[quote]What if we were able to use that technology to bring our business world into sharper view?[/quote]
By Scott Schneider Two growing trends that at first read like pure tech developments could very well fuel a new augmented reality (AR) communications revolution that would disrupt the communications/PR industry in the upcoming decade as much as social media did at the beginning of this one. First, the ‘internet of things’, where every 'thing' in our sphere will be online and produce data points, and second, the wearable computing trend that continues to revolutionize the way we physically engage with computers (culminating in glasses or contact lenses that easily best the current version of Google Glass). [caption id="attachment_2063" align="alignright" width="150"]ruderfinn Scott Schneider[/caption] If these two trends coalesce as promised, then we in the communications/PR industry will be left with a remarkable opportunity. How do we shape and contextualize all of the wonderful and complex amounts of data from the things around us, and serve up an augmented, informational visual experience that is both utilitarian and editorial/story-driven for our clients? Over the years, much has been written about how augmented reality (AR) can affect a myriad of marketing and advertising programs. From information jumping off of soda cans to pop up virtual showrooms, the promise of dazzling, virtual, multimedia experiences have been at the forefront of how many people talk about AR. But a February 24 article in the MIT Technology Review by Rachel Metz addresses a different angle, one from the vantage point of AR in the workplace. While there is currently a significant barrier to entry due to hardware issues (it's simply not practical to always hold your phone up to view an AR layer around you), it is safe to assume that the advances in wearable AR glasses and contact lenses will be here relatively soon. As AR begins to get its second wind via these growing body of wearables, we in the communications field should give it another look, and prepare for the future. We can already see the advantages of AR in many professional fields. From the airline mechanics in Metz's piece to the Stanford surgeon who recently used Google Glass on an anatomical human model to demonstrate how an augmented visual layer could guide surgeons though certain procedures. But we can look beyond these hands on types of experiences and imagine a world where AR empowers us both in our own workplace and in the communications programs we develop for ourselves and for clients. Currently we can use several AR technologies and apps now to build campaigns that allow consumers to hold up their phones to a myriad of products and receive offers, information and engaging virtual experiences. But what if we were able to use that technology to bring our business world into sharper view? How could an AR intranet for a company look - one that allows employees to look around their surroundings and see a business layer mapped over their physical world? One could glance at colleagues and see what projects they were currently working on, simply look at a conference room to know its availability, and even see your lunch delivery heading towards you from a few blocks away. Your to-do list for the day could be omnipresent in the corner of your vision field, the list slowly getting smaller throughout the day. But in addition to simply a new suite of productive information, an AR intranet would allow the company’s communications team to expose and elucidate on the strategic business narrative of the day. Significant business goals could appear as elegant signage throughout your day. Official tweets and posts would be prominently displayed over the workers who wrote them so you could read them as you past in the hall. You could see where the CEO was in relation to yourself, and even what business initiative they were currently working on. By strategically culling and displaying the right information, the story of the organization would be crafted, served up and integrated into every employee's day. If AR is going to be the future of integrating narratives and instigating conversations and actions, then isn't that where the PR and communications industry should be? Scott Schneider is chief digital officer for Ruder Finn based in New York. Photo credit: SNDRV