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Updated: May 11, 2019

Credit from Marjorie van Elven

Sportswear label Puma has launched its first augmented reality shoe, the LQD Cell Origin Air. The sneakers are entirely covered in 2D QR codes, which unlock an array of AR experiences once scanned with a mobile phone camera, including games, filters and fun effects. Wearers first have to download the Puma LQD Cell app available on the App Store or Google Play to access the features.

“LQD CELL Origin AR is PUMA’s answer to a world in which the line between reality and the virtual realm becomes increasingly blurred”, said the brand in a statement, noting that the limited-edition shoes are available for purchase at and selected retailers worldwide for 130 euro (approximately 111 pounds or 145 US dollars).

Beyond AR, this is the first in a line of shoes using Puma’s new LQD Cell technology, which provides extra cushioning by means of hexagonal Profoam cells. The company claims it makes the shoes “more compact and malleable”. Other products featuring the same technology will be launched in the upcoming months.

Puma's app-powered AR experience gives younger, digitally native consumers another reason to choose its brand among the vast array of styles that line the walls of shoe stores. Younger consumers who grew up using smartphones tend to seek experiences they can share on social media, which supports the enduring popularity of AR filters and lenses on apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Such sharing is the essence of viral marketing that extends the reach of ad campaigns through user-generated content.

Wearers can download the app from Apple's App Store or Google Play to access the features, which include photo and video filters, games and special effects that mobile users can share on social media.​ The "fire filter" lets users virtually light their sneakers on fire, and is the first of several filters Puma will roll out in the coming months.The mobile AR game, "LQDASH," challenges a user's agility for the chance to win a pair of the limited-edition shoes. Separate from the app experience, an AI-powered lookbook of sneaker and street fashion based on images that were generated as the AI learned to recognize the sneaker in different backgrounds.

While Puma wants to generate buzz for its new LQD Cell shoes through the app with AR games and photo features, the app appears to lack a commerce element, forcing users to leave the mobile platform to further inspect and purchase the limited-edition sneakers. This friction limits the app's capabilities and may discourage people from making a purchase.

AR, which overlays digital images on the real world through a smartphone camera, has become a popular tool in marketing apparel. Adidas in December partnered with Snapchat for an AR lens that let mobile users virtually try on its Ultraboost 19 running shoe before its release date. That preview was reportedly the first time that Snapchat let users virtually sample a sneaker with an AR lens. Timing it ahead of a shoe drop drums up excitement among sneakerheads and could lead to higher sales and brand memorability.

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AR will become the new interface between humans and machines, bridging the digital and physical worlds. This article provides a road map for how companies should deploy AR and lays out the critical choices companies will face in integrating AR into strategy and implementing it.

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