Breaking the fourth wall - augmented reality for pension and benefits

Louise Harris, 03 August 2015

With the age of the smart device and the huge popularity of digitally enabled content delivered via YouTube, gifs, Vine, Instagram and the like, there's no doubt that people want instant access to entertaining and informative subjects in manageable bite-sized chunks.

It doesn’t always have to be informative; innocuous content can go viral, especially if the subject in question is Fenton the dog chasing deer to the increasingly desperate cries of its owner, or young Charlie biting his big brother's finger in a family video. Viewing figures skyrocket as word of mouth catapults the subjects to cult status.

Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy to make communications relating to pension and benefits forge the same level of interest. Our challenge is to provide important pension and benefits information in a succinct but powerful way to ensure a message isn’t diluted or loses the interest of the viewer/user. Ultimately, it isn't just about conveying one specific message; it's about providing a hook that develops sustained engagement in a scheme as a whole, and therefore the entire retirement journey.

We’ve got plenty of tools and mediums to choose from – videos, animations, apps – but how do we use this technology to make pension and benefit information as accessible and relevant as possible?

By utilising augmented reality (AR) we can encompass all of the above, as it allows users to turn their smartphones or tablets into interactive tools that explore their world of benefits. It increases the time they spend absorbing information, and provides a more engaging, interactive and rewarding experience.

AR represents the ‘next step’ after Quick Response or ‘QR’ codes, the black and white barcodes used in promotional advertising campaigns that access additional content via websites. For example, advertising billboards, magazines and newspapers or public transport. The square black and white barcode is the point where a smartphone scans a printed item to access more content. AR works in the same manner as QR codes, with coding embedded into the ‘trigger image’. However, what appears is much more. Once scanned by a smartphone, the ad becomes interactive, bringing content to life in a fun and engaging way, blurring the line between what's real and what's computer generated by enhancing what we see and hear.

This year, we developed this for our first client. Using an AR app downloaded for free to smart devices, employees scan over a pre-determined trigger – a particular image, such as a company logo – which loads a computer-generated scene merged with the real images from the viewfinder of a smartphone’s camera lens. Once the scene is loaded, the user can interact with informative and engaging content. For example, a unique way of explaining the importance of their company pension through animation, or instructions on how to use Orbit via a ‘how to’ video, and finally the link to Orbit itself.

Employees were advised of the AR app download process with an email and poster prior to launch date, we worked closely with the client’s IT department to ensure suitable technology, and secure data checks were done so that all employees with smart devices would be able to access the app. AR is loaded by scanning different types of printed material – posters around the building, leafleted desk drops…even floor transfers and coasters, so at  any point in the employee’s day, when they’re walking around their building, having lunch or travelling home, they can access information quickly and effortlessly via the AR app and their device.

AR is flexible, creative and fun. It’s something a bit different, but we know people are using it in their everyday lives. We want to harness this technology and merge the lines between what people find fun and how they access information about their pension and benefits, with the hope that one day we might go viral too.

About the author

Louise Harris Head of Client Communications

Louise Harris

Insight Research

Our research reports are aimed at Pension Trustees and HR Directors, covering topics such as pensions, health, flexible benefits, engagement and wellness. They are free to download!

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