What is Web Augmented Reality ? Benefits and the future of WebAR and Web design

Augmented Reality on and for the web

According to the study of ‘Internet Live stats’, there are approximately 1.5 billion websites that are available on the internet in the world. This number however is not surprising by seeing the current trend of digitalization. Everybody wants his/her content or ideas or business or views to get tremendous reach that too in very much less time. And for this, website is a handy tool. But here the question is of better user engagement. What if you have created a good looking website with exceptionally well design aspects but still users don’t feel connected to your site? Conventional website developing is becoming boring day by day. Newer innovations are promptly accepted to make the website much user oriented. These new innovations come on its way. One of such innovations is the use of augmented reality on website. It’s widely known as WebAR (Web augmented reality). First of all, let's start with the basic idea of WebAR.

WebAR (Web augmented reality)

WebAR : the name itself is self explanatory. WebAR is a branch of augmented reality which makes us feel and experience the enhanced reality with the help of handy devices like mobiles, tablets, etc. What if we could experience augmented reality by just surfing? Well, this is possible with the help of WebAR.

(Source: medium.com)

With the use of JavaScript 3D rendering libraries to show an additional 3D object projected of what the mobile device or any other device’s camera shows us in real time. The same idea can generate a simple looking but very impressive augmented reality experience that can be experienced by the one who is having a smart-phone or resembling device.

As our users and website visitors want something new and fresh on a daily basis on our sites, we must understand their needs. And WebAR may serve as the solution to these dynamic needs of the users. The most affected and benefited section of the market may be the field of advertisement. Printed Ads were having their own existence and importance in an older time, but in this digitally advanced era, marketing on social media and websites are becoming popular amongst the digital world. WebAR is nothing but just a further advancement of digital marketing beyond traditional social media advertising.

In particular cases, the print and social media advertising have lost their charm of advertising but WebAR could add a new interactive dimension to this conventional and may be somewhat outdated advertising methods. WebAR can do this by using AR for immersive personalized and interactive experiences. Because if we think about the question that which tool is handy and catchy for the user? Definitely the answer would be handy electronic devices and websites. It will help us to convert the users. A call-to-action during the WebAR experience can make sign-ups, make a booking or make a purchase very much easier as possible for users.

Possibilities for lapses are much lesser in case of WebAR compared to wearable technologies. Web designers and developers have been trying their best to put AR into action in recent years. They’re mostly using the smart-phone cameras or laptop webcams to encourage users to get in touch with products and services.

Augmented Reality JavaScript (AR.js)

AR.js is a very effective tool because it runs entirely in a web browser, so you don’t have to download an app. This also means that you do not have to buy a particular device, such as an iPhone, to enjoy web AR. It will work on iOS 11, Android, Windows Mobile, or any other platform. It runs very fast, even if your phone is not so new and AR js is entirely open source and available on GitHub. For those of you who like A-Frame, it works well with AR.js

Another tool that is used with web AR is QR codes. Basically, you scan the QR code with your phone, and you will be redirected to a web page which will take you to the AR content. As you can imagine, such QR code augmented reality has many uses to it.

AR for Web Designers

AR applications for web design are in evolution phase. We must thank the creation and development of compatible plug-ins like WordPress VR for this. This type of plug-in helps web designers to upload 360-degree videos to their sites.

With AR becoming readily available to us, designers will continue to leverage the technology in mobile user interfaces as much as possible. The shift will provide users with an increasingly affordable option that significantly will make their browsing experience practical and vibrant.

WebAR examples

Augmented Reality in Browsers: Such as Argon4, AR browser, SDK, etc.

Augmented reality GPS: AR GPS Compass map 3D,AR GPS Drive/walk navigation, etc.

Lenskart : Lenskart is an online store for the spectacles. Earlier, they created the website and added an AR feature on it. With the help of this AR feature, the user is enabled to wear the desired frame of spectacles digitally to see how it looks on him/her. All this process was based on augmented reality. However, after some time of launching such webAR, lenskart shifted on making app for the same. But this AR feature had created a buzz in the market.

(Source: Google)

The essence of WebAR is shown in the figure below:

(Source: Google)

In this context there are other terms that we should learn about. And those could be simplified one by one as follows:

Web powered augmented reality

The term Web-powered augmented reality means the type of AR which is created on some browser with the help of HTML or other type of programming. Such ARs are mostly browser dependent. We will understand this with some examples for better understanding.

Nowadays, Google is working on a project to bring ARCore to the Web itself, using an experimental web browser, called WebARonARCore. There is already available an iOS version, similarly called WebAROnARKit . Mozilla has also recently joined the party, and has just released the WebXR Viewer iOS app . We’ll get to them soon.

