This past weekend in New York, the United Nations created a Facebook Live filter for World Humanitarian Day that let users overlay their real-time clips with augmented reality, particularly scrolling copy that told stories about civilians who have been affected by conflict. In Times Square, AR-enhanced videos aired on one of the iconic, commercial intersection’s large billboards. The endeavor was powered by Facebook’s 4-month-old AR system, dubbed Camera Effects Studio, which is getting the attention of brand marketers.
“For us, Facebook is an amazing platform to develop AR on because people are inherently using it already,” said Craig Elimeliah, managing director of creative technology at VML, the UN’s agency. “It includes Instagram as well. It includes Live and regular camera—so the sheer scale is unbelievable.”
While AR is still exploratory territory for marketers and media companies, its pixelated push to the mainstream has gotten a series of boosts this year from some of the biggest digital players. Snapchat—with its wacky filters and other virtual overlays—has continued to be popular among teens (even if Wall Street doesn’t like its pace). Apple, which has long been seen as a potential AR game changer due to the popularity of its iPhone and iPad, seems primed to give AR the turbocharge it needs to attract older demographics. When the Cupertino, Calif.-based company releases its iOS 11 mobile operating system in September, hundreds of millions of Apple-device owners will have augmented reality at their fingertips with a set of features called ARKit.
“Apple and Facebook will make augmented reality an everyday reality,” said David Deal, a digital marketing consultant. “We’ll see plenty of hit and miss with AR as we did when Apple opened up the iPhone to app developers, but ultimately both Apple and Facebook are in the best position to steamroll Snapchat with AR.”
Ikea, which will be one of the first major brands on Apple’s AR platform at launch, is developing an app that allows customers to see what furniture and other household items would look like in a three-dimensional view inside their homes. Ikea also plans to introduce new products in the AR app before they hit store shelves.