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What’s the Future of Mobile AR and VR?

Tracing back to the 1860s, long before the development of digital technology, the first reference of ‘artificial reality’ came from the stage. Conceived by French playwright Antonin Artaud, the idea took the view that illusion was not distinct from reality.

Over 150 years later, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have become more than just a pipe dream, with new virtual reality technologies emerging every day. Mobile devices have taken advantage of these developments and it is predicted that more are on their way.

Let’s take a look into what the future holds for mobile AR and VR.

Smartphone Popularity

According to Statista, just over 36% of the world’s population are now using smartphones and the number of users will reach over 2.5 billion by 2019. This makes mobile applications a huge market and by 2020, mobile apps are forecast to generate around £150 billion in worldwide revenue.

As of March 2018, iOS has over 2,100,000 apps, ranging from useful tools such as Google Street View Camera, to in-depth video games, including Pokémon Go and Zombie Go. With so much competition in the market, developers are always looking for ways to get ahead and so keep branching out into the latest smartphone technologies.

For example, Chrome 67 is just one of the brands looking to make web-based mobile experiences better and will soon be laying down new foundations that will take advantage of smartphones’ sensors while combining AR and VR. This includes using the sensors to access data from the smartphone’s accelerometer, to create AR and VR games and utilities, like table top mazes or a digital compass.

A spokesperson for Chrome 67, explains: “The reason why smartphones make great VR and AR devices is that they already have the hardware needed for displaying and controlling the experience, from the screen to the camera and most especially to the sensors. With browser makers pushing the web as an open and more universal way do develop and experience games, VR/AR content will definitely need to get access to those components.”

You can learn more about this initiative here.

Mobile Augmented Reality (AR)

Pokémon Go

2016 was the year that AR became mainstream with the successful launch of Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go was an instant hit, with the mobile game allowing you to interact with your surroundings via a virtual map through the smartphone camera.

Almost 45 million users worldwide downloaded the game and, despite technical issues with the game’s server, it has managed to maintain its popularity.

John Hanke, CEO of Pokémon Go and developer at Niantic, says: “The game itself is intended to facilitate the real-life stuff. The reward is the encouragement and opportunity to go out and have new experiences, not the big scene at the end where the boss dies.”

Google A65 headset prototype

However, it is not just consumers who are curious about AR, with several other companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook all rushing to release platforms for smartphones. For example, Google plan to take AR to different level with the standalone headset ‘A65’, which is pitched to rival Microsoft’s HoloLens.

Game of Thrones Snapchat filters

At the beginning of 2018, HBO used Snapchat filters to help their fans bring Game of Thrones to life and is one of the premier examples of how AR can be implemented in advertising. AR is quickly becoming the front-runner in the gaming industry and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for it in other industries.

Mobile Virtual Reality (VR)

Compared to AR, mobile VR hasn’t quite hit the nail on the head yet as it’s still quite a new development. Overall, it’s going to take lower prices, better gear, better content and more funding to move the phenomenon from virtual to real. Many companies rushed into development and major headset launches such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset fell short of many analysts’ expectations.

Facebook’s VR headset failed to capture the heart of their audience

However, with research showing that the VR UK market value will increase to £354.3 million by 2020, a 390% increase from 2016, mobile VR could certainly be given the investment boost it needs.

Sony’s PlayStation VR

Although VR for mobiles hasn’t quite taken off, it’s certainly been making waves in the gaming industry; especially through brands such as Sony.

Despite transaction levels starting off slowly, sales of Sony’s PlayStation VR headset have now surpassed two million units worldwide and it has become the most popular VR for console use. This is probably down to its 150 titles, including exclusives such as ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ VR.

Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida, said: “This is just year one of VR. I always say that we are competing in the sense that engineers compete to create the best tech possible. We’re in this together, to really help each other to get more people to be interested and excited and become fans of VR.”

Industry Predictions

It is estimated that over the next few years, mobile AR and VR offerings will have increased massively and will expand outside the primary market of gaming. From healthcare to retail, AR and VR technologies will make six major industries thrive:

  • Military
  • Retail
  • Navigation
  • Business/Workplace
  • Healthcare
  • Education

Here are a couple of examples showing how mobile AR and VR is already being utilised in different industries:

AR in Retail

Lacoste and Topshop’s AR initiatives

With the majority of sales now taking place online, retailers want to provide shoppers with interactive experiences. It is estimated almost 70% of consumers expect retailers to launch an AR app within the next six months. This demand has inspired several retail brands to explore AR technology, with one of the most popular being Ikea Place, which allows users to virtually place IKEA furniture in their home before making a purchase.

Michael Valdsgaard, Leader Digital Transformation at Inter IKEA Systems, says: “IKEA Place makes it easier than ever before to make buying decisions in your own space, to get inspiration and try out many different products, styles and colours in real-life settings – all with a swipe of a finger. Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster.”

Sensor data reveals that the IKEA Place app is ranked in second place in Apple’s worldwide ARKit platform, showing this is just the beginning of AR retail apps. It is predicted that AR technology will eventually be integrated into all types of retail services from interactive marketing to facial recognition for orders.

VR in the Workplace

80% of businesses believe it will be important to use the latest technologies to close the physical distance with employees and customers. VR enables companies to do this and, as more small businesses adopt this technology, it will continue to spill over into different markets.

Mobile VR is predicted to take the workplace to a whole new level in the next few years and it is believed it will be utilised in a whole range of industries.

VR has been benefiting the workplace in multiple ways, such as:

  • Better communication across the world
  • Lower customer service costs
  • New advertising opportunities
  • Faster product prototyping
  • Safe testing environments
  • Less time-consuming training

Jaimy Szymanski, founding partner at Kaleido Insights, says: “These developments are not isolated into one particular industry. What we found in talking with a lot of leaders, innovators and practitioners is that these benefits span multiple industries. So something that might work for automotive could also work for healthcare and education.”

So What Does the Future Hold?

The future of mobile AR and VR looks promising, with predictions showing that, as the technology evolves, it will move more rapidly into a mixture of mainstream industries. Many app developers are already preparing for the growth and development of AR and VR and when it arrives in full our mobile devices will be ready for the change.

When this happens it is predicted that AR and VR will continue pushing beyond entertainment purposes, and move further into the types of applications that make us better at being human. These types of applications have the potential to change not only the reality of our existence, but to fundamentally change our lives.

Author: VR Reporter

I am a hi-tech enthusiast, VR evangelist, and a Co-founder & Chief Director at Virtual Reality Reporter!

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