Augmented Reality (AR) provides the ability to overlay a visual and audio experience to a real-world environment as viewed through a computer, mobile device or special hardware. There are many use cases for AR from pure entertainment such as gaming, visiting places or seeing events, to real-world applications in medicine, education or the workplace.
Through technological advancements, in recent years AR is now easily accessible through most smartphones and tablets. The number of smartphone users is forecast to grow from 2.3 billion in 2017 to around 2.5 billion in 2019.
Big players such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are investing heavily in AR. Facebook is the biggest investor in the VR/AR market so far, buying Oculus for $2 billion and promising to spend a further $500 million; which includes the recent launch of the Oculus Go wireless headset and the promise of augmented reality glasses in the near future. With this level of investment, it’s inevitable that AR will encompass a large slice of the tech sector in the coming years. IDC are predicting spending on AR/VR products and services to soar from $11.4 billion in 2017 to nearly $215 billion 2021, achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 113.2% along the way!
There have also been two exciting announcements in the past few weeks around AR app development. Apple has released their ARKit along with iOS 11, which includes new tools that make it easier for developers to add AR to their apps. Google also announced its own AR developer tool for Android called ARCore, which is compatible with Android phones from Pixel and Samsung S8 onwards. However Google plans to roll this out to about 100 million Android devices by the end of the year, details are yet to be confirmed.
Much of the early interest surrounding Augmented Reality was the release of smart glasses such as Google Glass and Microsoft’s mixed reality headset, Hololens. Google Glass did make it to market offering a limited experience with an overlay of information on request or based on location. Hololens remains in development as a product however and with recent advances in mobile hardware and software may not see a release date. As smartphone technology advancement now allows wider AR adoption by removing the barrier of having to purchase a headset, the faster the pace for AR use to become mainstream in our day to day lives.
What we’re most excited about is the fact that a large proportion of the world has access to a smartphone which can reveal a world of augmented reality in the palm of your hand. Our next article on Augmented Reality will showcase examples of augmented reality apps currently available and how businesses are embracing this technology to solve business and customer problems.
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