Imagine, while shopping, you view a bag of coffee beans through your phone’s camera and you see the coffee plantation where the beans were grown or watch a video of the roasting process. Imagine walking through Colonial Williamsburg and using your phone or a set of AR-enabled glasses to view what it would have looked like 250 years ago. Sounds cool, right? This is augmented reality.
Although virtual reality may still garner bigger headlines and maintain a stronger hold on the imagination, augmented reality is actually proving to be a much more practical and realistic means of presenting the digital world. In just a few short years, augmented reality applications have gone from gimmicky tech demos and video games to supporting mission-critical business functions and helping people use products and services in more productive ways.
While virtual reality (VR) aims to create an entirely immersive experience, augmented reality (AR) takes a slightly more modest approach by layering digitally created elements over the real world. This can be accomplished through the use of special wearable devices, like glasses or headsets, that project a digital image onto the lens, or by inserting those same elements into a camera image, like a smartphone screen.
Unlike VR, which generates massive amounts of data and blocks out the real world, AR is more like a filter that alters how people perceive the world around them. This means that AR users are untethered from a purely digital environment; they can walk around and interact with the physical world while still viewing digital elements.
Who Uses Augmented Reality?
The most exciting aspect about AR technology is that millions of people are already using it in some capacity. Many industries have unveiled a new generation of AR applications as devices become more powerful and networks continue to grow their capacity. Edge computing and 5G connectivity have made the technology much more viable, opening it up to a number of new potential users.
From smartphone applications aimed at the individual consumer to more sophisticated data visualization tools used by enterprises to interpret big data analytics, AR technology will continue to reach more and more people in the coming years.
Augmented Reality Applications
In fact, there are already more than a handful of companies exploring ways to get more AR opportunities into the hands of consumers and businesses alike.
- Social media applications use AR to create those fun filters we see on so many pictures.
- Mobile game Pokémon GO revolutionized mobile gaming a few years back using AR to allow people to hunt Pokémon.
- The WWF created an app allowing users to explore landscapes and see wildlife (thereby boosting interest in their organization and, hopefully, donations to save these areas).
- Modiface has an app used by popular cosmetics brands that allow users to see how shades and makeup products will look.
- And Manchester United Football club created an AR experience that enabled fans to sit with the coach.
Why is Augmented Reality Important?
There are a few key advantages to augmented reality, but one of the most important is usability. True AR interfaces provide an intuitive and elegant user experience for a variety of services and technologies. As touchless interfaces become more versatile, AR applications can be paired with them to create truly innovative methods of interaction and make existing data and systems far more user-friendly than they are today.
For decades, digital interfaces have been limited by the amount of data and interactive elements that can be presented on a single screen. With AR applications, however, those elements can be displayed in a variety of innovative ways that make them much easier to manage and understand. The technology is already redefining the way people interact with digital applications, and it will only become more intuitive and efficient in the future.
Top 7 Augmented Reality Trends for 2023
There are a number of significant use cases for this groundbreaking technology, but it’s also important to consider how it’s already impacting the world in terms of raw numbers. In fact, the augmented reality market is expected to hit $70-$75 billion in revenue by 2023. So, exactly where is AR headed in 2023 and what can we expect?
1. The Arrival of AR Glasses
Thanks to more robust cellular networks, most AR capabilities have been available primarily on smartphones. However, it’s looking like 2023 might finally be the year that Smartglasses technology hits the market with a release possible from Apple.
The combined installed base of mobile AR devices and smartglasses could exceed two and a half billion units by 2023, creating huge opportunities for innovative AR applications. As these devices become more ubiquitous, AR will become less of a novelty technology and form a more integral part of consumers’ everyday technology experience.
2. AR Sports and Events
As noted above, Manchester United’s squad already found a way to utilize AR, and with event cancellations due to the Coronavirus, the entertainment sector is eager to find ways to supplement and drive income with both virtual and AR events and experiences. In the sports world, the uses range from broadcasting to in-stadium experiences, and it won’t be long before concert venues, theme parks, and other event venues pick up on the trend.
3. AR in the Classroom
One of the challenges facing schools today, in addition to remote learning due to the Coronavirus, is expenses. From budget cuts to infrastructure expenses, students are missing out on out-of-school learning experiences. Similarly, some districts simply can’t provide the learning opportunities that require expensive equipment or components.
