10 Augmented Reality Trends of 2022: A Vision of Immersion
Augmented reality technology has proven to be one of the top innovations opening up new growth points for businesses around the world. Analysts predict that the AR market will reach $198 billion in 2025. This year, the number of mobile AR users is expected to reach 3.5 billion.
With a large market to tap into, providing AR experiences can be a competitive edge in many industries. The improving technology also stands to allow for greater efficiency in the workplace. Let’s take a look at some of the augmented reality trends driving innovation in 2022.
Trend #1: Mobile Augmented Reality Is Evolving
Mobile augmented reality has many clear advantages that make it the center of much of the technology’s attention. Many users already own an AR capable smartphone, so there’s no need for them to go out of their way to get an expensive and bulky headset. Mobile devices, by their nature, are very portable and easy to bring into nearly any space.
Apple ARKit 5
The latest version of Apple’s open source mobile augmented reality development toolset, ARKit 5, offers significant improvements from ARKit 4. Some of the most important enhancements include expanded support for location anchors, improved motion tracking, and greater face tracking in the ultra wide camera on the 5th generation iPad Pro. App Clip Codes also enable AR experiences that can be activated through a quick scan.
Location anchors have seen improvements since they were introduced in ARKit 4. Location anchors enable enhanced AR-based navigation solutions. This allows app developers to place virtual objects with specific latitude, longitude, and altitude on the screen relative to the positions of real world objects. For example, location anchors could display a three dimensional icon or text in space next to an iconic building. Support for this feature has been expanded to London and other cities in the United States in ARKit 5.
Expanded face tracking now supports all devices with the A12 Bionic chip and later, even without TrueDepth Camera, like iPhone SE, so you can reach even more users. Also face tracking is now supported by the Ultra Wide camera in the latest iPad Pro (5th generation).
This feature allows for tracking of up to three faces at once.
App Clip Codes are useful QR code-like images that can be scanned to start up a lightweight portion of an app. Integrating this feature with ARKit allows for augmented reality experiences to be started up from anywhere without having to download additional software.
Business owners looking to build apps that utilize ARKit may find our ARKit Development Guide useful for getting an overview of how they can achieve their goals.
The Android equivalent of ARKit, ARCore provides the open source native tool set needed for developers to create augmented reality apps on Android devices. It is generally seen as being a bit of a different challenge than ARKit due to the fact that special attention should be paid to the wide variety of hardware that exists on devices running Android. Because of this, certain features may not be compatible with all Android devices.
This past year, Google introduced a few new features for ARCore such as recording and playback APIs. These enable developers to record video footage with AR metadata. By using depth and IMU motion sensor data, developers can recreate the same environment as in the video and use it for further testing. This opens up the opportunity for developers to more easily test specific environments with their software.
Recording and playback API isn’t just useful for developers, but for users as well. This technology makes it possible for users to record video and then apply AR effects later on since video can contain environmental metadata.
ARKit vs ARCore
The battle between ARKit and ARCore isn’t as clear cut as you might think. ARKit appears to have the best compatibility between software and hardware, as Apple is responsible for all aspects of their devices. However, not every user in the market owns an iPhone or iPad. ARCore is just as important to focus on due to user accessibility. Although support is not guaranteed for every Android device due to variation in hardware, including as many users as possible is important for remaining competitive.
In terms of actual performance, the technology behind these two frameworks is almost the same. For example, for applications like scene detection, the two technologies use the same methods, differing most significantly in hardware.
If you’d like to learn more about technologies and platforms for AR applications, read the MobiDev Experts’ Guide to Developing Augmented Reality.
Trend #2: Powering Indoor and Outdoor Navigation
In 2022, AR navigation has become more fluid and achievable than ever before. Most importantly, the rise of technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) antennas, Wi-Fi RTT and ultra wideband (UWB) make indoor navigation much more viable than in previous years. One of the most useful applications of this technology is for displaying AR directions in large indoor locations like distribution centers, shopping malls, and airports.
Watch the demo below to find out how MobiDev implemented mobile AR for navigation of the corporate campus.
Something that shouldn’t be overlooked is this technology’s potential to be used by both consumer and business users. Just as a guest in a store may use AR indoor navigation to find the product they’re looking for, a distribution center worker may use it to find a particular item in their warehouse. Although comfortable and affordable glasses with AR capability aren’t quite here yet, the capacity for the business applications of AR in distribution centers, stores, and other sectors is there. One of the leading device manufacturers, Zebra, has ARCore-capable mobile enterprise devices such as the TC52, TC57, and TC77. These are essentially Android-powered smartphones with barcode scanners intended for business use.
