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.
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.
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 upon 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.
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. Here are a few key augmented reality statistics you should know going into the 2020s:
Thanks largely to its presence on smartphones, augmented reality devices are expected to reach a huge number of users over the next few years thanks to more robust cellular networks. Smartglasses technology may be lagging behind a bit, but several promising devices are already on the market and advancements in AR wearables will continue to drive growth. 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.
Perhaps the most eye catching of augmented reality statistics comes from an unexpected source. From the time of its launch in July of 2016, Pokémon GO proved to be an AR sensation, generating $207 million in revenue its first month and reaching a peak of 45 million daily users worldwide. Although those numbers declined after the initial craze died down later that year, the game still generated about $200,000 in revenue each day as of April 2019 and earned nearly $800 million in 2018. Since its release, this rock star of augmented reality games has been downloaded a staggering one billion times, which would equate to 14% of the world’s population (although it’s unlikely these were all unique downloads). For many consumers, Pokémon GO represented their first exposure to the concept (and potential) of the technology and showcased the business potential of augmented reality trends.
One of the challenges facing augmented reality technology is the overall level of consumer awareness. While virtual reality has garnered splashy headlines and portrayals in fiction for decades, explaining what overlaying digital information virtually in a physical world is called can be more difficult. On the whole, about 90 percent of consumers in the US and UK are aware of VR, but that awareness drops to 65 percent when it comes to AR. Younger people are more likely to be familiar with the technology, with less than half of people aged 55-64 knowing about it. Across all age groups, however, awareness far outstrips engagement, as only 35 percent of people ages 16-34 report utilizing augmented reality technology. Among the 55-64 demographic, the figure drops to three percent.
For many companies, these augmented reality statistics present exciting opportunities in terms of marketing and customer experience. Research has shown that nearly seven out of ten media planners want to incorporate more augmented reality trends into their advertising efforts to boost customer engagement. Deloitte’s 2018 report on technology trends for mid-market companies (those with annual revenues between $100 million and $1 billion) found that a majority of them are experimenting with AR in various forms to help grow their business. The potential for such growth can certainly be seen in augmented reality statistics. Mobile AR ad revenue, most of which comes from Snapchat and Facebook advertising, is expected to exceed $2 billion by 2022.
Apple’s ARKit tool, released in June of 2017, made it possible for mobile app developers to design innovative AR experiences for iOS devices, which ushered in a wave of AR-enabled apps. Google’s ARCore followed nearly a year later in March 2018, opening up the Android device market to aspiring AR app developers. Although the iOS platform continues to dominate the augmented reality market with well over 2,000 apps, more and more developers are releasing new games and utilities each month. As these developers become more familiar with these tools, they will surely produce even more groundbreaking AR experiences that push the boundaries of the available technology and expose more consumers to the possibilities of AR applications.
Released in early 2016, Microsoft HoloLens was an exciting development in smartglasses technology that the company made available to developers, educational institutions, and businesses. Billed as a “mixed reality” device, HoloLens offered a compelling platform for companies eager to explore the potential of AR applications. Microsoft has invested heavily in both AR and VR, holding over 10,000 patents related to the technologies. In November of 2019, HoloLens 2 replaced the original HoloLens glasses. While originally only available to commercial and educational customers, the mixed reality device is now available to the general public for a modest $3,500 (with the option for additional tools and software applications).
Angel List, which compiles information about startup companies to better facilitate fundraising, venture capital investment, and talent searches, has seen the number of companies in the AR market increase steadily in recent years. While there are exciting developments in the startup space, many investment analysts are leaning heavily upon publicly traded companies that stand to realize substantial growth thanks to AR innovation.
Augmented reality applications are already being put to use in a number of industries. Despite the relative youth and immaturity of the technology, these use cases are helping to create incredible demand in the AR industry.
The healthcare industry will surely drive much of this growth in the augmented reality market, largely because AR presents so many unique opportunities for patients and health providers. The medical field already utilizes a number of technologies that provide valuable information to doctors, surgeons, and nurses, making it one of the best use cases for augmented reality trends. With AR-enabled devices, this information can be applied more effectively than ever before. Whether it’s medical students using training programs to practice surgical techniques or doctors being able to observe a patient’s vitals and refer to images from MRI or CT scans during treatment, AR technology will help to bridge the gap between digital data and the medical professionals who utilize it.
Of course, government investment has also been a major factor in the technology’s development and growth. The US military has been experimenting with different augmented reality trends for several years now in its effort to deliver actionable data to personnel without overloading them with choices. By incorporating data drawn from multiple sources, augmented reality devices will allow soldiers to identify threats, access GPS data, and obtain remote views of the battlefield. Perhaps the most noteworthy (and expensive) success in this regard is the F-35 fighter jet’s $400,000 helmet, which not only allows the pilot to look through the plane itself, but also identifies and provides information about any object in the pilot’s field of view.
