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Augmented Reality Apps and their Future

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

AR enhances the real-world environment by overlaying information and virtual objects on real-world scenes in real-time, creating an interactive experience; essentially using the existing environment and adding information to it to make a new partly artificial environment. Devices that use AR first emerged in the late 80s, although its popularity and field exposure has increased dramatically in the last few years, especially following the 2013 launch of Google Glass. Developers have since, increased focus on creating AR products such as wearable devices and interactive commercial use.

App marketplaces and the smartphone industry alike have seen a significant rise in the prevalence of AR implementation. App makers can now create emulate the experience of using an actual AR device and deliver an integrated user experience by using various features of a smartphone. While AR devices can go further in their capabilities than normal smartphones including projecting high-resolution 3D images and manipulating those images with movement, many large brands have begun to incorporate AR into their innovation strategies.

The Growth of AR Apps

Revenue for AR-based apps has increased 603.34% in the last 3 years as these capabilities have seen increased investment across this time; this trend of investment and innovation is expected to continue. Touchstone Research suggests that AR will overtake the current personal computing style in the near future, stating that over 40 AR headset and glasses products are already on the market or in the advanced stages of development, companies that have started this development include Microsoft, Google, and Apple, in addition to dozens of well-funded startup companies. Augmented reality is much more accessible than virtual reality systems, as smartphones can be used to enjoy augmented reality apps while virtual reality immersion relies on headsets to achieve the desired effect.

Some note has been given to the possibility of hand-held smartphones becoming obsolete as a result of AR devices, but there is also a chance that smartphones have become the primary device for AR capabilities. Although smartphones do not currently live up to the actual potential of augmented reality devices and are relatively basic, innovation in the field will enable new smartphone configurations that have AR capabilities and heavy AR apps will soon become the norm, with many online retailers using AR with AI to incorporate a "try on" feature as well as gaming apps such as Pokemon Go use AR to enhance the user experience. AR marketing has proved to be extremely popular with consumers, 61% report that they prefer businesses that offer AR capabilities to those who don't, while an additional 68% spend more time with products when AR advertising is available.

A UK survey assessed the effectiveness of traditional and AR marketing finding that;

  • Just 45% of participants considered purchasing the item that used traditional Marketing which increased to 74% with AR marketing.

  • Time interacting with the advertisement increased by 591.6% with AR marketing

  • Cost estimation of the product increased by 33.39% with AR marketing

There has been much speculation on the extent to which the pre-existing smartphone ecosystem has reached its maximum convenience potential, especially with the integration of IoT apps and compatible hardware. AR-compatible devices have been steadily increasing, with many flagship being AR compatible, its utilization will add value to expensive flagships and add luxury to the hardware upgrade that more expensive smartphones provide. Because of this, app and phone makers such as Apple (see their placements of AR apps here) will continue to place increasing focus on AR apps.

The Future of Apps

There is a truly incomprehensible scope of what impact AR can have on the current app market and environment, but because of these possibilities speculation around AR successfully replacing and/or integrating with traditional mobile apps has been increasing.

While AR is an increasingly popular topic among consumers and developers alike, the devices that enable the full experience have not been exposed to a large enough demand base for the price to fall to affordable rates, until this happens, smartphone-based integration with AR apps will continue to develop and rise, which has the potential to make the market for specialized devices eve smaller.

AR applications have so many potential uses in a vast range of fields for example; psychology education and clinical applications. Some of these applications were noted by Psychology Today;

  • HoloHear is a HoloLens application that translates speech into sign language; when a user runs the app, they see an avatar using sign language as well as subtitles.

  • Autism Speaks has funded a project that uses AR systems to teach autistic teens about social skills in job interview settings and meetings with new people.

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