With indoor navigation, buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) services can be made much more efficient. Team members tasked to ‘pick’ the items in the store for order fulfillment can use AR directions to directly navigate to find the item as opposed to following coordinate directions to find the item. This eliminates time spent looking through many similar items and finding the correct aisle and section of the store. All the team member has to do is hold up their device and see the directions on screen.
There are some limitations that need to be taken into account, such as items that have been misplaced around the store. If they have been moved by guests or incorrectly logged into the system, the team member might use AR navigation on their device to arrive at an empty spot on a shelf.
Trend #3: Healthcare and Augmented Reality
According to Deloitte Research, augmented reality and AI will transform the traditional healthcare business model by offering AR/MR-enabled hands-free solutions and IA-based diagnostic tools. For example, Microsoft Hololens 2 can provide information to the surgeon while allowing them to use both of their hands during the procedure.
With the continued restrictions associated with Covid-19, the use of augmented reality solutions is becoming increasingly important to address issues such as the complexity of remote patient support and the increased burden on hospitals. This includes both telesurgery solutions and mental health apps that are helping people to maintain psychological balance during these difficult times.
AR technology can also improve telemedicine solutions that are on the rise right now. Features such as drawing and annotating on the 3D screen can make communication between doctors and patients much easier and clearer. Remote assistance tools can also help clinicians support their patients while reducing downtime.
Combining with machine learning algorithms, AR technology can become an efficient option for disease detection. Back in 2020, Google announced the development of an AR-based microscope for the Department of Defense (DoD) to improve the accuracy of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Such a hybrid device uses a camera to capture images in real time, which are then processed using computer diagnostics to immediately display results and diagnose diseases at an early stage.
According to Research Dive, the global augmented reality (AR) in the healthcare market is expected to generate $1,918.6 million by 2026.
Learn how AR and other innovative technologies are being used in healthcare by reading Health Technology Trends and Digital Innovation in 2022.
Trend #4: Augmented Reality Shopping Experiences
Augmented reality has numerous opportunities in the retail sector. One of these opportunities that is currently being realized is store mapping. With augmented reality, on-screen directions can help a user navigate the layout of the store to find the item that they need. Dent Reality is one of the companies developing AR mapping systems for stores. All the user has to do is hold their phone up and follow the augmented reality directions through the aisles to their destination: the item they’re looking for.
However, AR in retail doesn’t stop at navigation in 2022. In fact, it can help users shop in stores and from home. For example, AR-based marketing materials can not only improve the engagement of your audience but also increase the likelihood of purchases.
At MobiDev, we’ve created a demo that shows how a solution like augmented reality business cards can influence purchasing decisions by interactively presenting information about your products and services.
Augmented reality is also very useful for helping customers ‘test’ products before purchasing. Stores like Ikea and Target have already rolled out apps that allow users to use AR to see how furniture will fit in their homes. Many stores like Target, Sephora, and others are also using virtual try-on solutions to allow guests to test products like makeup, glasses, and even other types of clothing like shoes. Most importantly, this can be done in store or at home. As AR technology matures, the comfort of consumers will only increase.
As mobile virtual fitting room technology improves, so do in-store smart mirrors. In 2011, Topshop used virtual mirrors powered by Xbox Kinect 3D cameras. It was a great proof of concept that preceded more advanced use-cases today with better graphics and processing. According to Fortune Business Insights, the virtual fitting room market size was valued at $3.5 billion in 2021. It is expected to grow to $12.97 billion by 2028.
Trend #5: Augmented Reality and Remote Assistance
Augmented reality can greatly improve user experiences with assistance and learning. According to Owl Labs, in 2020 nearly 70% of workers in the U.S. working full time, work from home. With video conferencing being the lifeblood of telework, various problems emerge. How can we compensate for the lost context and benefits of meeting in the ‘real world?’
When we use video conferencing, we lose an entire dimension of context, moving into two dimensional space instead of three. This can negatively impact jobs like IT technical support. Teleconferencing is limited, only allowing IT specialists to make suggestions so that the user can fix the problem on their own before they choose to send their device into the office for repairs.
AR In Action: 3D Video Call Assistance
Augmented reality software can help at least partially restore that lost dimension of space back into the conversation. AR can allow IT technicians to give guidance to users with 3D on-screen directions. As the user holds their smartphone camera up to their computer in need of service, the IT technician can draw over the screen to direct the customer to certain points of interest.
