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Augmented reality, a new language of communication

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With augmented reality, paper also takes on a new leading role. It actually becomes a medium for digital content, gaining new values and perspectives and adding a dynamism to its properties that was unthinkable until recently. At Print4All we’ll discover the new opportunities opening up for everyone involved in communication.

There exists a technology that, more than any other, integrates the physical and digital worlds. That technology is augmented reality, or AR. A suggestive and rather eloquent expression, in effect. Because with this technology the properties and potential of the real world truly are ‘augmented’. How you may ask? Thanks to digital. In the majority of cases augmented reality depends on a printed tag for its existence. Paper thus takes on a new value, a new depth. To its peculiar and distinctive characteristics, those of stillness and permanence, it adds changeability and dynamism. In fact digital content can be updated without the need to change tags and can be used in the language that the user has set on his or her device; it can also change according to geolocation. Let's look at a tangible example: imagine an invitation to a corporate event, printed on expensive and highly refined card. Using the organising brand's App, by pointing our device at the card we can access information to get to the event, even with a 3D avatar as guide. We can see the list of guests and a short presentation of each person. If we’re unable to attend we can follow the event via streaming. All of this before the event. Afterwards, again pointing the device at the same invitation card, we can access a range of additional content: 360° photos and videos, 3D projects and renderings, dedicated websites... the possibilities are practically endless. The same is true if the tag is an image printed in a catalogue, an advertisement in a magazine, on a bag, on a box. Whether a newspaper or packaging, a label or a page of advertising, one thing is sure: with augmented reality paper can become the stage of a show in which brands talk about themselves and tell their stories.

After many years in which augmented reality remained within the confines of the video game sector or was at most a virtuous exercise by a few particularly cutting-edge brands, it is now beginning to be embraced by companies that are showing a growing interest in its potential across a range of areas, including training, branding and marketing. In fact only advanced technologies like augmented or virtual reality are able to effectively transmit the vast amounts of information required in these contexts.

Expectations of market growth in terms of turnover are considerable: according to the Allied Market Research study, the augmented and virtual reality market will grow from 760 million dollars in 2015 to 59.5 billion by 2022. That’s an average annual growth rate of 65.7% between 2016 and 2022. Even more optimistic data emerges from a study by Wise Guy Reports entitled Augmented Reality (AR): Market Shares, Strategies and Forecasts Worldwide, 2016 to 2022. This predicts that the augmented reality market alone, estimated as being worth $659.7 million in 2015, will reach $80.8 billion by 2022. If 2016 was the year when awareness of AR exploded on a global scale, the European Union and the big digital brands in this market believe in it strongly and have been mobilising for years. Since 2008 the EU has allocated resources of over one billion euros to the sector. And under the national Industry 4.0 plan, in which augmented reality is listed as an enabling technology in supporting the production processes that companies are encouraged to adopt, these resources are bound to grow.

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