Why Augmented Reality is the New Black

If somebody told you there’ll be something like Facebook or YouTube in less than 10 years back in 2000, would you believe them? Probably not, but that’s what you should. Augmented reality will follow their success. It combines view of real objects with device-generated images – which became particularly interesting with the rise of smartphones with better cameras and screens.

It’s what the big boys bet on

But it’s not just that: the big boys have placed their bets. Facebook bought Oculus Rift, Microsoft developed HoloLens and Google opted for Magic Leap. Two industry veterans, DeMiroz and Chennevasin, have recently started a $50 million venture capital fund to invest in early-stage virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality startups. SuperData is expecting consumers to buy 16.8 million mobile VR devices before the end of 2016. Hence, this future is far from distant, and the time to join in is now.

It’s already happening

What are the fields where this is going to happen? Guess what, it’s already happening! The app market has already welcomed many apps that use this feature. Hiking and climbing apps act as a GPS, compass and inclinometer, tourist apps help you around major cities and national parks, while there are golf and football apps – just for fun. There are many possibilities! We’ve found it very exciting. The use we’ve been interested in was assistance in exploring the nature. This feature was developed in our office and you’ll soon find it in an app for one of Croatia’s national parks:

Where do we go from here?

But will it stop there? Surely not. Digicapital predicted recently for TechCrunch that the AR market will reach $120 bn. by 2020. This will be accomplished mostly through hardware, aCommerce, data, voice and entertainment. Yet there are still certain obstacles on the way. The device used needs to monitor both physical and digital surroundings, and even keep track of other such devices in the area. If any changes are not communicated real-time and displayed on-screen, the experience will be poor. You’d imagine this requires quite a lot of computing power, and that’s correct.

Troubles in paradise

It’s not only processing power – today’s AR devices mostly suffer from narrow point of view (like watching a 15” screen from two feet away), lagging and poor resolution. And then there’s the price. While VR devices such as Oculus Rift start with a $599 tag, HoloLens developer kit requires a hefty $3,000.
Not everything came up roses and daffodills in the industry – just recall Google Glass. But nothing to worry: it was a valuable lesson. If you remember PDAs, they also paved the way for today’s smartphones.

Augmented reality vs. virtual reality

What about virtual reality? Is augmented reality just its smaller brother? Not quite. Remember the huge device in Duke Dumont’s last summer hit.

Would you really like to wear it 6 hours a day? On the other hand, augmented reality devices do not face the same issue – they’re easier to handle and work much better in the current societal framework. Recode recently quoted Palmer Luckey, Oculus Rift co-founder, saying that although AR is currently far behind VR technology, it will succeed eventually, never mind some of its failings like Glass.
Note that VR and AR aren’t directly competing – they should be considered as different as desktop and mobile browsing experience.

What’s next

The app market has already embraced AR advancements, using mobile cameras and displays. We started with augmented banners as a newspaper-and-tablet cross-platform solution and interactive catalogues. What should we expect next? New hardware solutions will enable new gaming experience and further advancement of aCommerce. But that’s not it – there’s B2B market to watch for. Imagine medical training with AR simulations, or architects displaying their ideas in real space.
We may be sure that this is the new field to look at – all those dollars already put in the game cannot be wasted. It’s a question of finding the right niché and developing intuitive products.
If you wonder what’s next – that’s up to us!

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