AR, otherwise known as “Augmented Reality”, is a technology that brings together computer-generated information with the real-world environment, in real-time. AR technology works to overlay digital information onto the real-world environment for a “best of both” experience.

How is AR different to VR?

Virtual Reality (VR) is different to AR as it immerses users into a completely virtual environment – hence the name, “virtual reality”. Users are completely immersed/engaged as opposed to playing a virtual reality game like SimCity whereby the user is operating the game, but not immersed in it.

Web based VR experiences certainly have a place in the digital world – most people associate them with gaming and immersive leisure activities, but they are also well suited to teaching experiences such as driving and pilot training, planning experiences such as interior design and also showcasing media such as paintings or sculptures.

One key thing to bear in mind when looking at VR in a web environment is that users will need a VR headset in order to be fully immersed.

Some notable examples of VR in use on the web include Mozilla’s “Hubs” virtual world and Google’s Konterball game.

In contrast, websites that use AR give users more options to choose and manage their browsing journey without the need for additional equipment to fully engage. The way that AR works allows users to still browse and journey around a website in the traditional way with more in depth visual experiences in certain areas.

Some notable examples of AR in use on the web include:

  • Google & McLaren Racing’s partnership on Google Maps to allow fans “behind the scenes” at the McLaren Technology Center in Surrey.
  • Lavazza & Arsenal’s WebAR campaign which launched during lockdown to entertain Arsenal fans by “seeing and hearing Arsenal fans in their own home”.
  • Volvo’s S60 launch which allowed users to customise a new S60 from their browser, including colours, wheels and interiors.

Using AR in a web build

Introducing WebAR into a website is certainly an avenue to explore, and it is a very versatile tool to use. Sectors that may benefit from exploring AR options include education and training, art and design, marketing and advertising and retail/ecommerce.

The benefits of using AR include:

  • Product Visualisation: AR can be used to allow users to visualise products they’re interested in in their own environment before they make the decision to buy. For example, potential customers could use AR to see how they would look in a pair of jeans, or how a specific paint colour would look on their walls.
  • Web Based Entertainment: AR can be used to create interactive games and entertainment experiences on websites as well as apps and separate gaming systems. In a web environment, users can interact with digital elements overlaid on the real world, making the experience more dynamic. For example, a website that sells soft toys could then use AR to create a digital version of a character for children to see in their bedroom or play area.
  • Educational Tools: AR can be a powerful tool for education. Developers can use AR to provide interactive and immersive educational content, for example students could see AR elements of a human body over the top of a 2D image of a skeleton.
  • Website Navigation: AR can be used to enhance navigation on a website by overlaying directions, points of interest, or other relevant information on a real-world view.
  • Marketing and Advertising: AR can be a creative and effective tool for marketing campaigns. Developers can use AR to create interactive and attention-grabbing advertisements that consumers can engage with directly through their web browsers.
  • Training and Simulations: In certain industries, AR can be used for training purposes. For example, AR can simulate real-world scenarios for training purposes, allowing users to practice and learn in a safe and controlled digital environment.