We all enjoy watching the Sci-Fi movies where our heroes do the tricks. We all love playing more realistic video games. There are several such incidents taking place around us and they happen so often that we have even got used to them.
The role of technology in businesses has been continuously increasing. One such technology that has changed the way we use to do our tasks is Augmented Reality (AR).
Augmented reality adds features to our real-world objects. It enhances them and makes them interactive for the users. Instead of creating a completely virtual phenomenon, Augmented Reality offers us to use our physical objects combined with some digital features.
It is facilitating humans with a lot of features that simplify complex tasks. Let us begin with a brief description of AR.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality is the enhanced version of real-life objects which are achieved using digital tools like visuals, graphics, audio, and other sensory stimuli.
In other words, we can say that AR involves overlaying visual, auditory, and sensory information onto the world to enhance the overall experience. AR is a trending technology among mobile computing companies and business application companies in particular.
Augmentation means adding something to an existing object or thought and that is what AR exactly does. It presents real-world objects in an enhanced form before us and with this addition, the perceptions about the objects also change.
Use of AR in different industries
Top 7 trends in AR
1. Mobile AR
With the introduction of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore software development kits (SDKs), the development tools have been standardized.
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 1.5 years has also been democratized.
Apple brought AR to the mass audience of mobile users and has acquired the market leader since it unveiled its ARKit 2.0 at WWDC 2018 and ARKit 3.0 at WWDC 2019.
ARKit has always dominated ARCore and it can be seen even today.
2. AR in shopping
People are getting used to AR in shopping
With the introduction of different technologies, our traditional way of shopping also changed.
Nowadays, people love to shop online and according to BRP’s 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, Nearly 50% of Consumers are More Likely to Shop at Retailers that Offer Virtual or Augmented Reality.
The report also revealed that about 32% of the retailers had plans to use augmented and virtual reality within three years.
Makeup, fashion, and lifestyle brands are all prepared to use technologies that handle facial recognition, adapt to local lighting conditions and provide personalized advice.
Virtual assistants will also significantly change the shopping experience.
“The impact of AR or VR in retail can be transformative. Retailers can use AR as an extension of the brand experience to engage customers in immersive environments and drive revenue. For example, IKEA’s Place app enables customers to virtually ‘place’ IKEA products in their space. Additionally, AR can be used outside the store after a sale to increase customer satisfaction and improve loyalty.”
-Hanna Karki, Principal Analyst, Gartner
3. AR-powered solution for the enterprise
Smart glasses are one of the top developments in the AR space. They are being used by enterprises, however, they still seem few years off as consumer solutions.
Microsoft HoloLens 2, which was announced in February 2019, was a much-anticipated product in this space. Improvement in prototyping, testing, quality control, and troubleshooting are expected to emerge with the use of AR by the enterprises.
This will aid the workers to make on-the-fly comparisons against the available documentation and specifications.
"With an increasing number of enterprises embracing AR/VR technologies for diverse use cases such as retail showcase, assembling, maintenance, indoor navigation in airports, and training, the market outlook for AR/VR will continue to remain strong. As organizations prepare for Future of Work, AR/VR will play a critical role in augmenting workforce capabilities. The ongoing advancements in hardware and software – initiatives and efforts by tech giants such as Google (ARCore), Apple (ARKit 3), and Microsoft (HoloLens) – will open more transformational opportunities and will further push the wide-spread adoption of AR/VR.”
- Deepan Pathy, Research Manager for Future of Work,
AR/VR, and Mobility at IDC Asia/Pacific.
4. Augmented Reality enhanced by Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are two rapidly-growing sectors of technology. Their integration with Augmented and Mixed reality systems is more of an extension of many things best suited to AI and ML, like computer vision.
Point-and-shoot retail AR solutions will also be a key innovation. For example, a shopper can be provided AI-based assistance.
Questions like prices, features, and current offers can be answered by chatbots based on Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies. Responses can be tailored according to unique user profiles, allowing greater personalization.
Robust AI and ML solutions can be extended to the AR and MR spaces to provide value to everyday users of mobile devices.
In the web space, Chrome AR is a highly anticipated product of 2020. Users can log on to AR-enabled websites instead of using specialized apps and can avail the same level of functionality.
Mozilla is also involved with WebAR and is trying to bring AR solutions to Firefox.
However, these standards are yet to be established and the implementation of AR in browsers is under active development.
LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, is a remote sensing method used to measure the exact distance of an object on the earth’s surface.
Although it is a six-decade-old technology, its scope across numerous fields, especially in smartphone technology, has been identified recently.
LiDAR technology is seeing great support on consumer devices such as iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and iPad Pro 2020.
Apple has been using AI and Big data, and now AR has been added to the list as well. The incorporation of LiDAR started with iPad Pro 2020.
