The coming year or so is going to mean some hefty announcements for the augmented reality world. For starters, Microsoft is finally releasing its supremely cool HaloLens headset at the beginning of next year, though the price tag is out of range for the average customer and the first shipments are reserved for designers. Then there's the Google-backed Magic Leap, which will soon be revealing more of its mysterious plans for an augmented reality wearable (maybe, though the company is notoriously tight-lipped about its product). And yet, with some of the biggest companies in the world touting their venture into the augmented reality market, the majority of customers and opponents of augmented reality have been nonplussed about its introduction into the retail market.
Until, that is, Disney revealed an augmented reality coloring book and social media went wild.
The video showcases augmented reality characters leaping from the pages of an actual coloring book--in other words, as someone colors the real coloring book page, the virtual character changes. See a demonstration below:
This kind of relatively simple but nonetheless astonishing demonstration of augmented reality is precisely where big companies have been going wrong: instead of overwhelming the general public with all the possibilities of AR, they should have been starting small and targeting something easily understood (and, frankly, who doesn't love coloring books?). That's why Disney's approach works.
Consumers associate virtual reality with gaming, and most don't understand the distinction between augmented reality and its virtual reality counterpart (in case you're confused about the difference as well, virtual reality completely replaces the landscape your eyes see with an artificial one, while augmented reality builds upon your real environment to add virtual elements). Disney's clarified that. Plus, Disney's shown that AR can happen on technology many people already own: a tablet, not a headset. This is important, since most parents aren't willing to strap a headset to their kid, but are open to tablets.
Disney's line of Playmation Avengers toys will be out this month.
And it's no coincidence that Disney is launching a line of augmented reality toys soon-- with the release of the new Star Wars movies just around the corner, this is the perfect time to capitalize on customers who want to feel like they're Jedi masters. Disney understands that parents are willing to shell out money for their children much more readily than they spend money on themselves.
Finally, there's another reason Disney's augmented reality could make customers pay greater attention to the AR market, and that is its reputation. Customers have a much longer relationship with Disney than they do with, say, Google and they're more likely to trust a company they've been encountering since birth.
The bottom line is that we've been saying augmented reality is the next big thing for years, but may take someone with a much greater impact to finally get the point across.