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Google recently announced that it’s bringing AR technology to desktop and mobile browsers to push “augmented reality on the web, for everyone.” Users will be able to interact with 3D objects that are embedded into sites and place said objects into their own environment (via tablet or phone cameras) straight from the browser without launching an AR-specific application.

Above: Users can interact with 3D models on the browser and launch into their own environment

What’s behind Google’s announcement

Google hopes to Increase adoption and usage by removing the need to download and install an AR app. This announcement comes on top of Google’s ARCore launch, which enables AR application development for Android. However, ARCore requires users to download and install applications on their phones to use AR. With the new Web AR initiative, users won’t need to install an application anymore. Instead, they can view AR content on their favorite publishers’ websites directly via the web browser.

They also wan to ensure continued ad revenue from web. Web has been a core of Google’s DNA since its inception until now. More than 70 percent of Google’s ad revenue comes from the web, and most queries worldwide are for web searches.

Finally, Google wants to further cement web as a key strategy. It’s crucial for Google to make sure that future content creation and consumption stays on the web versus standalone apps, while continuing to innovate for its top partners: brands and publishers. If publishers stop producing good content on the web, Google won’t have up-to-date content to present to users. If brands stop spending dollars on the web, Google loses out financially. Even as rivals Facebook and Apple push AR initiatives exclusively for their mobile app platforms, it makes sense for Google to push high-tech innovation for the web instead, since it’s the key strategic platform for Google’s ecosystem.


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How web AR benefits advertising

Even before Google’s announcement, advertisers have benefited from AR ad experiences. This includes us at OmniVirt — here’s how we’re making it work for us. Earlier this holiday season, Universal Pictures partnered with OmniVirt to launch an AR experiences for the blockbuster Pitch Perfect 3. Using facial recognition technology to place AR objects on top of users’ faces, OmniVirt launched the ad experience across its ad network (without requiring any new application download).

But with Google’s announcement, advertisers stand to benefit even more in these three ways:

  1. More technically robust AR ad formats. Augmented Reality is a very advanced technology that requires machine learning and a large volume of data to make it very accurate. Having access to Google’s framework will make VR/AR ad formats more complete. Now we can scale our ad capabilities from AR facial recognition campaigns into placing branded objects into the users’ environment. Having Google’s Web AR technology makes our platform and the work we do with our customers more robust.
  2. Increased promotion using Google’s ad products. The technology also paves the way for AR advertising to be a stronger offering on Google’s major web advertising products, like AdWords and DoubleClick. Using the same method of buying web ads, advertisers can now build AR experiences on the web and, more importantly, promote those links using Google’s ad products
  3. Use of AR objects that encourage user engagement even without a camera. Outside of the novelty of placing items in user environments, the use cases of AR objects are vast. For example, a 3D object can become a virtual showroom experience even without enabling the camera. In fact, at OmniVirt, we’ve received requests to have camera-less 3D experiences, so we built a web format for advertisers to showcase their product in 3D on publishers’ websites. With a simple click, now users can turn on the camera to view AR experiences in their environment.

Overall, I’m excited about Google’s Web AR announcement since this is a huge win for advertisers excited about developments in the VR/AR space who have been challenged by the friction in distribution to date.

Brad Phaisan is CEO of OmniVirt, a 360°/VR/AR advertising platform for brands and publishers 

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