Perhaps among the most obvious augmented reality stats, the entertainment applications of the technology became immediately apparent the moment Pokémon Go launched. Digital photo filters have become a ubiquitous feature of social media images, and AR games continue to dominate mobile gaming. According to some estimates, the market for augmented reality games could exceed $280 billion by 2023. Major media companies are also rolling out AR campaigns to promote their brands and properties, engaging audiences in new and exciting ways to build awareness.
Consumers may become even more aware of AR as it becomes a larger part of the retail market. Many retail chains have gone to great lengths to roll out augmented reality technology that allows shoppers to use their smartphones to learn more about products and make better choices that suit their needs. It’s no surprise, then, that the retail industry is among the leading AR use cases. IKEA customers, for example, can use AR to get an idea of how a piece of furniture will look in their home by projecting a digital version of the piece right into their smartphone camera. Wearable AR devices will allow retailers to send notifications and deliver a customized shopping experience based on consumer preferences.
Augmented reality market size and awareness will continue to grow as it is adapted for educational uses. The interactive nature of the technology makes it an ideal fit for the classroom of the future. An augmented reality device or program can scan materials like books, worksheets, or flashcards and provide additional information and resources for students to engage with on their own terms. Interactive games and activities can also be designed to reinforce key concepts and help students learn more effectively. The technology can also help students with disabilities overcome challenges in the classroom, making education one of the best use cases for AR.
Automotive companies were early believers in AR and continue to be a major force in its development. Many automobiles already incorporate augmented reality technology with modest heads-up displays (HUDs) that project information like speed and mileage in the corner of the windshield, but many manufacturers are investing in far more ambitious projects. Future AR-equipped cars will be able to display road conditions, weather alerts, GPS directions, and real-time information about their surroundings. Paired with other smart city technologies, AR could help to improve safety and optimize traffic patterns to alleviate highway congestion.
Judging from AR statistics, industrial and mixed manufacturing also stands to benefit immensely from augmented reality. The factory floor has always been a complex and potentially hazardous environment, but AR technology could provide a new level of visibility. Workers can now use augmented reality devices to have ready access to important technical information as well as identify what machinery is in use and where danger zones are located. Boeing, for instance, now utilizes AR glasses to assist technicians while wiring many of its planes, cutting production time by 25 percent and greatly reducing errors.
The extreme portability of AR applications is already beginning to have an impact on the tourism industry and augmented reality stats. With AR technology, visiting popular tourist sites could become a dynamic and interactive experience. Smartphone apps and wearable augmented reality devices will allow visitors to museums and historic sites to learn everything they ever wanted to know about them with a quick scan of the area. More elaborate programs can even provide an interactive experience that brings historic locations to life for visitors. Imagine visiting the Colosseum of Rome and seeing it as it might have looked in its heyday through an AR display or augmented reality games. As augmented reality trends and technology develop, the tourism industry will surely be one of the leading AR use cases.
Devices like HoloLens glasses could fundamentally transform many field service roles. Field service technicians are faced with the difficult task of working on myriad equipment with varying technical specifications, often in confined or hard to reach spaces. With AR headsets, they could have all of the information they need displayed right in front of them while keeping their hands free to work. Sophisticated sensors could also deliver real-time data about the status of equipment, helping to identify parts that need to be replaced soon or highlighting potential dangers that might not be visible to the naked eye. Field service may not be one of the first areas that come to mind with this new technology, but it represents one of the best use cases in the augmented reality market.
The combination of AR and wearable devices that gather physiological data could also revolutionize the way people exercise and train, creating a range of opportunities for ambitious startups willing to think outside the box. Although a variety of smartphone apps are already cleverly using augmented reality games to promote a more active lifestyle, future wearable augmented reality devices will take these concepts to the next level while also integrating health information to help people customize the ideal workout for their fitness needs.
As these augmented reality statistics and use cases demonstrate, the future of AR is already here. To deliver quality AR experiences, companies will need to invest heavily in edge computing frameworks that help them to deliver content to end-users with minimal latency. While 5G technology will certainly help to enhance AR functionality, the interactive nature of augmented reality devices will force many companies to rethink their overly centralized cloud computing networks in order to deliver content faster and gather data more efficiently. Edge data centers will play a key role in these strategies as consumers become more aware of the augmented reality market and incorporate more AR devices into their everyday lives.
vXchnge data centers provide a combination of reliability and connectivity that can help organizations implement their AR services across a variety of platforms. With data center locations optimized for edge computing and direct cloud on-ramps capable of delivering scalable processing and storage quickly and easily, we provide a solid infrastructure foundation for you to build your next generation of digital services upon. To learn more about how we leverage the power of intelligent monitoring to support our customers’ technology needs, talk to one of our colocation experts today.
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