The AR Platform Wars are Heating Up

For quite some time now, Augmented Reality (AR) has been deemed the ‘game-changer’ of immersive technologies. The industry is said to have a market cap of around $100 billion, with analysts predicting that AR will carry the brunt of that load by 2020, accounting for around a 75/25 split with VR. A few years ago, this would have been considered skepticism. Today, we’re seeing the bricks being laid for this future, and the notion is widely accepted.

The day that iOS 11 is released to the general public, will be a big one for the evolution of AR. Overnight, hundreds of millions of people will have access to AR apps, games, services, and more. Developers are hard at work to provide the golden use cases that this technology will enable. Using “world-tracking” technology, Apple will allow its users to move beyond 2D overlays, and into 3D animated objects that can interact with their surrounding environment. With all kinds of companies getting involved, we can expect some very cool use cases to be available upon release.

Meanwhile, Google had been setting the groundwork for this for quite a while with it’s Project Tango. However, Tango was only available on a few high end devices, and the powers that be quickly realized they needed greater reach in order to keep up and be successful. That’s why, this week, Google announced its answer to ARKit, with ARCore. It’s launching on the Google Pixel and Samsung S8, and Google promises for it to be available on 100 million android devices by this winter.

ARCore, much like ARKit, is built around the idea that AR technology should be available for everyone. If this means sacrificing depth sensing cameras, so be it. The platform allows environmental detection to detect flat surfaces, motion tracking so you can walk around objects, and light estimation which help objects fit into their surroundings. It maps the core experiences with basic environmental awareness. We even get some demo ability for Chromium, allowing developers to implement AR capabilities directly into their websites.

Other than Apple and Google, we’ve seen Facebook and Snapchat lead the way in terms of social AR capabilities. Snapchat was obviously first to the scene with lenses, and reimagined what the general public thought was possible with their mobile devices. Facebook quickly followed, introducing the same technology into it’s Instagram platform, as well as laying the groundwork for Facebooks camera to be the ‘first major AR platform’ – although, we’ve yet to really see that take off.

Implications

What it really comes down to, is that these companies are all trying to build a platform that can enable their user base to enhance their reality. AI and computer vision are setting the ground work for a day in which high quality ubiquitous Augmented Reality will dictate how we live our lives on a day to day basis. Socially acceptable glasses or contact lenses will replace our phones, and the technology that lives in them will run on the platforms that are being built by these companies.

Almost every brand can find some use cases for this technology. The key is to really understand how it can improve a consumer’s life. How can your brand have a virtual presence in their life?

For some, that may mean creating an interactive experience to learn about a product or service with a goal of reducing the friction from discovery to purchase. For others, that may mean providing additional information about someone’s surroundings through augmented effects. Machine Learning algorithms will make it possible to enhance these effects with live data, making it possible to create complimentary experiences for live events.

The key is to experiment, talk to customers, observe what competitors are doing. The technology is still new to the point that there’s really no wrong way to go about this. The only mistake you can make is to think that it can’t help.

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