How Augmented Reality Can Enhance the Customer Experience

When I think of augmented or virtual reality, I think of bulky goggles and video games. In 2018, this is not the case. Augmented reality is a tool brands are using for an immersive consumer experience. Everyone from Coca Cola to the New York Times to IKEA is using augmented reality technology to create an interactive experience.

I’ve been using augmented reality and didn’t even know it. Snapchat incorporates AR technology into face filters. Google Street View uses 360 video in its maps.

In regards to shopping, the North Face, IKEA and Sephora have incorporated virtual reality into their shopping experience. The IKEA Place app puts virtual reality into the hands of anyone with a smartphone. Users are able to scroll through thousands of furniture items and decor and place items into their home via virtual reality technology. This sounds complicated, but it’s as easy as taking a photo of your home and the app places the item into the frame so you can see what the item would look like in the room.

A preview of the iOS app of IKEA Place

I wanted to try out the virtual technology myself, so I downloaded the IKEA Place app to see how it worked. It’s easy to find thousands of products, and they’re categorized similarly to other online shopping websites and apps. However, placing the furniture in my room with the app proved to be challenging, as the app has a hard time conceptualizing my room. It finally worked, and I was able to see what this basket/side table would look like in my living room. It felt like a grownup version of The Sims game I used to play on my parents’ desktop computer growing up.

Using the IKEA Place app for my apartment

IKEA is already cutting-edge with its store experience, marketing and technology, so I’m interested to see if other furniture/decor companies utilize VR in their shopping experience. 

As an avid online shopper,  I’m sure being able to try on clothes via virtual reality apps on my phone will not be good for my wallet. With sales plummeting for brick-and-mortar stores, and online shopping sales increasing, I know the use of virtual reality in the consumer experience will become more popular.

Word Cloud Visualization of Trump’s State of the Union Address

Word cloud visualization of President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address

The Constitution of the United States declares that a president must address Congress in an annual address, now called the State of the Union. Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 states the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Although 83 of the 85 State of the Union Addresses have been in person, they’ve only been addressed to the American people since 1965 when the first State of the Union was televised.

Given to a joint session of the United States Congress, President Donald Trump spoke about the U.S. economy, infrastructure, immigration, foreign policy and healthcare. As reflected in the word cloud, the speech centered on uniting the nation.

The public and the media may have been surprised that Trump’s speech was optimistic and most of all, on-script. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and staff secretary Rob Porter wrote the speech, as many presidents do not personally write the speeches they deliver. However, Trump often speaks off-script when delivering speeches, and especially when tweeting. 

Although the speech centered around promoting unity, and many of the words reflected this theme, he was not completely bipartisan. I believe many of the key words shown in the word cloud were buzzwords typical of many presidential speeches, but Trump’s speech still focused on conservative policies. He spoke about the NFL protests, NAFTA, mandated family leave, criminal justice reform and immigration. Although he called for the American people to unite, most of his speech echoed the language during his campaign, which focused on uniting his core voter base. 

He ended his speech with a hopeful tone, much as the majority of past presidents have done as well: “As long as we are proud of who we are, and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve. As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will never fail. Our families will thrive. Our people will prosper, and our nation will forever be safe and strong, and proud, and mighty, and free.”

 

TED Talk: Technology’s Long Tail

In 2004, Chris Anderson was the editor of technology publication, Wired magazine.

This blog post is in response to this TED Talk, Technology’s Long Tail.

This TED Talk, given by former Wired editor, Chris Anderson, explains emerging technologies and their stages. This TED Talk was filmed in 2004, so although his explanations hold true in 2018, technology has significantly advanced in the last 14 years since this was first filmed. Anderson says the “long tail” in business is “the notion of looking at the tail itself as a new market.” The internet, which was relatively new at the time of filming this video, enables businesses to tap markets more successfully than prior to the creation of the internet. The long tail is a potential market, and the internet creates distribution and sales opportunities not previously in place before its creation.
Anderson explains the four stages of technologies as setting the critical price, gaining market share, displacing an established technology and, finally, becoming “free” or ubiquitous. He uses examples such as the DVD, human genome, effects of generic drugs on pricing, hybrid cars, Skype and long-distance phone calls.
What struck me the most about Anderson’s talk was how rapidly technology has changed since even 2004. In 2004, Skype was in its early stages with “only” 4 million users, which means it reached critical mass and gained market share. Now, consumers can use FaceTime, a software integrated onto their iPhone, which was not even invented until 2007. 

Skype in its beta stages in April 2004

Technology I once believed was progressive and innovative, like the DVD for example, has now been rendered almost obsolete by streaming services. Anderson discusses how the invention of the DVD led to Netflix: a service once used to deliver DVDs to homes. Netflix is now a ubiquitous streaming service that allows thousands of movies and television shows instantly with no need to rent at a video store or wait for a DVD to arrive in the mail.
In 2004, the hybrid car was just gaining market share, and now I do not remember life without hybrid vehicles on the road. In 2004, Anderson said you could store “every song ever made” on a hard drive for about $400. Now, I pay a monthly fee to stream just about every song ever made onto Spotify, and do not need to pay for storage of these songs. I know I take all of these technological advances for granted and do not remember life without them. Because of Anderson’s TED Talk, I am interested to see what the next 14 years brings in technological advances.

