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Tech Couture: Fashion keeps a date with augmented reality

M Saraswathy  |  Mumbai 

Futuristic technologies that provide interactive consumer experiences like in the sci-fi movie The Minority Report may be here sooner than you think. After a virtual Cheetah alongside Mahindra & Mahindra's XUV500 wowed onlookers at the recently concluded Auto Expo, it was Godrej Interio's turn to woo fashionistas by showcasing its new furniture line at the Lakme Fashion Week using augmented reality (AR).

Augmented reality is an overlay of graphics onto a video stream or other real-time display. Marketers expect AR campaigns to show up everywhere, from the grocery store and the shopping mall to in magazines and on billboards.

Bedraj Tripathi, head (marketing), Godrej Interio explains that the products were first shot using a film which was followed by making cut outs of the products. This cut out was projected on top of the live film at fashion week. “So, the two feeds were merged to make it look like one. Shifting from live to virtual and vice-versa on real-time basis, is what the technology needs," added Tripathi.

Not stopping at just one campaign, Anil Mathur, COO, Godrej Interio informs that the brand will use augmented reality technology to use this technology in some of its retail outlets too. "There may be some premium products that would not be available in our stores. So, we would use augmented reality to give a sense of how a product looks to the customer," Mathur said.

In India, a handful of brands have experimented with AR. Fast food chain McDonald's had last year launched its new dessert McFlurry Oreo using AR where a user could point their smartphone camera at the picture of the dessert and the image of McFlurry would swirl and bounce on the handheld’s screen.

Digital marketing teams of across the globe are in the process of producing some kind of viral, social marketing or augmented reality promotional material. "A lot of brands have opened up to augmented reality and are approaching us for it. The M&M campaign, saw people experiencing the technology and enjoying it. The brand made an impact in the public's mind. The XUV campaign's motive was to be a crowd puller and it succeeded," said Carlton D'Silva, chief creative officer, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment that created AR campaigns for M&M and Godrej. While he did not disclose the cost incurred in such a project, D’Silva emphasized that the cost of customer acquisition is lower than in online marketing.

Hungama is now in the process of launching three to four augmented reality brand campaigns in the next two months and each, promises D’Silva, will be different. “Hungama is also experimenting to include AR more engaging with the help of features like gesture-based controls, making the technology accessible on range of devices on a real time basis etc,” he informed.

Tripathi of Godrej too is betting on AR being the next big thing for the retail marketers. "Retailers can use this technology to help customers try several clothes in a store without having to wear them. Emotion sensing technology would be a necessary addition to augmented reality in the future," he said.

But, Chris George, founder and CEO of EBS Worldwide, an international marketing & technology services firm, is of the view that the real impact of AR on marketing is yet to be gauged. "One needs to ascertain whether the campaigns using augmented technology have an actual impact. We need to understand if it is merely of gimmick value or causes consumer engagement. I believe that though brand building has occurred by the use of the medium, sales is an area where things are yet to move," he said.

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First Published: Mon, March 12 2012. 11:58 IST