In 2007, Apple released a device that would change the world forever: the iPhone. This device revolutionized the concept of cell phones and ushered in the era of smartphones. After its release, mobile development skyrocketed, fundamentally changing how humans connect with each other and operate throughout the world.
Ten short years later, it appears that the mobile market is approaching peak saturation and augmented reality (AR) is poised to make a similar change to society. Even as people move to less tangible interfaces, they remain highly visual creatures whose primary data stream is visual. AR puts all the power of the vast data stream of the internet directly on top of the way people consume the real world.
As Recode reports slow growth in the mobile sphere, innovation is beginning to move to different interfaces. So, what’s coming next? Society went from no data stream before the internet to fixed data stream access in the desktop and PC era to mobile access. The era of ubiquitous access as an overlay on top of reality is the next frontier.
What’s the potential?
AR is the interface of the future. It allows programs to place virtual objects in the real world in real-time, presenting users with information about their surroundings. Currently, massive research is going into perfecting the motion-sensing, depth-perception and area-learning elements of AR machines. Seamlessly working in conjunction, these three elements of AR shift the 3-D experience from interacting with models in a virtual environment on a screen, to examining overlays in real-time in your environment. This will fundamentally change the way consumers interact with their surroundings.
What will spur augmented reality proliferation?
Native mobile AR is already possible by leveraging native Android libraries and tools to manage glyph tracking. On iOS, Apple released ARKit in early June 2017 to simplify the placement of virtual 2-D and 3-D.
AR is becoming possible on the web as well, due to the WebVR spec that powers A-Frame and libraries such as AR.js, which enable the development of web AR experiences with just a few lines of code. The final means to build headset-based AR applications is by using C# with Unity or Unreal Engine and building applications for devices such as the HoloLens or Meta2. Since these devices don’t yet have the adoption numbers to excite developers, it’s likely mobile AR will develop faster, despite the inferior experience and computing power.
What will broad implementation look like?
Nobody has a full picture of what broad implementation will look like, but there are several active projects for companies that provide exciting insights. Mishor 3D is working on using AR technology to install heads-up displays for navigation in cars. Bentley Systems is creating an AR app that would allow construction workers and supervisors to examine rendered blueprints in their environments to increase efficiency and precision. Inhabitat reports IKEA has agreed to use AR for its catalogs, allowing prospective buyers to preview anything they want for their house. Evidence shows these types of apps will spur business growth.
Despite all the developments happening, the excitement around AR will begin to build even more when developers enable users to interact with objects simultaneously and create shared realities on a new augmented plane. AR integration into everyday life will serve to bring people closer to the realities depicted in the science fiction books they read growing up.
How will augmented reality affect the economy?
The AR industry offers potentially immense economic growth. According to Goldman Sachs, $35 billion has been invested in VR and AR firms in the past two years. These technologies are predicted to penetrate the real estate, retail and healthcare markets first. Goldman Sachs estimates VR and AR products in those three markets will collectively generate more than $9 billion in 2025.
AR is a growing industry that will blossom in the next decade and revolutionize the way people interact with the world. Widely implemented AR will boost productivity and efficiency while enhancing lives in general. It’s an industry to keep an eye on, and if you’re bullish, invest in.