Spotify users can access streaming music and podcasts from their desktop, laptops and mobile devices

Path to President of Auburn Univeristy Dance Marathon

Tiffany Thompson, senior and President of Auburn University Dance Marathon

Tiffany Thompson, senior in Marketing from Montgomery, Alabama knew she wanted to serve Children’s Miracle Network and the hospitals that provide life-saving care for sick children. The fields of science, nursing and medicine were not her strong suit, so she found another way to get involved. A way that would pave the way to her becoming president of one of Auburn’s largest student organizations.

Thompson found Dance Marathon as a way to give back to children’s hospitals. “At the age of 6, my best friend Amelia Word was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor on her ovary and was treated at Children’s of Alabama. 9 years later, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 15. In sticking by her side, I’ve seen the life-saving care she has received through Children’s Miracle Network,” says Thompson. 

Photo courtesy of Auburn University Dance Marathon

She got involved in Auburn University Dance Marathon because they supported Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. She joined the entertainment committee and became assistant director of on-campus entertainment her sophomore year. Junior year, as vice president of public relations, she helped AUDM win the Excellence in Marketing and Design award through the Involvement Awards as well as the Best Digital Media award at the Dance Marathon Leadership Conference.

As a marketing major, she’s hoping to take the skills she’s learned through AUDM and use them in her future career in the marketing field.

Before she begins her career, though, she must lead AUDM to their big event in February. AUDM fundraises all year and reveals the grand total at the end of the 14-hour dance marathon day.

As president, she says “I love seeing the passion each individual member of staff or a participant has for AUDM and our Miracle Children. No story is the same and I am constantly inspired by the hard work and determination these Auburn students possess. I have the privilege of watching not only their passions grow, but also their leadership skills. It’s encouraging to be surrounded by like-minded people who never fail to lift each other up.”

Thompson knows it’s important to take time to invest in the people she’s leading. “I believe that if those I lead do not feel valued and seen, their confidence and passion will diminish. I fell more in love with AUDM over the years as I felt recognized and valued by the leaders above me. This can be difficult to do with 190 staff members but it just takes being intentional and realizing that AUDM would not exist without those involved,” she says. 

She stays busy but has learned to balance her academic as well as leading a large organization.

Photo courtesy of Auburn University Dance Marathon

Ultimately, I just try to take each day one at a time and value the time I have left at Auburn!”

Going to College in Your Own Backyard

While about 70 percent of college students attend college outside of their hometown, some students opt to stay closer to home.

After growing up in the city of Auburn, students Justin Smith and Mallory Meagher believe there is no better school for them than Auburn University.  Both students say that the college experience at Auburn differs from growing up here.

“The university is kind of in its own bubble,” says Meagher, a senior studying biomedical sciences.

Before attending Auburn, Meagher lived in Auburn for 11 years and attended Lee Scott Academy.

Mallory Meagher, senior in biomedical sciences from Auburn, AL

Smith, a senior studying  chemical engineering, says “the community of Auburn is quite different than the university- demographically, economically, and socially.”

Smith was born and raised in Auburn and says it’s possible to get too comfortable in the hometown “bubble.” He was accepted to several other universities but decided on Auburn due to scholarship opportunities.

Justin Smith, senior in chemical engineering and economics from Auburn, AL

Originally, he wanted to leave and experience someplace new.

Coming to Auburn “ended up being the best decision,” says Smith, who attended Auburn High School.

Meagher knew since she was young that she wanted to attend Auburn.

“My entire family has attended Auburn ever since my great-grandfather served as the head football coach here, way back in the day. I grew up an Auburn fan, and could never imagine cheering for another team. Living here made me love the school even more, and I didn’t even think twice about making my decision,” says Meagher.

Although she wanted to attend Auburn since she was young, there are still challenges attending school so close to home.

“I took me a long time to understand how hard it is to go to college far away from home, and I appreciate my friends who make that sacrifice even more now,” says Meagher. 

Smith said the biggest challenge was being willing to step out of his comfort zone and finding friends who did not grow up with him.

“Every college student must do this, but it’s more challenging when you attend school in the place you’ve grown up in,” says Smith. “I wanted to make my own way at Auburn.”

Both encourage prospective students who live in the Auburn community to consider Auburn.

“Come to Auburn, you’ll love it. Don’t live with your parents. Don’t be afraid to make new friends” says Smith.

“While it might be adventurous to go far away, there’s nothing wrong with realizing what a special and unparalleled campus that we have right here in our home!” says Meagher.

 

The Opposite of Loneliness

In Marina Keegan’s essay “The Opposite of Loneliness,” she perfectly captures the feelings I’ve felt in my last year at Auburn.

She describes this “opposite of loneliness” feeling as not quite love” and “not quite community.” She continues to say “it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt.”

Coming to Auburn, I had no doubt that I would have the college experience of a lifetime. It’s not the football, or the red brick buildings or the classes I’ve taken. It’s the people. The thought of leaving Auburn gives me a knot in my stomach because of the people who have shaped me, challenged me and encouraged me.

