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What’s Next for Augmented Reality?

13.10.2021

What’s Next for Augmented Reality?

In a nutshell, augmented reality technology provides you with a semi-immersive experience by superimposing digital elements over the real-world environment — be that through your smartphone’s screen or a pair of AR smart glasses.

While many of us still associate AR with the crazy success of Pokémon Go and hilarious Snapchat filters, the pandemic has shifted brands’ attention to its great potential as a practical tool for boosting online customer interactions.

AR’s capabilities paired with highly performant camera phones, the unparalleled speed and connectivity of 5G technology, and the development of more affordable and comfortable AR headsets have expanded use cases beyond entertainment and gaming into industries such as e-commerce, marketing, healthcare, and manufacturing.

As AR is maturing, brands willing to capitalize on its functionality can gain a significant competitive advantage over their competitors while providing an enhanced user experience. To help you make the best decision for your business, we’ve gathered the top 6 trends to look out for in the AR arena next year.

Augmented Reality trends to keep an eye on in 2022

#1 Mobile AR 

According to a recent report, the global market for mobile augmented reality, estimated at US$10.7 billion in 2020, is expected to reach US$230.6 billion by 2027. Among the main factors that will boost AR use among consumers, we count the long-awaited arrival of 5G networks, LiDAR-equipped smartphones, and powerful AR open-source development platforms such as Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore.

The next generation of wireless communication, aka 5G, is finally here and is set to accelerate the adoption of AR technology due to its faster data speed, low latency, and high-quality visual content. That being said, users who are willing to upgrade to a 5G-compatible phone will be able to get a taste of life-like 8K resolution streaming and seamless 360° and 3D virtual experiences.

When it comes to AR development tools, Apple’s ARKit is currently dominating the market by allowing developers to leverage the power of LiDAR devices such as iPad Pro, iPhone 12 & 13 the Pro/ Pro Max models. LiDAR stands for ‘laser imaging, detection, and ranging’ and is a depth sensor used to enhance augmented reality experiences by displaying virtual objects within a space more quickly and with better accuracy.

The rival ARCore technology is not far behind, with Google announcing a new AR capability called Raw Depth API earlier this year, which promises to deliver more realistic AR experiences for Android users.

#2 AR Wearables

It’s been two years since Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 launched and provided enterprise users with a hands-free, collaborative AR device featuring hand and eye-tracking, built-in voice commands, and advanced spatial mapping. Nevertheless, devices such as HoloLens 2, Magic Leap 1, and even the latest Lenovo ThinkReality A3 smart glasses have yet to become affordable and portable enough for the average user.

At the end of 2020, Facebook announced Project Aria, a research project from Facebook Reality Labs that aims to develop the first generation of wearable augmented reality devices for widespread consumer use. As exciting as the news is, Facebook admitted that we’re still far from getting our hand on this new technology as several advancements in audio and visual input, AI, and lightweight frame design are still required.

While we wait to see how Facebook’s project pans out, we have our eyes on another contender in the AR world. Apple is rumored to be working on a new AR/mixed reality headset, which could potentially be released in the second half of 2022. The device is supposed to be connected to an iPhone that handles the processing while its LiDAR built-in scanner powers the immersive AR experience

#3 AR for manufacturing

Augmented reality can guide factory employees through the steps of repairing, upgrading, and maintaining a wide range of industrial equipment with the help of realistic and interactive 3D simulations. In other words, AR can be used to create a digital twin of the equipment that employees can easily and safely interact with or overlay detailed technical information and instructions atop the real-world machinery. 

Thus, AR technology eliminates the need to refer back to old-school printed manuals (or even digital ones) or disassemble and reassemble the actual products during the learning process. Moreover, it helps employees perform tasks with varying degrees of complexity such as repairs, installations, and assemblies more accurately by cutting down the learning curve.

AR also facilitates remote collaboration, enabling field technicians to get real-time assistance from skilled experts by allowing the latter to see what the technicians see and solve the problem more efficiently. This industrial use is crucial in the COVID-19 era, where travel restrictions greatly limit in-person interactions.

#4 AR for e-commerce 

Amid worldwide physical shop closures and strict social distancing restrictions, brands like IKEA, Sephora, Adidas, and Warby Parker used AR applications as an engaging medium for try-before-you-buy online shopping experiences

Their AR strategy not only personalized the buyer’s journey but also reduced customer anxiety by enabling people to visualize and interact with 3D product simulations before making a purchase and find the best product fit in no time. 

The Snap Consumer AR Global Report findings come to support AR’s potential while highlighting that product pages with AR experiences led to a 94% higher conversion rate compared to traditional product images or videos. If you want to discover more cool AR e-commerce stats and trends, we invite you to check our latest article.

#5 AR for healthcare & employee training

AR adoption has been gaining traction in the healthcare industry, especially in areas such as student education and medical staff training, surgical visualization, and routine procedures assistance. 

Through AR technology, medical students can take part in immersive training programs that allow them to get a better understanding of human anatomy and medical procedures as opposed to 2D diagrams they can encounter in books or online. Also, doctors can quickly access real-time patient information such as MRI data and CT scans, which they can use to make an accurate diagnosis or perform complicated procedures.  

#6 AR for marketing 

With millennials and Generation Z busy exploring incipient forms of the metaverse, marketers have turned to AR to create unique and interactive brand experiences that can successfully capture their attention and generate brand awareness.

A great example of embedding AR into marketing efforts is the AR app Adidas created for one of their brand activation campaigns that celebrated the launch of a new shoe model, the Nite Jogger. To build this app, Adidas turned 3D sculptures created in VR by four different artists into interactive artwork that users could display at the Warsaw event.

How long before Augmented Reality enters our everyday life?

While that’s hard to predict yet, what we can say for sure is that, with big players like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google actively investing in AR hardware and software, the future of augmented reality looks promising. And although we’re still years off from mass consumer adoption, AR apps have already had a significant impact across various industries. 

From connecting brands and consumers during coronavirus lockdowns and allowing online shoppers to virtually try on a product to providing medical students with engaging training opportunities outside the dissection lab and helping workers in factories get access to essential information when conducting repairs and maintenance, AR is constantly proving its worth. 

Our team of experts at Flint Tech can help you uncover those use cases that will enable you to augment your business and turn complex ideas into practical tools. If you’re planning to embark on an AR journey, contact us and we’ll make sure you reach your goals.

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