Whether or not we'd like to admit it, our lives revolve around our mobile devices. Mobile applications accommodate almost every facet of our daily existence, from working to communicating, shopping, photographing, and, even, ordering food. Without our handheld computers, we'd likely feel lost in the world.

When we interact with our phones now, we generally walk around with our heads buried in our screens. Our mobile dependency essentially takes us out of our surroundings and into a digital environment. But thanks to the rise of augmented reality applications, that behavior is on the brink of changing. Now a blended reality infused with immersive augmented and virtual experiences will give brands the opportunity to lasso audiences into their stories and branded content.

Apple's recently launched ARKit has given developers across the globe the tools to begin developing their own augmented reality experiences. By democratizing the augmented development process and giving more individuals the opportunity to create experiences for apple's built-in user audience, the tech company has effectively expedited the impact of augmented reality on all of our daily lives. A wide range of voices all working toward creating more immersive experiences means that consumers will have a range of choices at their fingertips to begin entering the augmented era.

The development process will move swiftly and no brand can afford to be the last one standing at the starting gates., because as is always the case with emerging technologies, the last ones to adapt will lose customer views, and then, customer interest. To prepare for a new, augmented reality-app driven future, brands need to start reframing their views of what a digital experience can and should entail.

The Screen Only Tells Half The Story

From a design perspective, one of the biggest changes that the augmented reality wave will spark, is bringing surroundings to the smartphone experience. Geo-targeted ads and messaging aside, the smartphone experience is largely separated from the physical one; a consumer can peruse websites and scroll through social media apps anywhere and anytime--the applications stand alone and the location of the consumer doesn't impact the end game. However, the goal of augmented reality is to bring a new layered perception of reality to users by incorporating enhanced digital technology into physical surroundings.

So much of an augmented reality application's success depends on how well it brings the outside in. These applications give organizations the chance to overlay real-life images and real-time views with augmented, digital insights and stories. For example, Guru, an augmented reality application for museums takes an exhibition, that historically required passive participation from museum-goers, and allows them to choose their own augmented content experience to enhance their connection to the exhibition. If a visitor is looking at a Monet collection, he could choose to explore Monet's brush-stroke technique, or dive into the real-life locales that inspired the great painter.

(Narrative) Rules Don't Apply

Since the inception of digital media, brands have felt more pressure to enhance their storytelling prowess. Many build out platform-specific content series to lead viewers and fans through a specific journey, like how a product is made or how individuals incorporate a product into their daily lives. This rich media content is certainly more engaging than simple brand emotions, but it does not necessarily give the audience any agency.

Through augmented reality application development brands have the opportunity to create stories starring consumers, themselves. Although augmented reality is only partially-immersive, in comparison to virtual reality platform's full immersion, it still gives audiences the chance to put themselves at the center of a narrative, and subsequently, feel more personally connected to the brand architecting the experience. To prepare for this new era, brands need to stop thinking of content experiences as one-sided, and bring audiences into the storytelling fold, rather than bringing stories to them.

We're in a grace period where augmented reality has not fully sparked a mobile user friendly, but brands should use this interim wisely. Taking stock of augmented reality's potential to influence customer interactions and, subsequently, customer purchases will give organizations the chance to devise more holistic approaches to their own augmented reality for android and iPhone strategies. Augmented reality applications will prove to be more than just novel concepts; rather, they will anchor a new era of more insightful, entertaining, and impactful immersions.

Published on: Sep 7, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.