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The power of augmented reality

Augmented reality - the supposition of digital images over what your smartphone's camera can see - has largely been a bit of a gimmick. However, as the technology improves, it is becoming more useful for retail and other apps. While the technology can add interactivity and fun - from Starbucks cups that animate digitally, to ASDA's augmented Halloween experience for children in its stores - the future is more pragmatic and realistic.

With online and app-based shopping still growing fast, apps should be able to show customers 'wearing' their choice of shoes or clothes. Poster and artwork sellers can show what the result will look like in a variety of frame styles on the buyer's wall, encouraging them to up-sell. Similarly, furniture retailers can drop that expensive new sofa in position and allow the family to argue over the choice of colour, the style of arms and other issues from the comfort of their old current sofa, all helping to push them to a buying decision with your store.

While the likes of Ikea, Topshop and other major brands are trying out this technology, there is nothing to stop smaller brands using the idea in their apps. Solutions such as Zapper and Augment can be integrated into apps to let customers see products in situ, to decide on colours and patterns. GPS-based augmented reality can help customers navigate large stores to find the item they need, while travel companies can provide augmented reality translations of signs in their apps. Even service sellers, with no obvious product to show, can create animated augmented presentations that are distinct from endless web and PowerPoint shows.

Any of these features, or a twist on them applied to your business, will increase the utility of the app, add value to the user, and provide a unique service or feature that will stick in the mind when it comes to influencing a buying decision. With more apps starting to use augmented reality, now that it has been through its awkward novelty phase, there are plenty of reasons to find a use for it in your app and to create something more interactive and personal for the user.