Yes, you read that correctly. Mastercard, the credit card company, is launching an augmented reality app that will allow users to see the benefits of their card (and much more) in a blended 3-D environment. While augmented reality has been used for a number of other applications, it remains in its infancy as a consumer product. To the best of our knowledge, Mastercards augmented reality app will be the first attempt to give consumers a virtual overlay of their financials in the real world.
To tell the full story of this incredible new Mastercard app, today we will be defining augmented reality and some basics of the technology, explore how the upcoming Mastercard app will function, and review some of the potential benefits of the app to users and businesses alike.
Understanding Augmented Reality Technology
Virtual reality is defined as: “an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.” Many of us have at least tried a VR headset or other virtual reality technology at some point. Virtual reality technology is the baseline for augmented reality technology.
However, where virtual reality creates its own virtual world and experiences, augmented reality blends virtual elements on top of our real-world setting. In other words, augmented reality bridges the gap between reality and virtual reality. Examples of augmented reality technology range from video games to giving real-world, real-time information, including:
Augmented reality video games such as Pokemon Go.
Augmented reality visuals including the “first down lines” for football broadcasts, down and distance markers, and much more which are often overlaid onto the physical field.
Navigational apps. Gatwick airport released an augmented reality app that allows users to locate themselves using thousands of beacons.
Space visualization apps. Brands like Ikea and Lowe’s have used augmented reality to help consumers visualize a finished space with certain products (furniture, appliances) in different locations.
How Does the Mastercard Augmented Reality App Work?
Now to the story of the day, how exactly does the Mastercard augmented reality app work? While the app is not yet released to the public, promotional materials and demonstrations show the technology working like so:
The Mastercard app will only be available on the App Store for iPhones in the US to start. Mastercard has stated that plans to expand to other platforms and global regions are underway.
Users will be able to input/scan that Mastercard using a mobile device. This links the individual’s account and benefits to the app.
There are three functional portals in the app: “peace of mind”, “experiences”, and “everyday value”.
Once a portal has been selected, users will enter the augmented reality space within that category. The look and feel of each category are tailored to fit the underlying material.
The augmented reality app will overlay graphics, information, and much more on top of the real world. This will allow users to learn more about their real environment through the app including examples like potential savings, cardholder benefits, upcoming events, and much more!
It is important to understand that while Mastercard has promoted this app with the help of Qualcomm smart glasses in the past, it is not necessary for the users to have any additional hardware beyond their smart device. The camera/display of your iPhone will work in tandem to show the full augmented experience on your digital screen.
The Benefits of Mastercard’s new App
As the lines between online shopping and retail shopping continue to blur, augmented reality apps like the new Mastercard experience help inform customers about useful information in an entertaining and user-friendly app. With 360-degree immersion in a real-world environment, users can simply point their phone at an object of interest to learn key information, potential bargains, potential event opportunities and much more.
As we mentioned in the introduction, AR technology is a well-established technology, but it is still a burgeoning consumer product. Early adopters like Mastercard will likely experience some growing pains as the technology adapts to user feedback and a larger sample size. Realistically, the primary benefits of Mastercard’s augmented reality app will likely come down to a novel and entertaining experience while the market catches up to the technology. Once consumers and businesses adjust, AR apps for shopping will likely become a normalized part of our daily experience.
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