Augmented Reality Transforms the Packaging Industry

Augmented Reality Transforms the Packaging Industry

Intelligent packaging is a growing phenomenon in the packaging industry.  Some packages can now remind a patient when it is time to take a pill.  Other packages can update an expiration date based on the atmosphere in which a product sits.  This type of intelligent packaging provides a service to the consumer in increasing the overall effectiveness or safety of a product.  A second type of intelligent packaging focuses solely on marketing and sales, attempting to take an arms' length transaction and turn it into something personal between the company and the consumer.  One new way that this is being achieved today is through packaging that creates an augmented reality.

Though augmented reality is truly intelligent packaging, there seems to be a division forming in the packaging industry.  Augmented Reality packaging, and other interactive packaging that helps create a bond with a customer and sell a product on one side and smart packaging that can modify temperatures, atmospheres or serve the customer in a non-marketing manner on the other.  This division may or may not become a reality as intelligent and interactive packaging are both truly still in their infancy.

A recent article in Packaging World by Ian Schofield offers a few examples of current packagers using augmented reality to strengthen their connection with thier customers.  Companies can use augmented reality with smart devices to display a product display at the shelf, even when the actual product is sealed in a box.  Smartphones can also be used while shopping to allow the company to create, and the customer to find, personalized coupons, undoubtedly based in part on buying habits.  As also discussed in Packaging World, one fruit company used augmented reality to turn their carton into a game controller, allowing consumers to play an online game of soccer using the juice carton.

The possible uses for augmented reality are seemingly endless right now, and new uses are likely to emerge as technology continues to advance.  However, there are a few factors working against the development of augmented reality packaging like those noted above.  First and foremost, creating packaging with electronics, video graphics and other components will almost always be more expensive than using a PET bottle and a screw on cap.  Intelligent packaging and/or augmented reality costs more, and no company can make a profit unless that extra cost is passed on to the consumer.  

In addition, the packaging industry has embraced the trend toward sustainable packaging practices, from the creation of components to the machinery used to package right down to the shipping costs to the consumer.  It is unclear the affect that the added components necessary for augmented reality packaging will have on issues of sustainability.  Finally, the packaging machinery currently used to fill, cap and label many products may not be adequate to handle the new containers, inserts or components necessary for the augmented reality packaging.  Both regional producers and Fortune 500 manufacturers may find it a burden to spend more not only for the packaging and components, but also for a new liquid filler, a new capping machine, a new power conveyor system and other packaging machines for a given project.

While augmenting reality with product packaging is a fun idea, and while it undoubtedly has the potential to create a more personal relationship with the customer, what remains to be seen is if such packaging can be used while still keeping the product profitable. 

For the entire article by Ian Schofield at Packaging World, click here