We developed a solution that does just that. You can see it in action in the video below.
Experiences like this can be constructed with WebRTC. This allows for both parties to connect to one another and see the same AR experience via a peer-to-peer connection. This is essential to make sure that the video is sent in real time without causing debilitating server load.
AR in Action: Virtual Manuals
As a slight departure from telework, virtual manuals are a compelling technology used in various industries to improve user satisfaction and understanding of products. It also has many applications in education. With object recognition, AR guides can identify objects and inform the user about their functions. This can make for effective guides for products like consumer electronics, vehicle interiors, and more.
The MobiDev demo below demonstrates this technology in action with a coffee machine. The AR guide in the video gives more context about the coffee machine’s capabilities and provides additional instructions all on the user’s smartphone.
Trend #6: Augmented Reality in Automotive Industries
AR technology has had profound impacts on vehicle safety and usability. Tesla Motors has demonstrated the possibilities of AR for the road. Although they haven’t implemented it as many might imagine with headsets, they have used almost identical technologies to make it possible. With the Full Self-Driving Beta now on the road and used by many consumers, drivers can see how the vehicle’s advanced suite of cameras consistently analyze the world around them using object detection and scene analysis. The results of this powerful system can be seen on the display of the vehicle, showcasing the car’s position in space relative to the many obstacles around it.
Heads Up Display
However, AR has other possible applications for drivers. It could help provide drivers with a heads up display (HUD) via a headset to give them safety information without obstructing their field of vision. With eye tracking, this kind of system and similar non-headset based solutions can help keep drivers focused on the road with auditory reminders.
The Volvo Varjo XR-1 headset is used for a proof of concept AR driver’s education system that can help drivers learn to respond defensively to obstacles that appear on the road without having the risk of the object actually being present.
Just like in other contexts, AR is an effective sales tool that can help sell cars even while the user is at home. Similar to how one can spawn IKEA furniture in their living room with AR, one can also generate a 3D model of a car in their driveway with their smartphone. The consumer can inspect the size and details of the vehicle, and even watch it move around. Perhaps most strikingly, it’s possible for the user to change the color of the vehicle to see which color they would prefer when purchasing it.
Trend #7: AR Glasses, Future or Fiction?
Augmented reality glasses and headsets have an interesting reputation. Although they are widely seen as the future of AR technology and have been tested and utilized in real world applications, they haven’t quite made the mainstream just yet. If they’ve made a landing point anywhere, it has been for enterprise and business solutions.
Although Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset is not priced or marketed for consumers, it is in use with the military and with medical practitioners for surgeries and training. The Synthetic Training Environment (STE) used by the US Army uses AR and VR to help immerse soldiers and simulate various scenarios. Australian aircraft technicians are now using Microsoft HoloLens with Boeing-developed software to maintain aircrafts.
Check the video below to see the HoloLens in action!
However, these headsets are far too bulky to be used by non-enterprise users, and the failure of Google Glass for consumers showed that we are a long way off from lightweight, comfortable to wear ‘AR glasses’. However, Google Glass launched eight years ago. Are we any closer now?
Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is in use by various businesses like DHL for order fulfillment. There are also plenty of rumors about AR glasses being made by companies like Apple but there isn’t much word on a comfortable to use, affordable and ‘normal’ looking pair of glasses that will take the consumer market by storm. That being said, ARtillery Intelligence expects that the market for this technology will grow from $822 million to $13.4 billion by 2024.
Trend #8: The Metaverse, Live Events, and Social Upheaval
Facebook may have taken the Internet by storm with its rebrand to Meta, but the concept of the Metaverse and upheaval of digital communication with extended reality space has been around for some time. The term originated in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 Snow Crash science fiction novel, perhaps speculating the eventual result of how large corporations take more and more control over the lives of consumers.
It’s important to be cautious of the effects of this shift in the market toward increasingly digital and virtual reality spaces, but ultimately the benefits of this technology can be profoundly helpful and provide businesses competitive advantages in many industries. Although the metaverse is very focused on VR spaces, the movement will likely transform AR’s use in business and consumer contexts as well.
One of the main pitches that Meta offered with its rebranding was the use of ‘metaverse’ technology to improve the way that we work through teleconferencing and hybrid meetings. The ultimate goal of this is to break down the barriers of traditional Zoom video conferencing and bring the third dimension back into the conversation, as well as human expression and inclusiveness. Microsoft Mesh is a project with HoloLens that helps enable hybrid meetings that enable VR and AR features. Users can see other teleconferencing users in 3D space by viewing their cartoon avatar or a floating box with their video camera.
