ARAD helps developers get ads in their augmented reality apps

ARKit and other augmented reality tools are going to make the experience more and more popular among developers and users — but, like any new platform, there probably won’t be a sophisticated way to monetize them yet outside of paying for a download.

A team of developers from Google and Snapchat at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017 hackathon are hoping to take the learnings from that movement to help build a way to connect developers and advertisers to create ad experiences within an augmented reality environment. Sriram Bargav Karnati, Spandana Govindgari, Sai Teja Pratap, and Jaydev Ajit Kumar spent the last 24 hours at the hackathon building a way to insert an advertisement into augmented reality games with ARAD.

“When we were building the app we were thinking, hey, how do we place this ad in a non-intrusive way,” Govindgari said. “When the user clicks this ad, they should experience a whole new ad format. We were aware of it but didn’t really dig deep into it, but as we learned more we learned it’s hard to make these 3D objects and detect objects in augmented reality.”

The goal is to help developers figure out a way to make money and still get their apps into the hands of as many people as possible. ARAD has advertisers place some media assets on their platform (which, again, was built in around 24 hours), and then the tool inserts an ad that’s just usually just slightly outside of their field of vision. It’ll detect something like a water bottle, and if an advertiser has targeted an ad against a water bottle, an ad for LaCroix might pop up as a small interactive box. When a user taps on the box, they’ll see the ad for LaCroix, and then that counts as an impression for the advertiser.

Because augmented reality as a platform is so new, we’re going to see a lot of experimentation as to how advertising will work in augmented reality. Karnati and his team envision a tool where advertisers could place 3D assets on that table instead of a window that pokes into an advertising asset, though that might be something that takes a little longer than just a day to build. The idea, though, is that if someone is playing a quick game of tic-tac-toe and takes a break to look to the side, they’ll potentially see an ad — which, again, isn’t intrusive into the core experience.

That’ll also be a good tool for cross-promotion between other developers, a practice you see pretty often among game developers, Pratap said. And because augmented reality is such an immersive experience, there is probably a better chance someone will take notice of a high-quality ad that might lead them to another app (or game). For developers, that means they might also be able to charge advertisers even more because it’s a more engaged audience.

“We want it to enhance the experience for the user,” Karnati said. “Most ads which are in-app are really annoying and provide a bad user experience. This is bringing real-world, contextual things into the app, and it’s not really annoying the user. We want to answer the question from developers of ‘how do I get money?’ They can actually use something like this to pay off their bills, to support their lifestyle.”