However, even in 2018, research suggested that 95% of students had smartphones. While typically disallowed in the classroom, 2023 might be the year they are recognized as a valuable tool for improving learning outcomes.
Not only can students use AR to explore science in their surroundings (growth cycles, species ID, geometry, and other coursework, but in many cases it can also supplement field trips, historical, or regional social studies learning. While the initial cost of equipment seems significant, the long term savings and opportunities are even more impressive.
4. AR in Medicine
Again, the need for social distancing in response to COVID-19 may be seen as one of the biggest drivers for new technology and advancements. Even in the medical field, in hospitals, med schools, and your doctor’s office, you’ll start to see the ways that AR can benefit patients and doctors alike.
From assisting with blood draws (finding a vein) to improving diagnoses the potential is massive. Not only might AR assist doctors, but it can also assist in the case of an emergency by providing information about life-saving measures.
5. AR in Your Car
From a safety perspective alone, AR in your car is something the big automakers are hoping to realize in the next year. Imagine driving and getting real-time data from your GPS or about road conditions and hazards, your speed, or any mechanical issues, directly in your line of sight.
You’ve likely seen something similar with a heads-up-display (HUD), but AR can bring so much more information in a way that lets drivers keep their eyes on the road. Further, it’s suggested that AR might even move to the rearview mirror with blind spot vehicles projected there to prevent crashes.
While the safety features will put many drivers at ease, the opportunity also exists to send drivers data about the area they’re driving through, features, sites, and even your standard rest area information (gas, food, lodging). Imagine a road trip where you can get a lesson in geography, geology, or even history as you’re driving.
6. AR Your Workout
Any runner or cyclist can tell you that the indoor version of their workout, on a treadmill or stationary bike, is pretty brutal when compared to being outside. While Strava and Peloton both already offer AR experiences (via screens that show different terrains/locations/events), expect this to grow even more.
For runners, apps like Zombies, Run! already allow an AR experience (gamified), via audio, while running outdoors. However, expect to see real-time data, like in your car, visible to runners and cyclists alike including speed and distance appear soon.
And it’s not just runners and cyclists who’ll get some great benefits, gyms may use it soon to assist members on equipment and provide AR training sessions.
7. Increase in Mobile AR and Accelerated Growth with 5G
What will make much of this possible is the increase in the use of mobile technologies, like smartglasses and smartphones, which will put the power of AR in everyone’s hands. However, even with devices in consumers’ hands, the power of AR cannot be harnessed without networks that can handle the amount of data and speed with which it will need to be transferred.
Much of AR relies on complex and responsive networks, and only 5G, paired with edge computing can provide that kind of capability. The need for speed will drive faster 5G adoption in many areas and, as we have seen with other technologies (like the growth of data centers), the availability of the technology will also drive the industry.
Who uses augmented reality, and in what industries is it applied?
AR is used by individuals through smartphone apps and wearable devices. It is applied across various industries, including healthcare, education, entertainment, manufacturing, automotive, and retail.
What are some practical applications of AR in healthcare?
AR is used in healthcare for medical training, diagnostics, and treatment planning. Surgeons can use AR to visualize patient data during surgeries, and medical students can practice procedures in a simulated environment.
How does AR benefit education?
AR enhances the learning experience by providing interactive and immersive content. It can turn textbooks and worksheets into interactive resources, making learning more engaging and effective.
Are there any upcoming AR devices like AR glasses?
Yes, AR glasses are expected to become more prevalent in 2023, with Apple rumored to release its version. These glasses will bring AR experiences to a broader audience.
What role does edge computing play in AR development?
Edge computing is crucial for delivering AR content with minimal latency. As AR applications become more interactive, companies need edge data centers to provide faster content delivery and efficient data processing.
How is AR expected to impact the retail industry?
AR is changing the retail experience by allowing shoppers to use smartphones or wearable devices to learn more about products. Retailers can offer personalized shopping experiences and engage customers through AR technology
In the world of technology, augmented reality (AR) is emerging as a transformative force with immense potential. It has evolved from being a novelty to becoming an integral part of various industries, from healthcare and education to entertainment and manufacturing.
The future of AR looks promising, with innovations like AR glasses, educational applications, healthcare enhancements, and more on the horizon. As AR continues to evolve and find new applications, it will undoubtedly reshape the way we interact with the digital and physical worlds.