First of all. What exactly are Augmented Reality (AR) and Image Recognition (IR)?
When pointing with a camera phone at an object, Image Recognition technology is able to detect it and trigger digital experiences.
To this point, the definition could also apply to Augmented Reality. However, the latter superimposes digital content onto the image we see through the phone’s camera, adding a virtual layer to reality.
In the case of Image Recognition, the experience is a bit different. Once the object is detected, an action is triggered and the user can be redirected to video content, landing pages, and much more.
Which is better? How do I know which one of them I need?
Every technology has its specific use cases. Therefore, retailers and brands wanting to create meaningful consumer experiences need to bear several aspects in mind. First of all, what their objective is. Second, what resources do they have.
Advantages of Image Recognition vs Augmented Reality
Image Recognition technology allows consumers to search for products just by snapping a picture of them. These visual searchexperiences are usually much more flexible than Augmented Reality experiences. Let’s see the benefits of the solution.
There is no need for consumers to download an app
Although we have lately seen some early versions of Augmented Reality solutions for mobile websites, the truth is it is far from providing seamless experiences to the users. AR web technology is still immature. The AR experiences that perform best usually require that the user downloads an app. And, as a matter of fact, 53% of smartphone users say they do not have their favorite brand’s app installed on their phone. Image Recognition, however, enables easy interactive experiences that can be integrated in any retailer’s or brand’s mobile web, and not just native apps.
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You don’t need to create extra content like 3D models
Developing 3D models for your AR experiences can be time-consuming and quite expensive. Moreover, it requires technical skills to manage the project, due to its complexity. Image Recognition can be used with your existing marketing and web collaterals and is quite easy to implement. Moreover, whatever changes you make to your content will be automatically updated in your apps – so you can always keep the experience fresh and up-to-date.
It provides a universal and inclusive experience for all shoppers
With Augmented Reality, the experience may vary between low-end and high-end user devices. Best performance will only be achieved by the highest quality devices. This isn’t the case of Image Recognition. It allows brands and retailers to make sure their content is delivered to everyone the same enjoyable way, regardless of the user’s device.
Limitations of Image Recognition vs Augmented Reality
Nevertheless, there are certain things that set Augmented Reality apart from Image Recognition. Let’s take a look at them.
The way content is visualized
The type of content linked to Image Recognition usually includes videos, promotions, product information pages, etc. Therefore, it serves as a helping hand in the purchase journey in order for shoppers to learn more about your products, discover related offers or buy with one snap. The content visualized is not three-dimensional, unlike what many Augmented Reality experiences build upon.
More transactional, less immersive
Image Recognition is less immersive in the sense that it doesn’t allow you to directly place digital content into the real world. Therefore, if you are aiming at visualizing objects in the user’s environment, AR might be a good option. Let’s take the example of expensive products like furniture. A ‘try-before-you-buy’ functionality before committing to the purchase might be useful.
In a nutshell, Image Recognition creates a smooth transition between the physical and the digital worlds and guides shoppers throughout a customer journey. It lets the shopper interact with real products – or images of products in a print catalog – that are in front of them. For example, they can learn more about their nutritional values, check alternatives, see how other consumers rate them, or make a purchase.
On the other hand, Augmented Reality goes from digital to physical. It lets shoppers interact with virtual products in their own environment when, in fact, are not present.
While they may support different use cases, both technologies can provide shoppers with different kinds of engaging experiences.