7 Augmented Reality Trends to Watch in 2018 And After
We can name two recent events that pretty much defined the future of augmented reality for the rest of this year. Our team attended the first of the two—Augmented World Expo—which summarized the present. The second one—Apple WWDC 2018—looked into the future. Taken together, they illustrate where AR stands today and where it will be over the next year or two. That said, let us sum up our impressions and thoughts in 7 augmented reality trends.
Trend #1: Mobile AR is stealing the show
and changing the market
Having once brought AR to the mass audience of mobile users, Apple secured its AR market leadership as it unveiled ARKit 2.0 at WWDC 2018. In terms of technology, the introduced advances placed mobile AR in the same line with headset-based AR, if not above it. Besides rather predictable tracking, measuring, and rendering improvements, we got 3D object detection, which is a major leap for the practical use of ARKit in mobile development.
Additionally, Apple highlighted persistent experiences, shared AR spaces, and a new file format for AR objects, which will basically comprise the entire experience of an AR object. This format is called Universal Scene Description (USDZ), and it will be open to third-party software. Mobile AR is clearly stealing the show, in some way owing to the second trend...
Trend #2: Uncertainty in the world of AR headsets
As you know, uncertainty can be quite unsettling. There were quite a few AR/MR headsets presented by their creators at the Augmented World Expo. A lot of them showed much potential for the market, yet none showed inarguable readiness. There is no clearly defined leader for the niche, and even Microsoft HoloLens has its issues with convenience and its price tag, which lowers chances for widespread corporate use. However, it does not prevent developers from unleashing creativity in creating software—check our own HoloLens demo for a good example.
However, while some companies will think twice about investment in product development for AR/MR headsets, we should say that pioneering can pay off in the long run. This leads us to the third trend...
Trend #3: AR market remains open
to innovative solutions
If your business idea is viable, and if your planned product is a well-thought solution to a well-defined problem, you have all the chances to occupy a fine share of your market. Such an idea can succeed even despite state-of-the-art AR technologies which, while rapidly advancing, are far from being perfect yet.
At AWE, we saw business solutions that we thought were really impressive. For example, several companies demonstrated solutions for indoor navigation. The principles were similar to those we described in our own ARKit cases – starting point, scene positioning, marks and so on. But in some of these products, convenience was sacrificed in favor of good visuals and slowed down the user's pace. It's not a good thing if a person wants to get to the destination as soon as possible.
However, products—just like technologies they are based on—will be polished and improved over time. Meanwhile the market remains open to them. Considering the substantial growth of ARKit, we might see a number of innovative products widely adopted over the next several years.
Trend #4: User experiences become more natural
There were lots of talks about improved gesture recognition at the event. However, the issue of gaze direction tracking was definitely more interesting. The more natural controls are, the more convenient the product is for the user. You can simply look at an object and it will be detected; it's the way we do in real life, without the need to turn our head. We saw a number of such AR/VR prototypes, the best of which featured gesture-triggered animation of the virtual objects that the user looked at.
There was also a company that focused on minimization of tracking lags, which is a relevant issue for modern AR devices. Although these lags last mere milliseconds, they cause discomfort for human perception. However, it's nothing that good AR testing can't tackle. The best demos that we saw helped the user feel natural immersion in extended environments.
Now, speaking about extended environment...
Trend #5: Extended Reality (XR) —
a new buzzword in the world of tech
This notion stands for any form of digitally altered reality, comprising Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR). The 'X' in XR can stand for any of these letters. Different realities have different origins and purposes; despite all that, boundaries sometimes tend to be erased, while similarities and overlaps grow more evident. We believe this term will gain much wider use in the near future.
Trend #6: Entertainment remains the main industry for XR products
One of our previous posts revealed possible use cases for XR in business. However, entertainment currently overshadows all of them—especially in the sphere of virtual reality—and it is not likely to step down any time soon.
That said, we believe in the full potential of extended reality. While Apple demonstrated shared AR with a game, a lot of people must have thought about shared educational experiences. This rapid growth of mobile AR will be increasingly appealing for both software developers and businesses.
Trend #7: Technologies abandon revolution
in favor of evolution
One can argue whether the last few WWDC events boasted truly revolutionary announcements, but we have no need to. Now it is time for businesses to build revolutionary solutions and undergo AR-based digital transformation based on gradually evolving technologies.
2018 is not likely to become the breakthrough year for AR, but Apple will do their best to bring as much of it to masses as they can. Other companies will not slow down either—we even encountered cross-platform AR at the event, built with an idea that some want their AR directly in browsers, without the need to download mobile apps.
All in all, we feel really enthusiastic about applying XR technologies for business, and our participation in AWE only warmed up our interest. While visuals do matter, it's the algorithmic part that is essential for AR development—and this is where our own expertise is steadily growing (see our mobile AR case study or ARKit development guide for detailed examples).
About the Author
Andrew Makarov is the Head of Mobile Development at MobiDev with more than 8 years of software development experience, as well as in-depth expertise in encryption, prognostics, numerical computing, and algorithmization. He is an active speaker at world's top tech events, and his latest passion is development of mobile Augmented Reality software.
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