As we wrap up 2016, we look back on a year of uncertainty. The question of AR versus VR remained a topic among investors and innovators alike. The challenge of mainstream adoption of either platform seemed unresolved. And, to be honest, it seemed that we just didn’t know to do with immersive technologies. What 2016 did give us, with certainty, is a much clearer perspective on the augmented reality trends that will drive both investment and innovation in 2017.
With AR revenue projected to reach $90 billion by 2020, there is a lot to be excited about looking forward. We have put together a list of 15 augmented reality trends for 2017 that we believe will drive where the smart money goes, and where development will occur.
1. AR Buy-Ins and Buyouts
The opportunity for innovative startups to acquire investment cash — or to get acquired, themselves — has never been better. Apple has acquired AR startup Metaio, motion-capture technology company Faceshift, artificial intelligence startup Emotient, and Google Tango app developer Flyby Media. On the other hand, AR display maker Lumus Ltd. has raised over $90 million in R&D funding — a portion of that from HTC.
Both Apple and Google will continue to acquire technology startups, while smaller companies will continue investing in them. 2017 is definitely a year of opportunity for the innovative developer with a truly unique intellectual property.
2. AR Product Support
AR-based product support is likely emerge as a new way companies serve their customers in 2017. By using information overlays, AR enables product makers to provide a new dimension to how they support their customers. AR-assisted auto repair is just one such example we will see.
3. Apple Goes AR
If you believe the rumors, and we do, Apple is quietly positioning itself to seize the mobile AR market. Just as Google is certain to dominate the mobile VR market through Daydream, Apple is pumping R&D dollars into AR to ensure nothing less than a balance of power on the technology front.
If Apple’s acquisition of no less than four AR-related technology companies is any indication, we can expect something at least as innovative as Daydream to come down the pipe soon. One thing is certain — Apple will not let 2017 pass without making its foray into the mobile AR space.
4. Google to Focus AR Mobile
As the old saying goes, ‘it takes two to tango.’ Google’s partnership with Lenovo proves that may well be the case. Following Google’s development of its advanced mobile AR platform Tango, Lenovo partnered with Google to develop the first Tango-enabled smartphone, the Lenovo Phab2 Pro.
Tango shows that Google is dead serious about mobile AR. 2017 will likely see further developments in the Tango R&D lab.
5. AR Smartphones
Lenovo’s Phab2 Pro smartphone, designed around AR architecture, not only proves that Google has big plans for mobile AR, but it also stands as a shining example of how AR is merging into a native smartphone feature.
Taiwanese cellphone manufacturer Asus has already announced it will release its own Tango-enabled smartphone in 2017. We expect to see AR-centric smartphones emerge as the rule, rather than the exception, as we move toward the end of 2017.
6. Automotive HUD Displays
Drivers of luxury vehicles have long enjoyed heads-up displays that project speed, compass direction, alerts, and other information directly onto the windshield. Now, thanks to the increased power of the smartphone, HUDs may soon be available for the rest of us.
Companies like Hudway are already experimenting with smartphone-based HUD technology. While the power of the smartphone can manage infotainment systems, telematics platforms, and HUD displays with power to spare, we expect to see manufactures and aftermarket vendors providing dedicated HUD displays, rather than relying on the mobile device display.
7. Marketing Disruption
AR has been toyed with in marketing circles for some time, but the lack of viable mobile platforms has left marketeers unimpressed. The availability of AR-enabled phones opens up a whole vista of new opportunities to reach customers through immersive experiences.
Lowe's, a major American home-improvement company, is already making AR an integral part of its marketing strategy. Using the company’s mobile AR app, customers can see what flooring, appliances, and other store products will look like in their own homes before making a purchase.
8. AR Chipsets
Until recently, AR developers had to rely on whatever chipsets were available that would best drive AR functionality. Along with the AR mobile device revolution must come the hardware to power it. As we move through 2017, we expect to not only see AR-centric mobile devices, but AR-centric chipsets, such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon. While the masses could hardly care less what powers the magic of their AR experience, developers will be keeping close watch on Intel, Qualcomm, AMD, and other chip makers to see what AR capabilities they build into their products.
9. Mixed Realities
As Google and Apple keep the VR versus AR battle going, IBM and its partners are hedging their bets and placing chips on mixed reality. IBM partners Lenovo, Dell, Acer, Asus, and HP plan to launch a headset product line that runs on Windows 10 and enables both VR and AR experiences.
Microsoft, too, is investing heavily in mixed reality. Developers are invited to purchase the HoloLens Development Edition goggles, which they can use with Microsoft's software development kit (SDK) to innovate in the mixed reality space.
With such giants as these investing in mixed reality technology, we expect to see products and development opportunities surface in the months ahead.
10. Next Wave of AR Headsets
The emergence of AR-centric smartphones does not mean smartglasses and AR headsets are dead. Far from it. Snapchat Spectacles have just hit the market, to the delight of Millennials, and Eversight is set to release the heads-up product for bike riders, Raptor AR smartglasses. Even startup castAR is continuing to onboard experts from Google, Playstation VR, and Activision ahead of its AR headset launch in 2017.
We can take a hint. As mobile AR platforms develop and expand into the market, we expect to see a revisiting of the AR wearables next year. But this time they will be functional and affordable.
11. Expanded Enterprise Adoption
The availability of stable and powerful AR platforms will open the way for mobile AR to penetrate a wide swath of industries, from medicine to manufacturing. Logistics provider DHL is but one example of enterprise adopting AR for practical applications. The huge and varied market for AR solutions in industry will surge throughout 2017, spawning startups and market disruption.
12. AR to Overtake VR
2016 was a trying year for both VR and AR. Although VR arrived with the hardware, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR, AR captured the headlines with a software application, Pokemon Go. The result of that simple AR game was that we leave 2016 with millions of people around the world having personally experienced AR. Virtual reality wasn’t so lucky.
Trends suggest VR will have the advantage in gaming, and in certain industries. AR, however, will be the technology for the masses — at least till VR has its Pokemon Go moment.
13. Retail to Drive AR
Powerful new AR phones, along with advances in cloud technology, will cause retailers to finally embrace AR solutions. Since nearly every retail customer who walks into a store has a smartphone, it only makes sense for retailers to turn those phones into selling tools. With AR, customers can scan products to retrieve online coupons, they can follow a searchable map right to the salsa, and they can see what they would look like in a particular apparel item without trying it on.
14. Advanced AR Sensors
AR will not take off unless the average user can create their own AR content. Advanced sensors, such as the Canvas, coupled with advanced AR software, enable users to produce 3D models of their environment, or of objects within their environment. Of course, phones such as the Phab2 Pro will contain powerful optical capabilities, but there will be a growing need for specialized external cameras and optical scanning devices as AR-enabled phones become commonplace.
15. Growing Demand for Developers
Although some analysts believe the AR industry is not mature enough to support robust development, don’t you believe it. Salesforce identifies AR developers as among the highest-paid tech specializations. Furthermore, with market projections topping $90 billion within four years, the market will be hungry for development in the months and years ahead.
How AppReal-VR Can Help?
2017 promises to be the year augmented reality hits the streets, and gains mainstream acceptance. The opportunities to penetrate existing markets, and to create new ones, will be greater than ever. However, competition will be formidable, to say the least. Only those with the creativity to imagine, and the technology to execute will succeed.
If you are searching for a technology partner to bring your AR project to life, and to market, we invite you to call us at AppReal-VR. We are experts at mobile app development and AR/VR technologies. To learn more about how we can turn your idea into a reality, contact us for a free consultation.