In Research, White Paper


Remember when “reading” only meant reading in print? We all still do this at times and speaking personally, we often enjoy—as many people do—taking a break from staring at my screen. But in many cases, reading a digital version of an article, along with embedded links to additional materials, other perspectives, live commenting chats, extra photos, or instructional videos that clarify the main points, can be much more informative, easier to absorb, and more enjoyable. For digital natives, reading articles on screen is the default.

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Consumer AR App Trends

Consumer AR App Trends

AR will bring that same quantum change to how we’re absorbing the world around us. With AR, we will continue to perceive the world as we always have, but we will also experience useful or entertaining augmented content. AR is a live experience that incorporates our physical, real-world surroundings, as well as computer-generated sensory input (such as video, sound, graphics or haptic feedback) to augment how we perceive our physical world.

To provide that augmented experience of the world around us, high-fidelity AR provides ways to track motion, understand our environment, estimate light, anchor the content that we’re seeing, and provide ways for us to interact with our augmented world.

While most consumer AR applications are currently offered on smartphones that superimpose augmented content to what the smartphone cameras show us of the world around us (Handheld AR), other AR hardware solutions are being developed that offer us hands-free and more persistent augmented reality experiences, such as Spatial AR (projecting images onto the user’s physical environment), Wearable AR (glasses, noisecanceling headphones, visor-equipped helmets, contact lenses, to name a few), and even Synthetic AR solutions that will offer a brain/computer interface, allowing the brain to control external devices.

AR applications provide five different types of AR experiences that augment how we perceive the real world: they can filter what we see or hear (think live Instagram filters or noise-canceling headphones); overlay contextually relevant information (show the altitude of the mountain ranges we are viewing), overlay assisting information (show pricing and ordering options for the shoes we’re checking out), add a Lens that provides a viewpoint into another world by blending virtual content with our real-world surroundings (show virtual rabbits on the lawn in front of us), and provide ways for us to play Games or simulate different outcomes (try catching virtual monsters at different locations).

AR App Categories

While consumer AR hardware is still in its early stages, AR applications are already blossoming and being developed for many different use cases and user types. In all, we cover 89 apps, divided into the following 20 categories and generating these types of AR experiences, which we’ve divided into 20 categories taking into consideration the types of AR experiences they enable.

AR developers don’t have to do it all by themselves—there already exists a fledgling but rapidly growing ecosystem of AR API and SDK development toolkit providers, with new entrants, including the Big 5 Tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft) putting their considerable weight behind further advancing AR toolkits.

Some AR development platforms are specific to their vendors’ OS or social media platforms, which enables deeper integration with these platforms, but could also lead to balkanization by forcing AR developers to use multiple development environments. However, we are pleased to see a trend towards these environments starting to leverage each other. For instance, Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore are supported by multiple other AR development platforms; and gaming engines Unity and Unreal are supported by many other development platforms as well, including ARKit and ARCore. With easier as well as more versatile AR toolkits coming to market, we expect to see an explosion of AR apps being developed with different levels of technical sophistication. The 89 apps covered in this study are just the beginning.


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