Original article from El Comercio.

The first massive sighting of this technology was through video games. However, in what other sectors of our country are new Augmented Reality projects being developed?

It started as a popular video game format like Pókemon Go, and now various companies are betting on it. Augmented Reality (AR) has become one of the most ambitious technologies in Peru. However, its development faces certain obstacles. Let’s see.

Augmented reality (AR) in Peru: a challenging path

With the announcement of the arrival of the metaverse — the virtual universe promoted by Meta (Facebook) where people interact through avatars — the technologies that make it up have become more important to the public. Mainly, one of them has been the most accessible for Peruvian technology.

To understand their differences, Teófilo Chambilla, professor at the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC), explains to El Comercio that “there are three technologies: augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed or extended reality. Augmented reality is adding virtual objects to our real world. Virtual reality is creating a world, perhaps unknown, an imaginary world. Mixed reality is the combination of these two technologies. So that’s what it’s all about: objects are added to our real world. That’s augmented reality.”

Although the first interactions with this resource have been through video games, its development has diversified into other areas.

Beyond real

Although it may seem incredible, our country has many agencies that use augmented reality in large projects and campaigns for other companies. Under the premise of an immersive experience for users, this has been one of the present technologies in national technological events. “If we develop a project with this reality, we must make sure that it is so realistic that the user thinks that what he sees is really there. That’s called immersion. The more immersion you have, the more presence there will be. That is what all the companies that develop these technologies seek. Augmented reality is focused on the user experience”, adds Chambilla.

These companies are the ones that are leading the immersive development in Peru. By adapting to the needs of certain consumers, they have used the tool in different ways. The interactive technology agency Stringnet provides examples of its technological advances with augmented reality and other technologies related to the metaverse.

Strignet worked with various brands that wanted to use immersive technology in their promotions. So, we have campaigns like Larcomar’s with the WWF organization. The objective: to make users aware of the care of marine species. Stringnet was clear that augmented reality was the tool capable of achieving this, without invading marine territory.

Roberto Carrión, executive director of Stringnet, explains that “in Peru there are many companies like ours, with highly trained people who are up to the task. These experiences are not about the user just looking at them, but about interacting with their phone. Augmented reality in our country is on the right track in this regard”.

Another of its exhibitions was at the Mistura gastronomic fair. There they submerged those attending the activities carried out by fishermen to bring food to their table. The renowned Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio witnessed the activation.

Among other companies, we have Artemar, which is developing projects in which the user is immersed in augmented reality in common activities. In this way, it seeks to standardize the use of it in people, as one more tool of our day to day. Amongst Artemar’s projects is the packaging of wine bottles and construction brochures. Through the cell phone you can view the ingredients of the product. In the case of the brochures, we see a model of the building that is planned to be built. Thus, the user will be able to interact with the product, its components, and the objectives that the brand has with the client.

Miguel Atencio, executive director of Artemar, tells us about his projects that “although these technologies are very attractive, you must know how to use them strategically so that it is not boring content. It must have information of value, so that it can be digested and so that it can be massive. If it doesn’t contribute much, it’s a loss.”

In other words, one of the fundamental pillars to use augmented reality is creativity. Through it, these large projects have been carried out in areas outside the conventional ones. “Retail and education are the sectors that are going to benefit the most from these developments,” adds Atencio.

From videogames to the classroom

From videogames to classrooms the commitment to more didactic materials in schools brought into consideration inserting new technologies in the classroom. Added to this, the arrival of the pandemic meant a drastic change in teaching. Under this scenario, other companies opted for the use of augmented reality to develop formats that facilitate the learning of the little ones. An example is the case of Hope, a Peruvian startup that continuously works on the development of immersive technologies for preschool and primary education. This venture arose with the sale of augmented reality software to schools, to apply them in school activities. However, with the arrival of the pandemic, the project had to adapt to online classes.

This is how tools like Qbox, Hope D and Hope Coloring app emerged. These applications use augmented reality to expose topics on science, history, or geography through interactive graphics The Qbox for example can interactive graphics. The Qbox, for example, can teach children what a dinosaur or the inside of a heart might look like.

Hope’s CEO, Anthony Chanduví, explains to our newspaper the change in adapting augmented reality technologies to a more practical format for users. “As a result of the pandemic, we decided to change the model of our augmented reality presentations to a more practical one, so that parents and children can manage it from home. This involved creating apps, for people to download from the Play Store.”

The simple handling of these technologies is one of the advantages they bring, in addition to their ease of adapting them to various formats. Compared to virtual reality, augmented reality presents more facilities to enter the educational field.

Professor Chambilla reinforces this idea by adding that “within the technologies that are applied in the metaverse, augmented reality is the most accessible, since, in its most basic format, only a cell phone would be needed. It is easier to reach users this way, although that does not mean that there are no problems in the projects”.

Challenges to overcome

Although it has been seen that augmented reality in our country is on the right track, there are still challenges to overcome. “When we started the project, we mentioned that we were selling augmented reality software. So, people didn’t understand what we were talking about, because they didn’t know what augmented reality was. We had to find a nearby reference so that they understand our product. We commented that it resembles such a video game so that they can understand us. That was the main challenge, making people understand what this resource is, and how it can be applied in children’s education” explains Chanduví about the obstacles he had in his startup Hope.

Miguel Atencio from Artemar reveals a similar experience: “At the level of augmented reality, the biggest barrier to advancing with the projects was making them known. Not many understood what we were doing. That is why some companies did not dare to bet on technological events”.

The development of these immersive experiences has not been easy either. Currently, our country was able to access many of the technological equipment necessary to develop interactions with new technologies. However, access to them is still limited to small sectors of our population. “In order for computers to process an augmented reality project, they require a lot of resources, the same as a gaming machine. But very few have such machines or are willing to pay for them. The same thing happens with cell phones. Mid-range or high-end cell phones are needed. So, obviously the experience is reduced for a certain group of people”, says Roberto Carrión from Stringnet Despite this, augmented reality companies remain persevering with the advances they make in each presentation or event they carry out. The objective of each of them is to become completely familiar with immersive technologies. “If this technology is standardized, we could build our own metaverse in the country”, concludes Professor Chambilla.