The growth of ‘Augmented Reality’ is no longer tied to the adoption of smart glasses. Mobile AR led by Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) apps and AR-enabled mobile hardware is going to blaze ahead further. While dedicated products like the Hololens have been successful, mobile AR is always going to find a more ready user base to consume AR-based products and services.
The current market is filled with happenings that point to a time that will bring mobile AR out to more users than ever. This has caused tempting predictions to pour in such as this report that claims that the mobile AR industry alone will be worth 60 billion USD by 2021.
The major player is expected to be Apple which has enabled developers and designers to push interesting AR-apps for iOS using their free-to-use ARKit. Apple has also acquired a string of startups who work on AR, motion-capture technology etc. It is likely that Apple will spread its reins over the mobile AR world with a mesh of well-designed apps running on devices that are the major share of mobile devices.
The other end of the technological balance is maintained by Google. It took its platform, Tango, to the mobile world by partnering with Lenovo. The Phab 2 Pro launched by Lenovo sports abilities like indoor tracking and even interior designing. The phone has been customized to better recognize the environment and create overlays more easily. As Google also continues to try different ways to penetrate the market, it will be interesting to see if it comes up with a SDK like Apple did to push more AR-apps into the Play Store.Commercially today, there are quite a few firms who are using mobile AR in the B2C space. Domino’s Pizza is using the technology to display deals, locations of outlets and mobile ordering options when users scan a poster. WalMart has also an app in place that lets customers place their faces on super-hero bodies. Volvo on the other hand has an app that gets users to scan their engines to reveal a 360-degree under-the-hood view.
AR apps today exist in the domains of:
- Product detailing and product support
- Environment detailing and designing
- Face and body detecting and morphing
- Exploration-style and shooter games
While some of these domains have seen immense success (a la PokemonGO), the future is going to draw more interesting applications. For one, healthcare is a domain where AR is expected to play a large role. From highlighting nearby first-aid boxes to using Google Glass to help in breastfeeding, healthcare is being watched closely to see if it adopts the power of AR to its benefits.
Apart from the mobile AR players that we have seen and the few commercial examples listed here, we also have some other companies that have focused on other parts of AR, who could now steer towards the mobile side. Notable of course is Microsoft who has enjoyed some success and credibility with the Hololens. It would be interesting to see such companies come up with their mobile AR strategies in the future.
The Mobile AR landscape is replete with start-ups who are on the cutting-edge of this revolutionary technology. With better platforms, more development kits and the ready user base of the mobile phone, the mobile AR landscape looks promising and sports a potential to influence many key industries tomorrow.