One of the main benefits of LiDAR is people occlusion. This allows people in the frame to occlude virtual objects giving a more immersive AR experience.
7. AR in Automotive Industry
AR has been extensively used in the automotive industry. One of the prime applications is the use of AR HUDs (head-up displays). HUDs are the latest addition in the driver assistance systems.
The top benefit of HUDs is driver safety. Since it projects real-time data like warning signals, speed, navigation, etc. directly on the screen, it allows the drivers to focus on the roads.
The HUD can make drivers aware of potential hazards that may go unnoticed without posing any sort of distraction or obstructing their view of the road.
Some top users of AR in the automotive industry are Volvo, BMW, and Lexus. BMW used HUD in BMW 7 series to display content in a foggy atmosphere or a low-visibility area.
Top 5 use cases of AR
Amid the rise of big data analytics, the primary goal of AR has been to highlight specific features of a real-world object, increase awareness and understanding of those features, and derive smart insights that can be later applied to real-world applications.
Companies can use this big data to gain insight into consumer buying behaviors, and can later use them in decision making and strategy formation. Companies also use AR to promote their products or services, launch novel marketing campaigns, and collect unique user data.
To understand this better, let us look at the top 5 innovative uses of AR by companies to promote their products.
1. PepsiCo MAX
In the year 2014, when AR was a new concept, PepsiCo adopted it to prank commuters in London. The commuters at a London bus stop were shown alien invasions, monsters erupting from sewers and grabbing pedestrians, and tigers prowling on the streets approaching the commuters.
This optical illusion was created by combining video footage from a camera mounted on the rear of the bus stop with pre-prepared special effects.
Have a look at the video footage of the whole incident to better understand it.
2. US Army
In 2017, The United States Army used Augmented Reality technology to give its soldiers an improved situational awareness. The tech used was the ‘Tactical Augmented Reality’ of TAR.
TAR is especially an eyepiece that allows its wearer to locate himself/herself as well as other people around the person more accurately. US Army soldiers used it to locate their positions as well as the location of others- both friends and foe.
When TARs were brought into use, experts said that it may replace the night vision goggles as TARs themselves offer the same. As TARs provide accurate positions of the soldiers, the need to carry an additional handheld GPS ended.
The eyepiece is connected wirelessly to a tablet that soldiers wear on their waists, plus it’s wirelessly connected to a thermal sight mounted on their rifles or carbines.
Watch this video to have a better understanding of the technology.
On 11 July 2017, Acura posted a video on its Facebook page, streaming the world’s first live augmented reality race. Acura featured its 2018 TLX Sedan in the competition and four influencers competed in the “What A Race” AR experience for the fastest overall time during three-lap individual runs.
Each lap triggered a new AR course visible to the driver and the Facebook Live audience, with a unique set of visuals and obstacles that tasked the Acura TLX A-Spec's precise handling to overcome. Cameras mounted to the drivers’ helmets brought viewers directly in on the action.
Each driver sported customized-built race helmets with AR technology embedded in an extra-wide visor, allowing for an unprecedented full-color, HD, 180-degree viewing experience.
The helmets were connected to a computer in the rear seat that provided the high performance-rendering capacity needed to keep the experience running smoothly and visually sharp at high speeds–all powered by the Acura TLX.
Back in 2015, Disney Research developed a technology that made coloring book characters look 3D when they were being colored. It may sound like the simplest application of AR but back then it showed the potential AR possessed and what it may look like in the future.
Three years ago when L’Oréal partnered with Perfect Corp. to integrate the companies’ make collection in YouCam Makeup App, it realized the future of AR.
It was a move that challenged the way people discovered, tried, and bought beauty products.
So, these were some innovative uses of AR by companies to enhance and promote their product and services.
We often hear people use the term Virtual Reality (VR) whenever there is a mention of AR. These two terms are easily confused. So, we will quickly look at the basic differences between these two terms.
Difference between AR and VR
Augmented Reality (AR) differs from Virtual Reality (VR) in the sense that AR has to do with adding and masking features to a real-world object, on the other hand, VR creates a complete virtual environment and stimuli.
In AR, part of the surrounding is actually real while in VR, the surrounding environment is completely virtual.
For example, VR can be used to demonstrate the walk-through of insides of a building while AR can be used to demonstrate the structure and system of the building superimposed on the real-life view. Companies are using AR and VR to show their future possible products.
Companies such as Mountain Equipment Co-op or Lowe's use augmented reality to allow customers to preview what their products might look like at home through the use of 3D models.
However, both of these technologies fall under extended reality.
Having read almost everything about Augmented Reality (AR), we can now differentiate between VR and AR.
These top trends in AR are just a matter of time. In the coming days, a lot of other names will add to the list.
AR has evolved from being reckoned as a technology of the future to become in-demand technology. The 5 innovative uses of AR by companies to drive attention were just the start of AR’s journey of evolution.