by Ellie Martin
Augmented reality has been the talk of the town since this summer when Pokémon Go went viral. The game’s popularity has already sputtered out because because of poor game mechanics and weak AR technology, but the game sent an important message: serious AR tech is coming, and it’s almost here.
AR, a sibling to virtual reality, is technology that overlays images or information onto the real world through a camera lens or a headset. Apple CEO Tim Cook sees augmented reality becoming huge in the future, opining that significant part of the population will eventually have AR experiences on a daily basis.
But what kind of AR experiences is he talking about? The truth is that AR technology will be much more varied and nuanced than simply providing a gaming experience. Sure, AR could simulate a board game on your coffee table, but it could also provide driving directions directly on your car’s windshield or let users try on makeup without actually putting it on. So where is the AR industry headed?
Here are 5 augmented reality trends that suggest the long term future of this emerging technology:
1. The AR market will grow fast.
It’s not surprising how much attention VR and AR have received in the past year given how revolutionary these technologies will be. However, the predicted market growth is staggering in its size. Analysts expect the AR/VR market to be worth $150 billion by 2020. Here’s where it gets crazy: VR technology gets as many headlines as AR, and certainly VR has a profitable future, but AR will be much bigger than VR. Out of that $150 billion, AR will make up $120 billion of the market share. Considering that AR is just barely getting started in 2016, that means the next three years will be marked by explosive growth for the AR industry.
2. AR will primarily be mobile at first.
The publicized image of VR technology is the now classic image of a person with a face-masking technology nearly the size of their head, and many think of AR in a similar way. AR headsets are being developed, such as the Microsoft Hololens, but AR’s biggest market will be with mobile devices. One reason for this mobile-first market is that AR is already smartphone-compatible, meaning that users don’t have to buy new hardware to engage with the technology. Secondly, it’s a matter of convenience: consumers pull out their phone, turn on the camera, and get more information about the world around them by moving their phone through space. Whether it’s Google Tango or the iPhone 7’s dual cameras (which many point to being a precursor for future AR usage), mobile AR is already on its way, and for most cases, mobile AR is all that consumers need to fulfill their needs.
3. AR will change the face of marketing.
Part of the reason mobile AR will be so successful is because AR marketing depends on smartphones. What is AR marketing? Retail AR marketing is already happening and can involve anything from virtually trying on clothes to seeing what Ikea furniture looks like in your home before you buy it. It can even be as simple as a consumer walking down an aisle with their phone and scanning products to learn more about them. Picture a world in which a logo designer’s work isn’t just on a billboard or a website; it could be digital graffiti anywhere in the world, giving brands greater exposure to their audience than ever before.
Alternatively, AR marketing could mean that consumers could scan that logo in order to learn more about the company or a specific product. The possibilities of AR marketing are still being explored, but considering that early forays into AR advertising engaged consumers more than twice as long as TV advertisements, you can trust that AR marketing is here to stay.
4. Enterprises will love AR.
Sure, AR will be popular among gamers and individual consumers. Just look at Snapchat’s filters, which are already an incredibly popular form of early AR technology, but enterprises will make up a large part of the AR market, and not just because they will utilize AR marketing. There are numerous benefits for businesses using AR. These include service or maintenance professionals getting fed information about their work as they handle tasks, increased information flow between offices, and streamlined operations. AR could be used to augment meetings: during presentations, members could pull up additional information to lay over the documents as needed. There’s no doubt that AR will be popular among consumers, but it’s AR’s value in the business world that will make the technology so successful.
5. AR won’t be controlled by platforms.
Smartphones today are controlled by a handful of tech enterprises (Apple, Samsung, and Google), and the same will be true for VR technology, which is much more dependent on hardware than AR tech is. While AR will have its large platforms, including the Microsoft Hololens, Google Tango, and Magic Leap, there are also open source toolkits, such as the ARToolKit, to help developers build their own AR apps. This creates flexibility and innovation within AR and allows small businesses and even consumers to experiment with AR at a lower cost if they so choose.
What other trends have you noticed in AR? Leave a Comment below!