A-frame is an emerging technology from Mozilla for competition against Google’s above product. A-frame allows you to create 3D Scenes and Virtual Reality experiences with just a few HTML tags. It’s built on top of WebGL, ‘Three.js’ and Custom Elements, a part of the emerging HTML Components standard. A-Frame has a growing ecosystem of various plug-ins, which make it even more powerful while at the same time keeping the syntax simpler.

Web based augmented reality and related experiments

Web based AR is a segment of web development that uses regular smart-phones to provide the user with an AR experience. A marker is used to orient the scene, and then current JavaScript 3D rendering libraries are used to depict a 3D object shown on top of whatever is in front of the cell phone camera. The result is a simple yet immersive experience that pretty much anybody can enjoy.

A firm called ‘nexus interactive arts’ has started experimenting on web based augmented reality. There are 4 experimental platforms are created by them. We will see them one by one.

  1. WeathAR : WeathAR is a real time responding website that helps you to find out the weather conditions around you on real time bases. It will only require your location permissions and there you go.

    (Source: nexus studios)

  2. SolAR : SolAR is a visual aid which helps us in understanding our solar system.

    (Source: nexus studios)

  3. HoroAR : It is the platform on which showcases the current local time around the world. This project retrieves your location then renders the earth in relation to where you are at the current moment. Just move your phone around you to find local times in every location on earth.

    (Source: nexus studios)

  4. ARTE: ARTE is simply an interactive and augmented art gallery in the palm of your hand. This will be having two markers: one will be on a display of the sculpture and another to navigate between artworks. All assets are 3D scans, made public by the Louvre Museum.

    (Source: nexus studios)

After getting this much brief about the Web augmented reality, let’s discuss the advantages that we will have after successful implementation of Web augmented reality. The sound benefits of WebAR may be concluded as follows.

Benefits of WebAR
  • Conversion may be considered as the key benefit. All users who are interacting with the website will be on their mobile device in a browser. By calculating the drop off, point we can introduce a call-to-action during the experience just before the user leaves the website. Third party authentication services like Login with Facebook will work especially well for this use case, by allowing a conversion in as little as 3 taps.
  • Dynamic content is another major benefit. By using services like geo-location and social media, we can create experiences targeting to the specific users age, interests or who they follow on social media. An example of this could be an advertisement for a clothes store. This website dynamically changes what clothes are shown in the AR experience based on the weather at the users’ location.
  • With online advertising methods like PPC (pay-per-click) we have the opportunity to make highly targeted adverts, but more importantly, online advertising allows the advertiser to see what demographics are responding to the advert. By having users engaging with WebAR, we have a great potential to capture some valuable detailed data or information such as age, gender, geo-location, etc. on the users interacting with the advertisement using existing services like Google Analytics and others.
  • WebAR helps a user to reduce the ROM usage of the mobile or desktop. By having availability of WebAR, you don’t need to install separate app for the same and that is why you would save much space of your device’s storage.
  • WebAR enables us to keep track of users’ interests and demands on a daily basis, so that we will be in constant engagement with our user and hence we will be able to generate more user/customer base on the internet.
  • It is also having the advantage of fast deployment time with lower costs. We can deploy our products in faster way using webAR and that too with the minimal investment. This will save money and time at the same time.
  • With WebAR, one can develop such an interesting and connecting ideas which may go viral on social media as well. Here, by only using social media will not get you the benefits of WebAR but vice versa is possible.
  • By the ideas like online product launch, one can save a large amount of resources and that too without compromising the reach and effectiveness as well. This will greatly benefit the manufacturing and services sector.
The Future for AR and Web Design

Augmented reality is an emerging technology and as we all know that emerging technologies are having challenges for developers and designers. As web design that incorporates AR increasingly goes dynamic. Investment in optimizing AR-infused desktop experiences becomes tricky, complex and time consuming at the same time. Though there is a great potential for AR on the web—it could be used in many applications such as shopping, education, entertainment, etc.

Targeting the audience and their user base would be crucial for the developer before taking advantage of AR. They must keep in mind one thing that AR is much more dependent on customer experience than VR (which is expressively used for gaming). Ultimately, AR is revolutionizing the web design industry and the best that is yet to arrive.

Summary

We have just seen some different and exciting ways web AR can be implemented, but what is just as impressive is that it is a win-win for everybody. For developers, this technology offers faster deployment times and fewer costs. For consumers, one of the main benefits is the accessibility. Everybody loves augmented reality. And users anywhere, will be able to enjoy it regardless of the device they are having. Furthermore, it can be used for all kinds of purposes to immerse the user in the content. While this could be for both commercial and educational purposes, the most important thing is that it opens up a lot of opportunities.

Keyur Bhalavat Founder and Director

A young entrepreneur full of intellectual energy and concern that transform into an untiring center of knowledge seeking, unafraid of exploring new and fresh ideas however challenging they may happen to be in the field of technology.