Augmented Reality, or AR, is a term that probably doesn’t come up often in your bimonthly student recruitment meetings — but it should. Not only would it keep Joe from Media Relations from nodding off every five minutes, but it could also drive massive results in your student campaigns.
What even is AR? The lesser-known-but-equally-cool cousin of VR (virtual reality), AR doesn’t create an entirely new virtual world, but instead layers virtual elements on top of the physical world. Think kids running around on Pokemon Go, funky Snapchat filters, and even virtual try-ons of Dior sneakers.
Okay, but what does this have to do with student recruitment? If your campaign strategies focus on creating meaningful, exciting, and interactive student experiences with high ROI and conversions — then well, everything. Imagine your prospective students scanning your otherwise-forgettable mailers to watch a holographic welcome message from your university president, sharing Snapchats of your university logo painted on their faces, and pointing their phones at statues while visiting campus to see pop-up informational videos.
These technologies might seem futuristic or difficult to imagine, but they’re right on our doorstep, and understanding them is crucial to effectively engaging the next generation. Let’s do a quick dive into the latest AR technologies to see just how important and useful this tool can be for student recruitment not only tomorrow, but today.
- AR is rapidly evolving and improving, driven by the 5G revolution and other technology to be faster and more accessible.
- AR is on track to be the next big thing of today and tomorrow — major players are already investing hundreds of billions, with big payoff.
- AR is already proving its worth in every industry, especially advertising with a $2.4 billion annual revenue.
- Universities can start adding AR to their marketing toolkit for major results, such as 4X conversions and 70% deeper impressions.
AR is Rapidly Evolving and Improving
Just ten years ago, the first AR campaign on an iPhone required the phone to first be hacked. Now, AR is everywhere — your phone, your laptop, and of course special AR glasses. All of this is possible thanks to cutting-edge technology (with alphabet-soup names like 5G, LiDAR, and SDKs), making AR faster, cheaper, and more accessible to the everyday you and me. Let’s look at the top three of 2021:
Internet speeds are 300% faster than in 2017 and 1000% faster than in 2009. This trend will skyrocket even further with the 5G revolution, which promises future download speeds of 20Gb/s (for those of you who don’t spend all their free time memorizing average download speeds, that’s 20x faster than 4G — a.k.a. no more Netflix buffering, ever).
Source: Open Signal, 2020
A confusing acronym for Light Detection and Ranging, LiDAR is basically the radar 2.0 — but instead of radio waves, it bounces lasers off its surroundings and builds a 3D map with that info. Last year Apple shocked the world by launching a LiDAR camera on their iPhone 12 Pro. Now equipped with lightning-fast depth-sensors and user-friendly UX, teens can see AR through their phone screens with more real-life accuracy than ever before — which of course got Snapchat to update their Lens Studio with this new tech as well.
Image: iPhone LiDAR Camera (Source: Mashable, 2020)
Software Development Kits (SDKs)
Before SDKs, building phone apps was mainly limited to the coding geniuses at Google and Apple. With the creation of these development software tools, well, it’s still limited to coding geniuses, but anyone with the skills can bring their dream app to life from their garage. For AR specifically, software platforms like Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore have democratized the world of building AR experiences, boosting accessibility and allowing the public to be a part of content creation.
Major Players are Investing in AR
AR technology has the potential to disrupt almost every field, but the biggest investments so far are mostly in training, gaming, and commerce.
In 2018, the U.S. Army invested a whopping $479 billion into projects with Microsoft’s favorite AR brainchild, the HoloLens, one of the world’s most advanced and most-watched AR products. Just this year, they reaffirmed this commitment with a purchase of 120,000 HoloLens-based headsets — perhaps one day boot camp will just be new recruits in a room staring into their black goggles.
As mentioned above, Apple showcased their new LiDAR camera in their iPhone Pro 12. What we didn’t mention is that Apple is also in talks to use LiDAR as a key technology for their upcoming self-driving car.
Of course we couldn’t forget the epic COVID-19 success story, Epic Games. The creator of Gen Z’s beloved Fortnite achieved a massive $1.78 billion funding round in 2020, pushing Adobe, Facebook, Google, and Snapchat to top up their AR investment with them.
Not only are top companies investing in AR, but these investments have the data and projected revenue to make it worth it. According to research by ARtillery Intelligence, total annual revenue from AR products are expected to double to $20 billion by 2024 — and that’s not even including products for devices besides phones.
AR is Proving Its Effectiveness in All Industries
AR advertising is quickly growing to be one of AR’s biggest money-making industries, on pace to become a $2.38 billion industry this year and $8.02 billion by 2024. Just to give an idea of its explosive growth — and demand — the AR design platform Vectary has seen a 300% increase in AR product views since the beginning of the pandemic. The world is quickly realizing AR’s benefits in other sectors as well: e-commerce loves it as a multi-channel medium for advertising, point-of-sale, and post-purchase; enterprise and B2B can’t get enough of its effectiveness in staff training. Just think, your neighborhood construction workers, surgery doctors, and even smooth-speaking business executives all sitting in the same classroom — a virtually-augmented one.
Source: ARtillery Intelligence, 2020
AR and Your University
Okay, this is all cool, but let’s get back to what you REALLY care about — your student campaigns and recruitment. AR is an enormously powerful and results-driving tool for almost every sector, and educational institutions are no exception. Digital marketing assets like university-branded face filters, virtual interactive spaces for socialization, and augmented reality campus tours can make your university truly stand out. Especially with Gen Z’s ever-increasing trend toward virtual interaction and identity, adding these novel experiences to your marketing mix can leave 70% deeper impressions and drive 4X more conversions. In short, AR is big, and growing bigger. It’s impactful, when done right. And it could — and should — be a part of your university recruitment.
In case you’re not yet persuaded, don’t worry — in the following articles in this series, we’ll explore the hottest AR products you’ve come across in daily life (and those you have yet to encounter), the benefits and data behind AR for school recruitment, and next baby steps you can take to leverage the power of AR for your university.
Keep posted for Campus 360's next article — until then, back to your sadly-virtual-but-not-augmented weekly department Zoom.
ARtillery Intelligence. “AR Advertising Deep Dive, Part I: The Landscape.” AR Advertising Deep Dive. June 2020.
Boland, Mike. “How Will LiDAR Unlock AR’s Next Era?” XR Talks. AR Insider. 4 Dec. 2020.
G2. “Best Augmented Reality SDK Software.” G2.com. Accessed 13 April 2021.
IBM. “The 5G Revolution.” IBM Institute for Business Value.
Inbar, Ori. “Producing High-Impact Web AR Campaigns.” AWE Nite. NexTech AR. 20 Jan. 2021.
Palladino, Tommy. “The 10 Biggest AR Investments of 2020.” Next Reality. 23 Dec. 2020.
Warren, Tom. “Microsoft is supplying 120,000 HoloLens-based headsets to the US Army.” The Verge. 31 Mar. 2021.