Augmented reality (AR) is going to enhance our perception of the real world with computer-generated information. The potential applications of augmented reality will transform many aspects of our lives, including how we learn, work, communicate, and even shop. In the workplace, AR can improve productivity and efficiency by providing workers with real-time access to information, hands-free guidance, and immersive training. In the world of entertainment and gaming, AR can create new, interactive experiences that blend the real world with digital elements. Overall, AR has the potential to enhance our lives in numerous ways by changing the way we interact with our surroundings and each other.
Examples of how AR will impact different areas
AR has the potential to revolutionize many industries and enhance our daily lives in numerous ways. However, it is still a relatively new technology and there are still many challenges to be addressed, such as hardware limitations, privacy concerns, and standardization. In the meantime, here are some examples of what is already happening and available.
AR can make learning more interactive and engaging, by allowing students to see and manipulate 3D objects, and interact with virtual characters or environments. This applies to workplace learning as much as school and college. AR can also help with language learning, by superimposing translation over real-world objects.
Doctors and surgeons can already benefit from potential applications of augmented reality with visual overlays of critical information, such as patient vitals or MRI scans, and even guiding them during procedures. AR can also be used to help patients visualize their conditions, treatments and rehabilitation in a more intuitive way.
Augmented reality, the combination of computer visualizations on real environments, can improve the shopping experience by allowing customers to see how products will look in our homes, or what we will look like in different clothing.
The IKEA Place app allows users to see how IKEA furniture would look in their home by using their phone’s camera and superimposing a 3D model of the product in their real-world environment. The online furniture retailer Wayfair has also developed an AR app that allows customers to see how furniture would look in their homes using their smartphone camera. Wayfair has raised over $300 million in funding from investors like Battery Ventures and Great Hill Partners.
In the clothing and fashion sector, the integration of augmented reality technology with a camera function on either a phone or tablet allows customers to view garments in a digitally-generated overlay onto a real world image. Instagram and Snapchat have already worked with brands and retailers on bringing virtual try-ons (VTOs) to consumers’ homes. AR in the fashion world increases customer engagement with brands, boosts basket size, and reduces costs attributed to returns.
AR opens up whole new immersive experiences for gamers and moviegoers, allowing them to explore virtual worlds and characters in the real world. AR can also be used to enhance live events, by providing additional information or special effects to the audience.
The popular Pokemon Go game uses AR to place virtual Pokemon characters in real-world locations, making it look like they are actually there. The creator of Pokemon Go, Niantic has created new AR games and experiences, such as Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and Ingress.
Google Maps Live View uses AR to overlay directions onto the real world, making it easier to navigate through unfamiliar places. Users of any AR navigation tool can be directed point to point more naturally than by comparing a map to their immediate surroundings.
There are several hardware applications that currently support augmented reality. Most readily to hand, many modern smartphones and tablets have AR capabilities thanks to their built-in cameras, sensors, and software. These devices can be used to display AR content, such as games, shopping apps, or educational tools.
There are also several AR glasses on the market, such as Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap, and Nreal Light. These glasses provide a hands-free AR experience, by projecting virtual objects onto the real world and allowing users to interact with them using gestures or voice commands.
AR headsets, from companies such as Oculus and Sony, can be used for gaming and other entertainment purposes. These headsets provide a fully immersive AR experience by tracking the user’s head movements and adjusting the display accordingly.
AR helmets, such as the DAQRI Smart Helmet, are designed for industrial use and can provide workers with real-time information and guidance in fields such as construction, manufacturing, and oil and gas.
Aryzon is a Dutch startup that developed an affordable AR headset, self-assembled from cardboard, in to which users insert their smartphone in order to display stereoscopic augmented reality. Aryzon began by raising over $250,000 through crowdfunding on Kickstarter in 2017, and has won several awards for its innovative product.
More startups leading the way in AR
There are many startups working to develop potential applications of augmented reality to change how we work and play.
Magic Leap’s AR glasses can superimpose digital objects onto the real world. It launched its Magic Leap 2 headset in Q4 2022, with a starting price of $3,299. The mixed reality device is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the 2018 Magic Leap, and features a wider field of vision.
Vuzix is another AR glasses brand, and traditionally specialized in products for enterprise use. However, in 2022, Vuzix successfully developed and integrated miniature AR imaging systems and transferred this technology from the R&D lab into the industrial design and product assembly of the Vuzix Ultralite smart glasses OEM platform. The aim is to provide AR smart glasses solutions to mass consumer audiences.
The Finnish startup Immersal began by developing an AR platform that could create location-based AR experiences. Today it offers a 5G-Enabled Smart City Visual Positioning System. It is currently seeking partners to collaborate with in creating immersive content such as AR art, AR games, and other location-based experiences.
Wikitude was an Austrian company that developed an AR platform that could recognize and track real-world objects, such as products, buildings, and landmarks. It has been in business since 2008 and has worked with clients like Audi, Nestle, and Philips. It initially focused on providing location-based augmented reality experiences through the Wikitude World Browser App. In September 2021, Wikitude announced that it has been acquired by the US multi-national Qualcomm.
Since 2011, the UK startup Zappar has been helping brands, businesses and AR creators leverage augmented reality through its in-house creative studio and award-winning platform. It can create custom, branded AR experiences for marketing and advertising purposes, and has worked with clients like Coca-Cola, Hasbro, and Warner Bros.
These are just a few examples of the many startups that are working on AR technology. As the technology continues to advance, we can expect to see even more innovative and disruptive AR startups emerge to create and exploit potential applications of augmented reality in the coming years.