My high school English teacher encouraged me to read Keegan’s essay and all of my senior year, I felt the anxiety of not being able to replicate the feeling of safety and comfort that came from a network of close friends like the ones I had in high school. I cried on my graduation day because I did not want to go for fear of never being able to feel the way I did in those moments.

I never could have imagined that what I found at Auburn could even compare to what my high school self was scared to leave.

It’s the late nights in RBD as a freshman “studying” with all your friends on the third floor.

It’s staying until the alma mater at a football game in the rain.

It’s the flowers left on your doorstep to celebrate and the kind and encouraging messages to comfort.

It’s getting excited about your favorite cover band play the same songs every weekend and everyone still yells the lyrics.

It’s standing on the concourse in brightly colored campaign shirts in all kinds of weather.

It’s piling in a pickup truck dressed in dumb costumes on the way to a fraternity.

It’s the community built in your freshman dorm that follows you to your senior year apartment.

It’s reserving a table for fourteen at one of the many Mexican restaurants and eating too many chips to count before the meal.

It’s being late to class because you stop and talk to multiple friends on the concourse.

It’s hearing your name called at Cater Hall and the cheers that erupt.

It’s not hearing your name called at Cater Hall and the tight hugs and outpouring of love that follow.

It’s all of the “lasts” that come every day of your senior year.

For me, and so many others, Auburn carries “this elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness” that can only be felt during that poignant moment that washes over you and you think, “dang, I’m going to miss this place.”

Our time at Auburn is only the beginning, though. There’s a reason it’s called a commencement ceremony. We are just beginning. This foundation of community we’ve built at Auburn will stay with us long after we’ve received our diplomas and far into what the future still holds.

Twitter Accounts All Auburn Fans Should Follow

   Along with Auburn Athletics’ official social media accounts, there are several other Twitter accounts that provide football fans with news, funny memes, debate and other Auburn-related content. I’ve put together several accounts I follow and check frequently for updates during football season and the off-season.

AU Family

With over 100,000 followers, this is a popular fan account that covers all things Auburn Athletics. From memes, to merchandise, to podcasts, to articles, @AUFAMILY posts a variety of content throughout the day. This account engages fans well by reposting fan photos and engaging in discussion.

Aubie the Tiger

Everyone’s favorite Tiger is not only a nine-time UCA Mascot National Champion, he’s also on Twitter! Posting daily photos of his life, Auburn’s lovable mascot engages with fans on Twitter by posting fun content to help fans get in Auburn spirit.

Saturday Down South

While not strictly an Auburn account, @SDS posts humorous college football-related news and content covering all of the Southeastern Conference. With over 200,000 followers, this account often live-tweets during SEC games with real-time reactions to the game. Saturday Down South can simultaneously satisfy and infuriate all fans of SEC teams with their sometimes vicious opinion.

Drunk Aubie

Drunk Aubie is the sassy alter ego of Aubie the Tiger. While not affiliated with Auburn Athletics or the university, Drunk Aubie is perhaps my favorite Auburn-related account because of the account’s witty comebacks, gifs and memes. Drunk Aubie also throws his own spin on real-time reaction to Auburn football games and will often engage in banter with rival fans.

If you’re like me and love following Auburn-related content even during the off-season, following these accounts will help you cope until the football season comes back around.

Perhaps the most entertaining part about each of these accounts are the Twitter arguments that often occur between Auburn fans and fans of rival teams. Fortunately, Auburn fans continue to show class regardless of comments made on Twitter.

Autumn Activities in Auburn

Autumn is in full swing in Auburn, and there are several activities to enjoy in Auburn and surrounding areas.

Sleepy Hollow Haunted Farm

First, located a few miles from the city of Auburn, Sleepy Hollow Haunted Farm features a corn maze, haunted house, haunted hayride, paintball and an escape room. During the entire month of October, there are a variety of options for those who like scarier attractions and those who want tamer activities. Tickets for individual attractions are $13. Tickets for the corn maze, haunted house and haunted hayride are $30 and can be purchased at the farm.

Farmer in the Dell pumpkin patch

Additionally, an afternoon at the Farmer in the Dell pumpkin patch satisfies anyone looking for a true fall experience. Located off Wire Road, the pumpkin patch features autumn photo opportunities, farm animals to feed, a crop maze and local raw honey for sale. Admission to the farm is only $2 and pumpkins start at only $3. Farmer in the Dell pumpkin patch was named as one of the “Top 25 Pumpkin Patches You Need to Visit This Fall.”

Oktoberfest at the Hotel at Auburn University

Finally, the Hotel at Auburn University hosts an annual Oktoberfest, Auburn’s only craft beer festival. The festival features German food, beers from breweries across the U.S., German wines and live entertainment. Oktoberfest features beers from not only Alabama but also breweries from California, Georgia, New York, Texas, Belgium and Scotland. German snacks like bratwurst and pretzels are also available to purchase, as well as German wines. Also, the event takes place every year in late October.

If you’re like me and love to enjoy the fall weather, take a look at some of these events and activities!