It's a good sign for any emerging technology when one of the leaders of an industry adopts it.
So when Mastercard, a brand so recognizable that it dropped its name from its logo at CES last year, decides to develop a mobile augmented reality app, the moment is a milestone for the AR industry.
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On Wednesday at CES, the company announced that it will launch a new AR app that will enable cardholders to explore rewards, benefits, and services available through virtual portals.
The app will launch in the second quarter of 2020 for iPhones, with additional devices and regions coming on-board later this year. In addition, Mastercard will offer the experience as a white-label app for its issuing partners.
"At Mastercard, we're using our technology and solutions to deliver multi-sensory experiences for consumers every day – whether they're shopping, taking transit, or exploring the card benefits they care about," said Raja Rajamannar, the chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, in a statement. "By leveraging an intuitive AR design, cardholders can now easily find and fully explore their benefits that otherwise might have been overlooked."
To access the AR experience, cardholders will scan their card with their smartphone camera. The app will then anchor three virtual portals into the user's physical space.
Each portal will represent a different benefit category and transport customers into luxurious scenes that symbolically match the category. Specifically, the Peace of Mind portal brings customers to a spa, the Experiences portal lands at a private beach, and the Everyday Value portal opens up to a high-end home.
Once inside the virtual environment, customers can walk around and interact with objects that represent various features of their cards. For example, the Everyday Value scene will include offers from vendors like Boxed and Postmates. In the Experiences portal, a set of golf clubs will bring up more information about the company's Priceless Golf benefits progam.
"Digital-first consumers are the first to explore and use technology-enabled touchpoints across the entire payments journey," said Tim Sloane, a vice president at the Mercator Advisory Group. "With the new Mastercard benefits app, these cardholders will experience an immersive and truly unique environment where every tap delivers the value and benefits of their card in a fashion never experienced before."
This isn't the first time Mastercard has shown an interest in AR. Back in 2017, Mastercard partnered with Qualcomm and the now-defunct Osterholt Design Group to create an AR shopping concept with iris authentication.
Banking might not be the most obvious industry for AR, but the technology is proving to be attractive for solving communications problems.
For example, Netherlands-based bank ABN AMRO commissioned an AR escape room game to attract IT security professionals for job openings. In the same respect, Mastercard's AR app assists the company in communicating benefits to its customers.
By making relatively pedestrian areas of business more interesting and interactive, immersive AR experiences could begin carving out a major foothold in the banking and finance industry.