents or unwanted side-effects.

What AR applications do you think might produce value in a business context?

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