Augmented Reality applications for the NPO sector

AR applications for the NPO sector In the current environment, many people worldwide are working from home and observing social distancing as much as possible. Technologies like video conferencing allow us to meet virtually and conduct business or socialise; we collaborate on shared electronic documents and data in real time; our watches or apps remind us to exercise and we share our stories and dance moves through social media.

Another emerging technology, Augmented Reality (AR), provides extraordinary interactive experiences layered over the everyday. AR ‘augments’, or enhances, the real world through computer-generated perceptual information. Beyond just visual effects, AR has the potential to provide a multi-sensory composite experience. AR can present digital data or information, objects or media through a series of graphical overlays or 3-D visualisations together with audio or even sensory elements.

Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), AR continues to incorporate the surrounding environment in the ‘real’ experience whilst adding virtual elements to enhance that experience. A VR experience is entirely virtual, engineered and edited - much like a film or a video game.

Commercial AR experiences were initially and successfully introduced in the entertainment and gaming industries. AR applications have subsequently taken root in education, communications and medicine.

AR has the potential to help us expedite product development, solve real-world problems faster and improve workplace safety. By integrating immersive sensory data in a real world setting, AR can augment training through simulations of realistic scenarios and overlays of data, reduce risk and improve service delivery. As such, AR has many applications in the Not-for-Profit (NPO) sector.

"AR has the potential to provide a multi-sensory composite experience. AR can present digital data or information, objects or media through a series of graphical overlays or 3-D visualisations together with audio or even sensory elements."

AR applications in the NPO sector NPOs can use AR to create an experience that helps people to see the world differently, in a way that’s aligned to the NPO’s mission and inspires people to act. AR can be used by organisations in the NPO sector to build awareness effectively, provide an empathetic experience and share up-to-date information, among other applications.

First, with the help of AR, NPOs can inspire more effective awareness-building. By involving more people and creating a sense of community and empathy, NPOs can be more impactful.

In May 2017, the World Wildlife Fund Armenia worked with X-Tech IT Company to launch the ‘Take a Photo with the Leopard’ environmental information campaign. The campaign was designed to draw more attention to the problem of endangered species like Caucasian leopards, which face extinction due to poaching and natural habitat loss.

The campaign featured special AR ground markers and banners throughout Armendia’s Yereva State in different educational and public places that had the most foot traffic. After downloading a special AR application called ARLOOPA, people could scan those markers and watch a 3-D model of a Caucasian leopard appear in front of them.The campaign also helped to support the leopards’ existing habitat management, created several new safe areas, and developed a network of leopard caretakers near their natural surroundings.

Second, NPOs can use AR to inspire more empathy and drive donations. NHS Blood and Transplant launched a blood donation campaign powered by AR to drive public awareness in London and Birmingham. Volunteers were offered stickers that were placed on their arms where a donation needle would typically be inserted. A phone hovering over the sticker provided an AR visual simulation of blood donation, including a needle, plaster and tube overlaid on the sticker on the volunteer’s arm. A blood bag on the screen filled and by training the phone on a billboard overhead, an ill-looking patient became healthier-looking and a ‘thank-you’ message appeared. During the simulation, the pedestrians were asked to sign up as blood donors.

Using AR, NHS increased awareness of the importance of blood donations by making the experience more relatable.

Third, AR can be used to share up-to-date information in new ways. Since AR app processing occurs in real time, NPOs can use it to push updates on the go. A breast cancer NPO recently used this technology to develop a campaign including an AR app. Using the app and training it on a billboard, the NPO was able to share a 3-D depiction of current statistics, links to social media pages and guidance on self examination.

AR has many other applications for the NPO sector. Key to the success of an AR experience is to first meticulously analyse the primary objective of the experience, whether it is to build awareness, inspire empathy or share information - or a combination of the three. The current environment provides opportunities for NPOs to communicate in new ways and reinforce the impact of their activities and purpose.

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Dennis Maina

Senior Associate, Business Recovery Services T: +254 20 285 5726 E:

Nicholas Kanyagia

Associate, Business Recovery Services T: +254 20 285 5239 E:

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