Amy Webb is an author and futurist
and the founder of the Future Today
Institute, a leading forecasting
and strategy frm that researches
technology for a global client base.
She is the author of The Signals
Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is
Forget Your Smartphone.
What’s Next Is Even Bigger
Augmented reality will turbocharge
how you reach customers—
if you use it correctly
one-to-one marketing: delivering the best possible
information, within exactly the right context, to
each consumer, regardless of the device she’s using
at that moment. It’s been talked about for years,
but with a food of investment and increased computing power, major technology companies are
fnally zeroing in on creating a unique, personal
experience for everyone. By combining locations
and the objects within our view, along with our
calendars, our contacts, and even our biometric
data, the coming wave of AR will be designed
specifcally for each of us.
Once we have unfettered access to AR, we will
no longer experience products in a store or on
a webpage designed to elicit specifc behaviors.
Banana Republic’s ftting rooms have lighting and
neutral paint that fatter consumers as they try on
clothes, but the ftting room of the future is anywhere there’s a refection. AR will let you try on
clothes even in the ofce bathroom or in front of
This means that companies will need to consider
what story they’re telling about their products under
an infnite number of circumstances, because each
person will experience AR individually. Health care
and medical startups, hoping to deploy AR apps and
glasses to train doctors, nurses, and technicians, will
need to bear in mind that hospitals aren’t all built
using the same foor plan, and that stafers aren’t all
the same height. Those stafers won’t be able to be
trained in procedures in true AR unless those factors
are accounted for. Companies that make and sell
tools such as construction machinery or kitchen equipment will fnd that AR ofers consumers
a great way to try their products—if these companies keep that level of customization in mind.
The tech companies working on AR are also moving aggressively into conversational interfaces. Whether we’re talking to Amazon, Siri, Microsoft, or Google, we are training the system,
with what we share with it, to better understand what we want. Already, the software powering
the Amazon Echo has left the confnes of our homes: We can use it to order Domino’s pizza
while driving in our Hyundais. Soon, using connected earbuds and AR glasses, we will talk to
Stubb’s about barbecue sauce while at the grocery store. As voice interfaces mature, consumers
will expect to ask companies questions about their products—meaning that every consumer
will become part of your company’s story, and in real time.
All of which is to say that, in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be making the physical and digital realms interchangeable. Think smartphones are addictive? You haven’t seen anything yet.
WHAT IF I WERE TO TELL YOU that this is the beginning of the end of smartphones? That might seem bold, given the recent launch of Apple’s latest and greatest iPhones. But here’s already evidence of the next wave of computers, which we’ll wear and command using our voices. The transition from smart- phones to smart wearables—earbuds that have biometric sensors and speakers; rings
and bracelets that can sense our motion; glasses that record and display information—will forever change how we experience the world.
These smart wearables ofer more than clever hardware. They
promise a new kind of digital reality. Facebook, Google, Microsoft,
Baidu, Alibaba, Snap, Tencent, and Apple have all announced sizable
investments in augmented reality—a digital overlay atop the physical
world. AR has already shown up on our mobile devices, in the form of
Pokémon Go and Snapchat flters. But AR gets even more interesting
once it starts drawing on our personal data.
One of the most important trends emerging from this technology is
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