Augmented Reality (AR) helps small businesses engage with consumers
Author: Lee St James
DMS Future Proof Program Lead, RIC Centre
Small businesses are the backbone of our community and will need lots of help to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. With support from some innovative Digital Main Street (DMS) pilot projects, local businesses are finding new ways to engage customers and prepare for a digital future.
The Streetsville Business Improvement Area (BIA) was the first in the region to embrace augmented reality (AR) as a technology to help their members engage with the community. With funding from DMS, the BIA was able to partner with the RIC Centre and Vancouver-based ImagineAR Inc. for a pilot project.
Mobile AR is the interactive experience of combining digital images with real people, places and things on your smart phone or tablet. If you tried the Pokemon Go augmented reality (AR) mobile game (which has had over 800 million downloads since it launched in 2016), then you know that AR can be fascinating and fun for all ages.
The ImagineAR app brought virtual visits with Santa and a Streetsville Snowman Contest to Mississauga residents looking for fun and safe, socially distanced activities during the extended COVID lockdown.
The ImagineAR platform offers an engaging experience that includes pop-up rewards, coupons and contests. You can show your support to local businesses and win rewards by sharing your favourite business on social media. Here’s how it works in five simple steps:
- Download ImagineAR on your Apple or Android mobile device
- Select “AR Near Me”
- Choose from several fun AR characters in the scrolling menu, such as the “Love Local” hearts, a dinosaur, lucky leprechaun or a snowman
- Aim your camera and point down and up to scale the AR image on your device and watch your AR creation come to life!
- Take a photo or video and save, share with friends or post on social media
Now is the perfect time to show your local small businesses some love and have some fun with technology while you’re at it. By using the Imagine AR/AR Near Me option, you can help promote your favourite businesses and support initiatives such as the #mississaugamade local business directory powered by Tourism Mississauga.
The DMS project included production of a walk-thru and try video from insauga.com. https://fb.watch/3YLo1-s9PI/
Interactive heritage walking tours in Streetsville are in the works and will be officially launched this spring. Visit: https://villageofstreetsville.com/ for details.
This Digital Main Street Future Proof project was made possible through financial support from the Government of Canada through FedDev Ontario’s Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. For over 10 years, FedDev Ontario has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation and growth in Canada’s most populous region.
Digital Main Street is a program that helps main street businesses achieve digital transformation. A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa, and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses to go digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.
The Digital Main Street (DMS) Future Proof program was designed to explore what is possible when technology innovators come together with community stakeholders to help main street businesses recover from the COVID pandemic and be better prepared for future economic storms.
Three projects received support in Peel Region between September 2020 and March 2021:
- Augmented Reality Walking Tours and Promotions (ImagineAR app, Streetsville BIA, Tourism Mississauga, Tourism Brampton, Brampton Economic Development)
- Converting Paper Certificates to Digital e-Gift Cards (PAIY app, Downtown Brampton BIA)
- Local Pharmacies as Modern Healthcare Hubs (MedEssist.ca, BookMyShot.com)
RIC Centre, a not-for-profit innovation hub and business incubator serving the Peel Region and Southern Ontario, was selected as the delivery partner for the DMS Future Proof Program for Peel Region. RIC Centre’s focus is to be a dynamic catalyst for tech companies. The team consists of more than 100 expert advisors, industry, academic and government partners. RIC Centre helps companies in Advanced Manufacturing, Internet of Things, Hardware & Software, Cleantech and Life Sciences to commercialize their products and get them to market faster.
For more information about these projects, please visit riccentre.ca/digital-main-street or contact Lee St James, DMS Future Proof Program Lead ([email protected]).
This article was originally published in the 2021 Spring issue of CONNECT Magazine.