The use of augmented reality in Public Relations

 Technology is constantly developing, and this brings new opportunities for PR practitioners to be creative. One of the most exciting “new” technologies is augmented reality. The reason why I’m putting ‘new’ in quotation marks is that it is not actually a new technology. It’s been around for 20 years, and was first used by Boeing as a tool for fighter pilots to have hands-free navigation and use a digital overlay on top of their glasses instead (like Arnold Schwarzenegger in  Terminator).

Augmented reality combines real and virtual reality, and it is interactive in real time. Right now there are four major trends in augmented reality:

–          Gesture based computing
–          Geotagging
–          AR markers
–          Augmented reality browser

Gesture based computing  is basically a technology that enables you to interact with mechanical devises by using your gestures. An example of this is Microsoft’s project ‘Kinect’ for Xbox 360, released in 2010. It’s a device that lets you play video games without using anything but your gestures.

Geotagging is not just a GPS coordinator that enables you to ‘check in’ at various places on Facebook. Instead of just showing people where you are, you are now also able to leave notes, videos, photos etc. at the location. You can tag your favorite restaurant for example, and the next time your friends visit the location your tag will appear on their Smartphones. It doesn’t have to be a stationary object in order for geotagging to work, notes can also be tied to people (or rather their phones) and vehicles.


AR markers
, such as ‘quick response code’ (QR code) will give you information instantly on your phone or computer if you take a picture of it. There’s an Iphone app by Nike called ‘True City’ which makes it possible for you to use your Smartphone to get information about different cities in Europe. Imagine you just got off the plane in a new city that you’ve never visited before. Instead of getting a map, you’re now able to use an app that puts a digital layer on top of the streets and shows you where the closest restaurant is, where to find a good hotel etc. The Nike app also reveals where new Nike events are taking place, where you can find secret QR-codes in the cities, and when new Nike products will be launched. It’s almost like a treasure hunt! Have a look:

Augmented reality browser is, as I mentioned earlier, a digital layer that you can use in a real environment with your Smartphone camera. This enables contextual advertising, where ‘Startbucks’ for example can advertise their coffee shop in your augmented reality browser.

Since augmented reality advertising is a relatively new phenomenon there are no laws surrounding it yet. That is why it’s so important for PR practitioners to get involved now.  PR agencies can use it on anything. It’s a whole new world of marketing just waiting to be discovered!

Today we see advertising billboards everywhere, but in the future it might look like this:

This is a building in Tokyo covered in QR codes.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The use of augmented reality in Public Relations

  1. This was a really interesting post. A PR practitioner must always keep up to date with technology and how this can be implemented to manage and spread the word or enhance the dialogue between the organisation and the publics.
    Augmented are a very innovative way to use, but i feel that for now they are still in the starting point and that not a lot of people use them.
    Let me give u an example – a lot of people have smartphones which have so many different functions, but do you really know all of them and use them to their potential?
    Thats the thing I believe that agumented reality is still in its innitial stages and that it will eventually boom with the publics.

  2. A really interesting post, that’s for sure.

    The subject made mecurious enough to try and find some more information about augmented reality and QR codes.

    I realized that it can actually be a very useful tool in some circumstances. For example, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’s, holds this period of time an exhibition of Picasso’s paintings. In their campaign, in order to promote the exhibition, they used a dedicated Facebook Page as well as QR codes in print. To what is more, in order to have a more “elegant” outcome because as they mentioned “QR Codes are so ugly” they incorporating the QR codes into a portrait of the artist! Furthermore they put QR codes in 33 Starbucks locations in Richmond which link to augmented reality visions of Picasso’s art on the walls using a Layar browser.

    Seems that is a quit useful public relations tool after all.

  3. jonas.j

    If you consider QR codes ugly, have a look at Microsoft’s take on 2D codes. http://tag.microsoft.com/ Their success depends on how many of the most popular QR scanning apps will recognise them. By the way, the Windows Phone incorporates QR scanning right into the system, so the scanner is just a click away with no app to be installed. I think that’s a step in the right direction.

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