Augmented reality (AR) has improved dramatically in the past 10 years.

Ten years ago, AR was far too often gimmicky, unstable, and disappointing to consumers. It surfaced simple information well but fell short on animations. The digital content was more cartoonish or rough, and the tracking leaned toward being unstable (you needed perfect or steady alignment on specific triggers to get the digital content). What did it mean (WIM) for consumers? Brands had to give them a lot of instructions so that they could get the experience up and running. And then when they did get it working, many experiences didn’t delight.

Within the scope of commerce, we’ve seen more AR in home design from brands such as Ikea and Houzz traditionally. Other AR experiences focused on either our heads or products for our hands and feet — imagine that you have to hold the phone in front of you to get an image.

Where are we today with AR? It’s real, and it is good. Realistically, we still see limited adoption by Fortune 500 companies within commerce applications. However, some big-name brands such as Pinterest and Gucci have added AR to their apps to facilitate consumer trialing of products. The quality of the experiences is dramatically better than 10 years ago due to better cameras, faster processors on phones, amped-up GPUs, higher pixel displays, and more. All of these technologies facilitate faster tracking, more accurate (and faster) object recognition, and more.

How has AR improved since 2011?

(And I know this is fuzzy . . . I’m going to figure out how a 5MB file can look so terrible.)

I am now updating my AR research by speaking with a handful of brands building experiences or devices. (Please get in touch with me at if you are building consumer AR experiences.) I’m about halfway through my current interview list. Also, feel free to send me questions you have about AR.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Wannaby (“Wanna-Buy”), based in Belarus. Its direct-to-consumer apps in the market include Wanna Kicks and Wanna Nails. The company also allows for its technology to be embedded in third-party apps. The applications are remarkably better than they were 5–10 years ago. (Go figure.) I was beyond impressed at the speed and accuracy of the rendering, quality of the digital image, ability to track my foot/feet, and more. Wannaby has proof that AR lifts conversion rates. They weren’t able to share, but I have no reason not to believe them. They are winning deals with experience-conscious brands.

Before And After: Kicks


Before And After: Nails