There’s no question about it – 2019 is the year of augmented reality (AR) technology. Already, industry leaders are predicting that the AR industry could approach a user base of 3.5 billion by the end of 2019, with revenue opportunities estimated at $85 billion (£66.6 billion) within five years.
This is in part because AR is proving to be a more popular choice in the marketplace over VR, with more visible applications from the get-go. But a lack of hardware support has hamstrung the potential of AR for the past few years, keeping the emerging technology from reaching its full potential. But no more.
As new hardware is developed with built-in AR capabilities, we predict that the AR market will reach new highs over the next 12 months. In particular, we believe there will be four main drivers behind the increased AR use.
Right now one of the biggest things holding AR back from more widespread use is a simple lack of connectivity. AR requires super-fast and strong connections to the internet to work, and 3G or 4G just aren’t quite enough to sustain it.
This leads to unstable connections, drop out and glitchy or slow experiences, all of which spoil the effect of AR and disrupt use. There have been numerous discussions and forums held on this subject, and each time the results are the same: we will struggle to welcome AR in any broader way than we have now until we have the advantage of 5G.
With 5G connectivity, developers can reduce latency, improve connection, increase traffic capacity and open up more bandwidth for better quality, all leading to a better quality experience of AR for the user.
These developments might not sound like much, but even with current super-fast 4G, many AR applications struggle to reach their full potential. With the implementation of 5G imminent, it could open the floodgates for widespread adoption of seamless VR and AR technologies.
Social Media Adoption
Earlier this year Snapchat added a new feature to their in-app advertising platform. It was called ‘Snapchat Snap Ad to AR’, and was the first AR ad seen in a social media platform. The idea was that the ad was a new form of snap, where users could swipe up on a video or image and trigger a related branded lens.
This lens allowed users to experience the ad in 3D AR, so they could walk around a showroom looking at cars, or unwrap their brand new trainers and customise them. This approach created a more personal connection between the user and the product, and the end result was more sales for the business.
Since its initial success, some big brands have been getting involved in using it, including BMW, Nike and Hershey’s. Now, over 100 businesses have been using AR ads in Snapchat alone. Social media has become the new frontier for creating trends and developing new ideas, and as more businesses embrace AR advertising on social media, more platforms will create AR capabilities to match the demand.
One of the bigger issues businesses have in adopting AR technologies is that the vast majority of current AR applications are in the games sector.
The most popular examples include things like Pokémon Go, which while incredibly successful, does not represent much of a value proposition to businesses. But while AR games could still make up more than 2/3 of the AR app store revenue this year, investment in ‘non-gaming’ AR technologies is set to explode.
This means that AR will take on a more ‘everyday’ function, with more and more use cases for businesses. Some of the biggest areas for diversification in 2019 include social media, training, simulations and navigation.
With Google’s AR glasses for enterprise back in development, the business world is likely to see the most impact. This is likely to cause disruption in both old and new sectors, but will intimately change the way we interact with the world.
One of the most obvious ways that AR could be used by businesses was actually hinted at by Pokémon Go. During that initial popularity spike and steady growth since, many physical businesses saw a surge in sales.
A few days after the app came out, they realised that their location was a designated ‘PokéStop’ and that people who were stopping by to play the game were staying in the shop and making purchases at the same time.
While you don’t need to use games to achieve this, it does suggest that adopting AR functionality in your bricks and mortar locations could increase the length of stay in the business, and their rate of sales too.
You could also use AR as a way to add ‘experiential events’ to your products, creating more brand loyalty. It can even be used as a form of ‘try before you buy’ system, to showcase how furniture or other items would look in your rooms before you buy them.
All of these things are already being used by businesses, but they have been slow starters. Now, we are seeing businesses really getting on board with AR in an enterprise setting, with 67% of businesses saying they are considering the adoption of AR within the next 3 years.
Ultimately, the wide-ranging possibilities of AR mean that it is likely to gain some serious traction in 2019, possibly becoming a ‘household technology’ for businesses and home users alike. With new innovations and hardware making it possible to roll out AR on a wider scale, we predict that the demand will lead to more funding or amazing experiences and content for customers.
We’d love to know what you think about the future of AR, so please do comment below with your thoughts. And if you have any questions about the business applications of AR, or you would just like to know more, all you have to do is get in touch with us today.