Augmented Reality

Online giants hope to drive consumer adoption of augmented reality (AR) by giving tools to mobile developers. This article is an extract from our 2018 Trends Report.

What is it about?

Pokémon Go revealed the immense potential of mobile augmented reality AR in 2016. The use of a smartphone to superimpose digital content onto the real world led to a quick reaction from online giants moving to establish themselves as leading AR ecosystems. Apple, Facebook, and Google launched tools last year to make it easier for outside developers to create AR content and apps.

Facebook’s Camera Effects platform, which launched in April, helps developers create AR image filters and interactive experiences. Apple’s ARKit which developers can use to feature AR content within their own iPhone and iPad apps was announced in June and officially launched in September. Google has a rival mobile AR creation tool for the Android operating system, ARCore. At the time of writing, it’s only available to developers, but Google hopes to publicly launch ARCore in the coming months. Digi-Capital looked at unique users for Camera Effects and the installed base of devices for ARKit/ARCore. It predicts that ARKit will come first in 2018, before being overtaken by ARCore in 2019 – even though Camera Effects led the AR race in 2017.

Why is it important to our industries?

As it doesn’t require a headset or any additional device other than a recent smartphone, mobile AR could easily become the dominant technology in the AR/VR market in the foreseeable future. Indeed, investments are now shifting from VR to AR. Digi-Capital says mobile AR could have over twice the installed base in 2017 of the entire AR/VR headset market by 2021. Sensor Tower calculated that only one month after ARKit’s official launch, iPhone and iPad AR apps had been installed more than 3 million times worldwide.

The leading ARKit apps categories are games, utilities and entertainment (in that order). That’s led many studios and start-ups to release or announce new games and apps tied to established IPs, such as Star Wars, The Walking Dead, Transformers, and Harry Potter. AR is also increasingly used in marketing with apps such as IKEA Place that let customers preview how the retailer’s products fit in their home.

Interesting facts

Many analysts see AR on smartphones as a bridge to consumer-centric AR glasses or headsets. Apple is thought to be working on an AR headset that could ship as early as 2020.

Go deeper

This analysis of the mobile AR market by Digi-Capital’s founder Tim Merel offers a good overview of what to expect in the coming months.

Worth following

AR is often associated with extremely large corporations, among them Apple (ARKit), Google (ARCore), and Microsoft (Hololens). Nonetheless, many smaller companies are very active, too. These include Blippar, the first mobile AR advertising unicorn. It recently launched a facial recognition feature and an AR navigation map. There’s also Magic Leap which announced it will ship its first AR glasses this year, Catchoom, an image recognition and AR platform, as well as Daqri, which started shipping AR smart glasses for professionals in November 2017.

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