There are “AR apps” and then there are apps that truly Augment Reality. The AR apps that truly augment reality deliver immersive, magical, memorable and in some cases addictive experiences. Here are five considerations that can make an AR app awesome by contributing to suspension of disbelief and enchanting users by approximating reality.

1) The best AR apps actually augment reality

Just launching a video from an image doesn’t make an amazing AR experience. Augment the physical world in some way, whether it’s like the Speedway Club Chill game where you augment an actual cup or t-shirt or use Augmented Reality to curate a museum exhibit. Reality has properties including light, touch, sound, interaction. The interaction between physical and digital is essential to taking advantage of the potential for Augmented Reality to deliver enchanting, intriguing and immersive experiences.

2) Use shadowcasting

Imagine if you didn’t have a shadow. It would be strange. Twilight Zone. Breaks belief. Beyond “lighting” shadowcasting, ambient occlusion (when an object casts a shadow on itself like the wrinkles in a t-shirt or the grooves inside of a brick wall). It’s not enough to anchor 3D content to the world, you have to make objects in AR experiences cast an illusion that they really exist and take on the properties of the physical world. This is where shadows come in. Light bouncing off of a diamond or when a wine glass makes a circle on the table. Consider how an object would affect the real world if it were in the real world.

3) Employ sound effects

If you were to drop a 10 lb weight and it didn’t make a sound when it hit the ground, then it would break your belief. Important for the believability of an experience, sound effects help users to believe that an object exists. Audio incites emotion, invokes feelings.

4) Engage the whole mobile device

When it comes to lighting, consider the need for ambient light sensors. Should depth sensors, accelerometers or gyroscopes be employed to enhance the experience? Does it make sense to use geolocation or microfencing as a part of the experience? When planning your experience, go beyond the obvious and look for ways to engage the unique properties of mobile devices as a part of the AR experience.

5) Carefully consider your image target

AR is moving away from image recognition and toward technologies like iBeacon and Project Tango. In the mean time Image targets can be anything from a logo to a repurposed ad. The best images take something normal and enhance it. The Pepsi bus shelter is a perfect example. It takes something that already exists and supplements the real content with virtual pieces that make it better, more fun, more informative, more engaging. This particular example truly takes advantage of optical illusion and the wizardry of AR.

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