Years ago, we were sold on the promise of Augmented and Virtual Reality. Through Oculus, Google Glass and Hololens, we were going to leap into the future promised us by science fiction.

The problem is, like most early technologies, for most people the cost was out of reach, the tech was uncomfortable and silly, and there wasn't enough software developed to keep people's interest.

A few years later, Pokemon Go captured the entire world's attention, and for about a minute everyone was introduced to Augmented Reality. Google and Facebook learned from their early missteps and offered "cardboard VR" and cheap development kits, while Microsoft and others have been focusing on giving better high-end experiences.

At the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, I got to see firsthand how those years of retooling have paid off. Both VR and AR have found a new footing, and the ingenious ways companies are using them can be an inspiration for marketers in certain industries.

Retail

In a unique crossover between technology, loyalty, and fandom, 7Eleven teamed up with Deadpool to offer an Augmented Reality enabled 7Rewards app where the character "taunts" you while you're in their stores -- for the purpose of earning prizes, of course.  

Can't program? You can use the free YouAugment AR app designer to create a similar experience for your own company.

Marketing

When you need a game to replace Pokemon Go, who you gonna call? The team behind Ghostbusters World certainly hopes that you'll choose them, as they've created an Augmented Reality experience that overlays on Google Maps APIs, which brings you and other users together into the real world to fight ghosts. In another movie tie-in, Lenovo is using Star Wars to sell their new Augmented Reality glasses, with a Jedi training challenge game.

It's no surprise that both of these games are designed to promote fantasy/sci-fi universes, but you can be just as creative for your own business with tools from Google. You can do anything from submit your location as a real-world stop in an existing game, or create a scavenger hunt type game of your own.

As examples, Yelp has built in Pokestop search, and other businesses have capitalized on their prime hunting ground locations to offer players in-store discounts.

Brick and Mortar

One of our biggest problems facing retail entrepreneurs today is a lack of foot-traffic, and one of the biggest complaints that people have about AR/VR is that it will cause a generation of people plugged into the Matrix. The recent movie Ready Player One offered a glimpse of a VR-enabled future world where everyone has their own omni-directional treadmill, but for the time being, there are a few offerings that can help light the way.

Hologate is a European company that offers a four player VR multiplayer arena. It allows you to load any number of high-def games, which require you to move around and play. The entire four  person free-standing rig can be set up in an unused portion of any existing space -- even outside -- so business owners could put them into underutilized space fairly cheaply and easily to attract new business.

But most exciting of all at Comic-Con was the demonstration of the full possibility of VR, by none other than Amazon. Designed as a training course for CIA Analyst Jack Ryan, their Open VR experience took me: running up a tower, jumping out of a helicopter, fighting enemy combatants in a flaming building, running across a ledge, riding down a zipline and then driving a jeep to safety.

While there were a few glitches in the VR, and my body felt the pain from it the next day, I am still way more willing to do that exercise routine than take a spin class or do yoga.

With experiences like these, a savvy entrepreneur may be able to lure people off of their couch and back out into the real world. To create them, try InstaVR combined with 360-degree video to create lifelike immersive experiences of your own.

The future is finally here -- and it is awesome.

Published on: Jul 30, 2018