Web AR: Better Accessibility to AR Features Comes With Compromise
One particular trend in enabling better access to AR features is Web AR. This has been used for various purposes like virtual career fairs, animated business cards, and sporting events. By powering an AR experience completely within a mobile device’s browser, the user doesn’t need to download any external applications.
However, this comes at a great cost. Web AR does not have access to the full scope of the device’s capabilities. This means that the quality and use-cases of web AR are very limited. For more advanced use of AR, we recommend you consider a native approach.
Although there are hundreds of millions of WebAR capable mobile devices out there, very few users actively use these experiences.
Trend #9: AR In Education
We’ve already touched on AR in education a little bit in this article with AR guides. With educational institutions being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum for innovation in this space has increased. Teams like Wikitude have created apps like Ai.R-Cord with the objective of helping elementary school students learn concepts with AR experiences and this is not the only example.
AR in education simplifies the perception of information and leverages technology to enable teachers to demonstrate virtual examples and gamify the learning process. This increases student engagement and speeds up the process of mastering the materials. For example, the Chem101 AR app helps students understand complex compounds in chemistry. Using special cards, students can virtually modify molecular structures and receive real-time information about them.
Augmented reality based apps can also give students access to unique learning environments that are difficult or even dangerous to experience in real life without proper preparation. For example, some apps help medical students learn more about human anatomy through AR visualization and 3D models, and even allow them to simulate surgeries.
In addition to classroom teaching, AR can also be used in employee training. This technology allows you to train your employees in a safe environment with less cost and higher efficiency. AR apps give an employee the opportunity not only to read about how something works, but to learn how to do it by making actions. Siemens and Japan Airlines have already resorted to this practice.
AR has every chance of increasing its presence in the education market in the coming years. Compared to VR, augmented reality offers more cost-effective options with the same benefits. All students need is an Internet connection, a smartphone or tablet, and augmented reality applications. There is no need to buy expensive equipment like a virtual reality headset. According to Statista, 83.96% of the world’s population owns a smartphone, which provides a favorable environment for adopting an AR experience.
According to Fact.MR forecasts, AR in the education market is projected to witness exponential growth over the coming years, reaching $85 Bn by 2031.
Trend #10: Improving Mobile AR Hardware & LiDAR
One popular trend in the augmented reality industry is improving hardware for mobile devices. In particular, Apple’s famous LiDAR sensor on its iPhone 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max smartphones as well as iPad Pro. By using infrared lasers, smartphones like Apple’s can determine the depth of scenes with more precision than ever before. This can make analysis of scenes for AR experiences better than ever.
Some Android phones use this technology as well with flash-based scannerless LiDAR. Samsung’s DepthVision uses a single flash of infrared light to analyze the depth of the scene. Once that’s done, a 3D map of the scene can be created. On the other hand, Apple offers a scanning LiDAR system. This uses time of flight (TOF) and continuously scans an area over time with various IR pulses in different areas of the scene.
The aforementioned Apple and Android devices are relatively comparable in their performance in delivering AR experiences to users. However, at the moment, it’s important to consider accessibility. LiDAR hardware is only available on higher end Apple products and Android devices, meaning that the vast majority of AR consumers will only have access to a certain level of quality. Developing applications with this in mind is critical to relevancy in 2022.
Future of Augmented Reality
With the AR industry continuing to climb in market value, augmented reality’s potential cannot be denied. Importantly, it’s clear that AR’s influence extends far beyond just gaming. It now extends to many different industries as demonstrated by the following chart:
Although gaming still has the highest share of industry revenue and will remain a relevant driver of AR, practical uses like in healthcare, engineering, and sales will continue to gain traction.
Real estate and corporate campus navigation will benefit from AR solutions as well. The growing trend of the ‘metaverse’ will also help accelerate hybridization of telework and virtual meetings with AR technologies.
If you have ideas about how to implement the above trends in your business, we’ll be happy to assist you with this task. For over 12 years, MobiDev has been helping businesses around the world discover the benefits of innovative technologies such as AR. With over 400 engineers on board, our team can provide the highest level of software development services for companies of all sizes and business domains. Being recognized as one of the top AR development providers by Clutch and GoodFirms, MobiDev has unique expertise in applying augmented reality in existing projects and creating new products based on this technology.
Feel free to find out more about MobiDev’s AR development services or contact us directly to discuss your next project.