Misunderstanding Augmented Reality as a Gimmick

  Source: Google, Amazon (smart mirror), Lucyd Lens

Source: Google, Amazon (smart mirror), Lucyd Lens

Financial services companies are failing to engage with virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) in a meaningful way. But that does not mean AR is not moving to the mainstream. The latest symptom of this is Google's commitment to building AR into the web browser. A user will be able to come across an object on the web, which can then be taken out and rendered within the living environment of the user. Three dimensional objects within the web browser so far have not taken off due to bandwidth and processing limitations, but that will change over the coming years. See of example, Punk Office, a company that is using 3D scanning of people's bodies to help clothing retailers map products onto their bodies. It is a small jump from this to Amazon's smart mirror, which can then connect the digital avatar to its retail catalog. All this physical / digital melding powered by machine vision of course.

The way financial companies have engaged with the medium so far is to make small games or media experiences. For example, Ally Bank created a game to catch dollars flying around in your living room during the Super Bowl. Citi and Wells, among others, have created VR experiences (think concerts, immersive videos) that do nothing but advertise in a next-gen medium. The Financial Brand wrote a great post on the ways banks are using this tech last year, and the examples are roughly consistent: (1) various marketing experiences, (2) virtual offices and branches, (3) touring real estate investments, and (4) taking 2D trading and wealth interfaces and rendering them in 3D. 

This is fundamentally wrong. Sprinkling 3D on a complicated financial product, like trading, or sending people into a weird interaction with your virtual banking branch does not make the banking experience simpler or better for the customer. A simple mobile app or chatbot will do. What we need is not financial products rendered in gimmicky 3D, but to add finance features to digital objects and their attributes. This is why Augmented Reality retail makes sense. People will make some purchases natively in AR, and new payments experiences will support this activity. Similarly, this is why the VR crypto economy can make sense. From the financing of virtual land, to the monetization of attention, to the overlay of financial actions over the physical world in smart devices, incumbents need to think broader about this opportunity.

  Source: Google, Amazon (smart mirror), Lucyd Lens

Source: Google, Amazon (smart mirror), Lucyd Lens

  Source:Amazon (smart mirror)

Source:Amazon (smart mirror)