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How To Leverage Augmented Reality To Drive Digital Innovation


When virtual reality (VR) first arrived on the scene, tech startups and innovators were overwhelmed by the possibilities of how VR experiences could transform our everyday lives. However, bulky headsets and carefully crafted virtual worlds aren’t on the current trajectory of technological innovation. Instead, augmented reality (AR), where layers of virtual reality enhance our daily experiences, is the primary driver of new, immersive features that are transforming not just products but digital platforms and consumer experiences at every level.

My company, Rosetta Stone, a leader in the language learning industry, had spent 25 years developing a reputation as a company that sold CDs, so we were suddenly faced with a dilemma: How do we make the leap to being a digital company known not only for a solid pedagogical approach but for immersive features and technological innovation?

We sold our last CD in December 2017, and in the aftermath, Rosetta Stone has moved to a 100% software as a service (SaaS) approach, with a focus on integrating augmented reality and machine learning into our language learning app. However, this transformation to a robust digital model with innovative features didn’t happen overnight.

To transition into a company that leveraged technology to drive innovation, we had to embrace some changes both within our business model and our organizational structure.

Fire Bullets First, Then Cannonballs

In the same way that augmented reality introduces enhanced or “augmented” features that provide enrichment to your experiences, companies looking to pivot to a digital innovation approach should focus on taking small, incremental steps.

For instance, when Pokemon Go launched in 2016, the wildly successful game by Niantic leveraged the GPS location features already available through smartphones to transform and enhance the gaming experience without requiring specialized equipment. Snapchat has done something similar with their filters, cleverly using augmented reality to add layers to the user experience and bring brands into the picture.

When Apple released the ARkit in iOS 12, we saw an opportunity to take language learning immersion out of the abstract and bring it into the real-world lives of our learners. We realized that with the help of augmented reality features already available through smartphones, object identification could be used not only to see things in the learning environment but to pin information like translations to those same objects. That’s how the idea for the “Seek & Speak” feature available in our latest language learning app, which we built together with Apple’s engineering team, was born.

Break The Model

To transform into a genuinely digital platform that embraces innovation, you may have to break your traditional business models. At Rosetta Stone, we started by pulling in small outside teams that were not ingrained into the pre-existing culture. These small teams had the benefit of a fresh perspective and the ability to be more agile and powerful than the traditional larger development teams.

By empowering these smaller software engineering teams to lean into the latest tech, we were able to see how augmented reality could personalize the language learning experience. Our small teams began brainstorming how we could use the learner’s own photos as part of the course material or create virtual scavenger hunts that had the power to accelerate and contextualize vocabulary acquisition.

Link And Leverage

At the onset of a new technology effort, it pays to partner with other platforms. Platform providers are often hungry for adoption and can help you become successful, assisting with integration and using feedback from your development teams to explore new features and updates.

For instance, Apple is actively working with ride-sharing apps to discover new ways to use augmented reality. Apple has already filed a patent for the solution, which would enable clients to hold up their iPhones to identify the vehicles picking them up or help drivers identify their passengers in similar ways using a combination of GPS and object identification features.

Investing In Augmented Reality

Because of the availability of augmented reality features in smartphones, tablets and other devices, it’s no surprise that the AR market is expected to reach $209 billion by 2022. However, rather than using it as a stand-alone function, companies should take advantage of augmented reality’s flexibility, creating bonus content or features for users and leveraging this innovative approach as evidence of the quality of your brand.

You’ll find that bringing augmented reality into the lives of your customers, whether they are language learners, gamers or simply consumers, provides a new level of customer confidence that can position your company as an industry leader.


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