Augmented and virtual reality technology saw record growth and adoption throughout 2019 and into 2020. Commercial support for AR/VR is strongly positioned with big tech names like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon (AWS) and Google making serious commitments to infrastructure, services and consumable applications for developers and organizations.
These tech giants are heavily investing to scale their AR/VR environments, and offer ecosystem integrations to extend functions, business models and experiences across their product lines. Think: Microsoft’s HoloLens, Amazon’s Sumerian, and Google’s Cardboard, while Apple plans to release a headset sometime in 2021.
Augmented reality has to be regarded as one of the most exciting technological developments of recent years. The industry is ripe for innovation and disruption in retail, automotive, education and gaming sectors to name a few, and it is only getting bigger.
According to Statista, in the space of five years, augmented reality headsets will go from generating $200 million in revenue to a seismic $48.7 billion industry. What does this entail for organizations wishing to engage and adopt these strategies to stay ahead of the curve and benefit from early adoption and unique experiences?
Major AR/VR Trends for 2021
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 the last 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. Major mobile device manufacturers anticipate that they’ll see brisk improvements in adoption figures as new phones continue to hit the mobile market.
2. Augmented & Virtual 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. Certainly, Augmented Reality will change the way we shop in 2021.
Several companies have gotten out in front of consumer demand for AR shopping. American Apparel, Uniqlo and Lacoste have deployed showrooms and virtual fitting rooms that provide try-before-you-buy options in augmented reality spaces. Other major brands are using Snapchat AR filters, enabling users to try before you buy. Consequently, social apps are now enabling linkage and transaction flows to online stores after utilizing their filter technologies. This becomes a compelling model for major retailers to follow.
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.
3. Using AR for Navigation Solutions
One of the most obvious use cases, yet still not widely adopted, is using AR technologies for indoor navigation, and 2021 is expected to be a year where 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.
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 or embedded into other applications.
4. Augmented Reality enhanced by Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are rapidly growing sectors in tech, and are part of the wave of “Digital Transformation” strategies that are taking hold across enterprise organizations.
Bringing AR/VR together A.I. & ML systems are a natural extension of many of the experiences that are best suited for interacting with users and displaying media within these environments. Likewise, the ability to create human-machine processes that handle problems like disease diagnosis, fashion fits for retails, educational training for automotive technicians and more 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.
5. Remote assistance via shared Augmented Reality
Even before the Pandemic, it’s been predicted that 25-30% of the workforce will work from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. Collaborative efforts, such as conference calls, are often undermined by the lack of a direct personal presence. AR, however, can create mixed-reality settings where everyone on a conference call can see each other in a more socially conducive environment.
Microsoft is moving forward with a beta of a video-calling system that employs augmented reality to create holographic-style representations of participants. Cisco Systems is also working on a project called Musion that brings together its networking products with AR technologies.
AR-based remote assistance sessions is a use case that may promote innovation. A combination of WebRTC and AR makes it possible to conduct real-time maintenance work and troubleshooting. By leveraging concurrent data streaming, assistance providers can join more directly in the maintenance, configuration and repair processes.
The Future of Augmented & Virtual Realityy
Experts are predicting that the AR/VR industry will reach more than $25B by 2025—and the growth will continue steadily. That’s a bright future of augmented reality!
The time is now to invest, research, explore and get into the mindset that augmented and virtual reality experiences will become one of the defacto user interface methods application developers use to create the most impact.
Consumers will expect it, organizations will need it, and button line revenue, growth and scale will become deeply interdependent on this adoption and innovation.
We at Nodo are already building using AR/VR technology for big brands across the globe. In case you need help to build a solution with these emerging technologies, get in touch with us.