Most augmented/mixed reality hardware still exists in the development stage, whether that's one of the more robust headsets or a high-powered smartphone. Most everything else isn't widely used or monetized. Snapchat, however, snuck in under the radar and created the foundation for the first social network to focus on augmented reality.
By now you're likely familiar with Snapchat's crazy filters that turn you into a dog or change your face in a variety of silly ways. With a long-press on your face, the app recognizes your general features and offers up a handful of ever-changing filters to alter your appearance. You can even swap your face with someone else's (or anything Snapchat recognizes as a face). Quietly, they created a social network that centers around augmented reality.
This may seem like an odd business model. How do you make money with a free-to-use augmented reality photo booth? Where other companies are still figuring this out, Snapchat actually found a way to monetize this activity. Business Insider explains:
Snapchat reaches 41% of millennials each day in the US, and users spend an average of 20 seconds playing with a sponsored filter. Compare that with a video ad on YouTube that users can skip after five seconds and you can see how powerful Snapchat's technology is. The Gatorade filter created for the Super Bowl is a great example.
Beyond dumping a barrel of virtual Gatorade on your head, Snapchat has also partnered with Doritos to turn your head into a taco. This kind of subtle advertising not only creates brand awareness with consumers, but also generates a type of viral marketing where users are sharing their augmented reality experiences with the advertised products.
Some believe advertisements will create an augmented reality nightmare, but Snapchat seems to have found a way to integrate marketing into an activity that people actually enjoy. If this is the direction more AR/MR advertising takes, perhaps we're not headed for such a dystopian future after all.