Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) began as a theoretical concept when the terms were just created in 1990. The concept emanated with the introduction of the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise that ushered holodeck. This was the first fictional immersive VR environment.
A few decades later, augmented reality (AR) is now exerting a considerable impact on the mobile app development front. Some successful AR apps in the last few years have been launched. Among them was Pokemon Go in 2016.
The popularity of Pokemon Go among younger audiences resulted in a few AR tie-ups. Starbucks and T-Mobile were some of them.
There are several noteworthy players in the augmented reality market. In a BBC interview, estimates for the market value were pegged at USD 162 billion by 2024. According to experts interviewed by the BBC. AR device and service revenue currently stands at around $54 billion and is growing fast.
Augmented reality is now a major thrust for big business. But what does this mean for companies developing apps? What does one need to know about developing apps with Augmented Reality (AR)?
AR is different from virtual reality. VR is immersive and generally needs a headset like an Oculus Rift. One can witness this in a lot of museums and art galleries. One can rent a walking guide that is most probably a device around the size of an older generation phone coupled with headphones.
AR on the other hand permits the app developers to overlay digital information onto real-world objects. Now, if one were to download an app. Now what one needs to do is to just direct it to the paintings, artifacts, and exhibits. One would get all the information one could need.
With AR, this is the kind of immersive experience that brands can offer customers. Companies can greatly benefit from digital overlays of some exciting and interesting information on their products or services.
AR is greatly influencing app development around the world. Businesses in sectors as diverse as real estate, hospitality, finance, and healthcare are now demanding AR layers and augmentation to the apps that they’re developing.
Augmented reality is very accessible from a customer point of view. They don’t need to buy anything extra. Just a smartphone with a camera that has access to AR technology. Businesses that are now offering AR-enabled services have two versions to consider.
Location-Based Augmented Reality
This version relies on geolocation data within the phone to directly impact the AR experience within an app. Here, the user can interact physically with the world along with an augmented digital overlay. An immersive tour of a town or an art gallery is possible.
Customers have to enable geolocation data sharing with the app. Only then can they benefit from a location-based AR experience.
Marker-Based Augmented Reality
This version relies on patterns and interaction with the smartphones’ camera. In this case, when one points the camera at a QR code, a digital overlay of information of real-world imagery emerges.
Businesses can create a combination of digital marketing and point-of-sale with physical promotions and in-store/on-site activities. This is a great game-changer for brands.
Sectors that AR can Benefit
AR does not make business sense for all sectors. Financial services need apps that can focus on core business transactions.
AR is a decision taken by aligning business and necessity.
Many sectors, however, can make use of AR. If sales and customers can benefit, then AR is worth it.
The entertainment sector can advance its creations through an AR experience. They can easily adapt an existing bestseller game with AR technology. Games are greatly enhanced by combining the digital and physical worlds. Games that hinge around exploration and journeys benefit from AR. Collaborations and additional revenue opportunities also open up.
Big retail brands have been adversely impacted due to online competition. But even as more people shop online, retail brands still struggle to offer a modern compelling in-store experience to shoppers.
Retailers can use AR to combine a digital and a physical experience. Brands can offer deals and provide more information about the product. Up-sell opportunities are also possible. In this way, experiences can be created without much investment in physical displays.
Also, the speed of change is greatly increased compared to physical displays. Implementation time gets reduced because of AR.
Immersive learning experiences are now possible for students of all age groups. Students can access apps and learning tools on their devices. Subjects like art, history, and science can more exciting and brought to life through AR.
The education system can be greatly impacted because of AR. Publishers and content creators can offer study material that students would welcome more easily than conventional learning methods.
Tourism is immensely benefited through AR. Customers can be shown the destinations to be marketed using AR. This makes it more interactive and easier to sell. Moreover, AR apps can give the vacation goers additional information and an immersive experience during the holiday. that will contribute to the quality of the holiday.
Many use AR to enhance Sign translators to break the language barrier. Historic cities apps offer glimpses of the cities as a guide. Local brand tie-ups are also possible using such apps.
Real estate brands use AR to sell the features and benefits of the property. Potential customers can go through a 3D experience of the property on the phone. Sales teams are greatly benefitted from such apps.
Challenges for using augmented reality are spotting a business opportunity and precise points of integration. Potential cost implications must also be considered.
Development of Augmented Reality Apps
These apps depend on many factors. AR integration is location or marker-based is one of them. Image processing capability is another example. AR apps generally super-impose digital content in real-time on live objects. One needs to balance physical and digital content, a challenge while developing AR apps.
It is critical to ensure that UX and UI are tuned to the needs of the user. The AR experience should be kept simple and intuitive for users.
The development of AR apps needs skills that are not easily found. Apart from just developers, 3D modeling, computer vision etc is needed.
Today, a lot of consumers are ready to enjoy immersive AR technology. Businesses also can take advantage of this fact. It is important to create experiences that mix digital with physical experiences. Elevated customer experiences also contribute to new revenue and promotional opportunities. However, the most important aspect is the team that is building the apps.