Augmented reality saw its record growth in 2019. Commercial support for AR is positioned to be strong, with big tech names like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google making serious commitments. As of May 2019, the installed user base for AR-supporting mobile devices reached 1.5 billion. Industry players in the augmented reality world expect 2020 to be a year marked by an uptick in the pace of industry growth.
A bulk of the latest advances in the field of AR were showcased at a number of tech events, some of which, such as Augmented World Expo and Consumer Electronics Show, were attended by our team. They inspired us to gather these 9 trends that will shape the future of augmented reality over the next couple of years—and may inspire you on your own innovations.
Trend #1: Mobile Ar: Apple Announced Arkit 3.0, Google’s Arcore Is Rapidly Growing Its Installed Base
The 2017 introduction of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore software development kits (SDKs) has standardized the development tools and democratized mobile AR app creation which has brought about more than double the amount of mobile AR-enabled devices and tripled the number of active users during 1.5 years. Having once brought AR to the mass audience of mobile users, Apple secured its AR market leadership as it unveiled ARKit 2.0 at WWDC 2018, and then ARKit 3.0 at WWDC 2019. In terms of technology, the introduced advances placed mobile AR in the same line with headset-based AR, if not above it. We still can see a significant ARKit’s dominance over ARCore, however the latter has grown almost 10 times in absolute figures. The installed base of ARCore-compatible Android devices grew from 250 million devices in December 2018 to 400 million in May 2019.
Trend #2: Augmented Reality As A Novel Way Of Shopping
Based on a report from Gartner, at least 100 million users were expected to utilize AR-enabled shopping technologies by 2020, which is one of the hottest retail trends of this year. The boom in mobile devices that employ AR means the sector is now occupied by robust and mature technologies. Developers, retailers and customers are now comfortably using them as part of their daily experience.
A BRP report indicated that 48% of consumers said that they’d be more likely to buy from a retailer that provided AR experiences. Unfortunately, only 15% of retailers currently put AR to use. Only a further 32% of retailers stated they plan to deploy virtual or augmented reality applications over the next three years.
Several companies have gotten out in front of consumer demand for AR shopping. American Apparel, Uniqlo and Lacoste have deployed showrooms and fitting rooms that provide try-before-you-buy options in augmented reality spaces. Smart mirror technologies that scan RFID tags also offer the ability to bring recommendations to the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. IKEA customers have access to an app that permits them to point their phones at spaces and see what different products would look like in their own homes.
Makeup, fashion and lifestyle brands all stand to gain significant appeal with customers by using technologies that handle facial recognition, adapt to local lighting conditions and provide personalized advice. Virtual assistants will also significantly change the shopping experience.
Trend #3: Ar For Navigation Solutions
One of the most obvious use cases for AR technologies is indoor navigation, and 2020 is expected to be the year that the average consumer gets their first real taste of its potential. People already lean heavily on maps services from both Google and Apple to get around outside, but indoor navigation stands to be the use case that blows the public away.
ARKit and ARCore based applications for indoor navigation can provide directions in airports, malls, hospital and office campuses. Gatwick Airport has already deployed its own smartphone solution that provides routes to terminals and gates based on a user’s flight number.
In August 2019, Google launched a beta of its augmented reality walking directions feature for Google Maps that will be available to all AR-compatible iOS and Android mobile devices. Users can simply whip out their phones, point their cameras and see information about surrounding features in real time. Google’s software is likely to move beyond the smartphone space and include integration with smart glasses.
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Trend #4: Ar-Powered Solutions For The Enterprise
Smart glasses are currently at a stage where consumer solutions are likely a few years off. Military, medical and enterprise solutions, however, are beginning to prove the value of combining AR with headsets and smart glasses.
One of the major current headwinds for AR is battery life. Announced in February 2019, Microsoft HoloLens 2 was likely the most anticipated product in this space in 2019. The company hopes to roll out its technology to great fanfare by demonstrating improvements in raw processing power, battery life and wearability. The U.S. Army has awarded a $480 contract to Microsoft, and the company is also working with the industrial IoT firm PTC to streamline the development of both augmented and mixed reality products.
Other manufacturers also see the future of augmented reality in the enterprise sector. The 2G Glass Enterprise Edition announced in May 2019, is expected to cost $999. It is seeing interest from companies as diverse as DHL, Boeing, GE and Volkswagen.
Based on a Forrester report, it is estimated that 14 million American workers are expected to use smart glasses regularly on their jobs by 2025. Industry 4.0 applications that integrate AR are expected to be a strong driver of adoption. Companies plan to streamline processes like training and to provide self-help to workers in the field with AR overlays that deliver information from manuals.
Walmart and Tyson are piloting programs that will move traditional training methods into mixed reality settings. Workers will have new ways to learn about compliance and safety issues by looking around mixed-reality environments and identifying problems in a way that’s practical and engaging. Integration with other recent workplace training trends, especially gamification, may compound the returns that AR and MR solutions generate. According to ABI Research, AR-based training in enterprise will be a $6 billion industry by 2022.
Improvements in prototyping, testing, troubleshooting and quality control are expected to emerge from this trend, too, as workers will be able to make on-the-fly comparisons of real-world items against available documentation and specifications. Jobs that call for workers’ hands to be free will also benefit significantly from AR headsets and glasses.
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Trend #5: Augmented Reality Enhanced By Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are fast-growing sectors in tech. Bringing them together with Augmented and Mixed Reality systems is a natural extension of many of the things that are best suited to AI and ML, particularly computer vision. Likewise, the ability to create human-machine processes that handle problems like disease diagnosis has immense potential to improve outcomes.
35% of sales on Amazon are derived from its recommendation engine, which leans heavily on data science and machine learning to deliver search results and match advertisers with customers. Moving out of the web browser and into the real world has immense commercial potential. By pairing consumer profiles with AR and ML, retailers can identify customer needs based on their environments and provide them with recommendations.
Point-and-shoot retail AR solutions will also be major drivers of innovation. A shopper in a store can get AI-based customer support while walking around. If they have questions about pricing, features or current offers, answers can be supplied by a chatbot based on natural language processing (NLP) technologies. Responses can even be tailored to the customer’s unique profile, allowing greater personalization on the fly.
Robust AI and ML solutions can be extended to the AR and MR spaces to provide value to everyday users of mobile devices.
Deloitte Research concludes that augmented reality and artificial intelligence will transform the traditional healthcare business model offering AR/MR-enabled hands-free solutions and AI-based diagnostic tools.