Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality: these are all buzzwords today but what do they really mean and what impact will they have on our world? Let’s start with some basic definitions.
- Augmented reality (AR): the addition or overlay of digital content to our physical world, in which the digital content does not react with the real world
- Virtual reality (VR): an immersive artificial reality that replaces the real world, allowing the user to interact within that virtual world
- Mixed reality (MR): the addition of digital content to the physical world, where the content can also interact with physical elements (mix of AR and VR)
For this blog, we’ll explore augmented reality, specifically mobile AR, both as it exists now and what to expect in the future.
Early AR experiences
Early AR experiences were restricted to headsets like Mira Prism and glasses such as Google Glass. Because these options relied on an obvious piece of hardware worn on one’s head, AR technology continued to evolve, eventually moving to mobile smartphones. One of the earliest examples of this was Pokemon Go, where players could see digital Pokemon through their phone among real world objects.
All these examples, however, really only simulate true AR, as objects appear to float in front of you on top of the physical world, but in a crude, obvious way. As tech evolves further, AR will become more of a seamless experience—and is already moving in that direction.
Pokemon Go was just the beginning of mobile-based AR. Just since 2017, new mobile platforms have been introduced by Apple (ARKit) and Google (ARCore), essentially turning every smartphone into an AR viewer. These platforms use the phone’s camera and other sensors to create unique AR experiences.
Now that AR is enabled on over 500 million devices and any app developer can tap into AR technology, there are over 2000 AR apps in the iOS App Store and 200+ on Google Play.
Mobile AR consumer use cases
Now and in the near future, there are two main use cases for consumers. The first and most popular is entertainment, including stickers and games. Stickers are fun apps that work with a phone’s camera to add still or animated elements to a screen or image. Games run the gamut from geolocation adventure games to sports games to table and board games.
The other main use case is content creation. Many companies and apps are building tools to enable 3D content creation and editing. One cool example is Filmr, which allows for fast and easy film editing, including adding 3D objects and special effects.
Mobile AR commercial use cases
There are potentially unlimited commercial uses for AR as the technology and capabilities continue to expand. Here are a few of those options:
- Marketing: Companies are already coming out with unique ways to use AR for marketing purposes, such as the IKEA Place app that allows users to digitally place furniture within their home to see how it would look.
- Advertising: As advertising and media grow to new levels of overwhelm, AR offers interesting opportunities to target advertising in different ways, such as floating AR signs or ads.
- Medical: AR technology allows doctors and surgeons to reach new levels of precision, such as the example of superimposing a patient’s MRI during surgery to help the surgeon operate more exactly.
- Customer service: Customer service has many AR opportunities, from a consumer learning a new product without reading a manual to connecting digitally with a service provider to troubleshoot on an item.
- Design: When designing new products with intricate parts, AR helps workers visualize an end product and build it correctly.
- Collaboration/communication: AR vastly expands communication and collaboration abilities among teams, particularly for collaborating remotely while working within a physical job site or location.
What’s next in mobile AR
In order to continue improving AR capabilities, especially in terms of quality and seamlessness, the industry collectively must face a foundational challenge of creating a 3D map of the indoor and outdoor world. This will enable more engaging, realistic AR experiences.
Both mobile AR and AR headsets are expected to continue growing, with more and more sophisticated applications for consumer and commercial use. In addition to unique, new AR apps, expect to see many existing apps adding on AR as a feature, allowing them to add excitement to an existing app without developing something from scratch.
Finally, we expect to see a change in terminology. Extended reality (XR) is a term encompassing AR, VR, and MR. As all these technologies rapidly advance as solutions for real-world problems and entertainment options, there will be less distinction between the three and more classifying more broadly as XR.
Imajion is using extended reality to improve communication and collaboration within construction projects, through Project xR. Project xR puts a suite of powerful, easy-to-use mixed reality capabilities at your disposal. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, Project xR takes construction professionals beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with remote sites in entirely new ways.