Augmented reality (AR) is a technology which was first developed in Harvard University by the computer scientist, Ivan Sutherland. Ever since its initial development, it has since seen ever-increasing use in such sectors as the armed forces, healthcare, insurance, education and business.
The year 2020 witnessed a sharp increase in the application of this technology, particularly due to its adoption by huge companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google.
In 2019, the augmented reality market worth was estimated at around $10.7 billion. It is presently projected to reach a market worth of about $72.7 billion by 2024.
It is also projected that there will be about 1.73 billion active augmented reality devices by 2024. Augmented reality is even expected to overtake virtual reality in popularity in the not-too-distant future.
These statistics indeed bear an eloquent testimony to the growing popularity of augmented reality.
What is Augmented Reality?
While virtual reality gives a viewer a complete immersive experience in an entirely digital world, augmented reality actually combines a digital world with the real world. It typically projects digital images unto the surrounding physical environment.
These digital images have the potential of influencing the way a viewer may perceive his or her surroundings.
Benefits of Using Augmented Reality
A chief asset of augmented reality is the immersive experience that it can afford a user.
Augmented reality is also a good technology when it comes to mirroring real-world scenarios, hence it is a very helpful tool in setting up training and development programs for company employees.
Augmented reality can be very useful during the process of designing and developing a product.
Augmented reality can enable customers to test the suitability of a product before purchasing the product.
Augmented reality is currently being used to increase the safety of cars.
Augmented reality improves the collaborative experience between people who are working remotely.
Augmented reality can also improve workflow processes
Augmented reality enriches the educational experiences of children in the classroom.
Augmented Reality Trends for 2021
The year 2021 indeed promises to see a growth in the augmented reality industry and its deeper penetration into many sectors of society. We can presently see the use of augmented reality trending in the following ways:
Mobile Augmented Reality - A few years ago, Snapchat became one of the pioneer applications that employed the use of augmented reality technology. Shortly after this, the popular game, Pokemon Go, which also uses augmented reality technology, was released to much acclaim.
Ever since, more and more mobile applications have been adopting augmented reality technology. We currently have Google's ARCore and Apple's ARKit.
Presently, an ever-increasing number of mobile devices are made to support augmented reality technology. It is thus projected that there will be about 4,670.8 million AR-embedded apps by 2022, with up to 2.2 billion mobile AR users by the same year.
The Shopping Experience - The furniture-making company, IKEA, currently uses augmented reality technology to allow customers to see how a piece of furniture they would like to buy would fit into their homes before buying the actual product.
Mercedes Benz also uses this approach to help customers view the different parts of a vehicle they would like to buy, and get to know all the features of the car by simply using the camera on their mobile phones.
Many other big companies are making use of augmented reality while others are beginning to understand that marketing their products with the help of augmented reality technology will give them a competitive edge.
Organizational Workflow Enhancement – Many companies have reported an increase in productivity after employing augmented reality technology. This has occurred because the technology has streamlined workflows and improved efficiency.
Augmented reality is currently being used by many organizations for training personnel because it affords the trainees something very close to a real-world experience, and thus would boost their confidence when they would find themselves in real-life situations.
Companies are also witnessing an increase in conversion rates as they employ augmented reality in their customer service operations.
In the midst of the current pandemic, companies are discovering the benefits of their employees working remotely; however, there is the likelihood of miscommunication occurring between workers, and this can hamper collaboration. Augmented reality is an effective tool in reducing miscommunication and so is being adopted by more and more companies for this purpose.
Healthcare – Augmented reality has made in-roads into the health sector. It is expected that the value of this technology in healthcare will go as high as $2.6 billion by the year 2026.
Augmented reality is presently being used by surgeons to prepare for surgical procedures. It is even used to assist surgeons while performing these procedures by giving the surgeons real-time information about the patient during operations.
Doctors also find it easier to explain medical conditions to their patients through the use of augmented reality.
The Driving Experience – Safety is of paramount importance when driving cars, hence car-making companies are always finding ways of making their vehicles safer.
In recent times, augmented reality has been seen as a useful technology for enhancing the driving experience, for which reason car-making companies are projected to make investments worth around $673 billion into incorporating augmented reality into their car designs by the year 2025.
We already have companies like Jaguar and Mercedes Benz, which employ augmented reality to display real-time data on the windshield of a driver's car. The real-time data give the driver useful information about the immediate surroundings of the vehicle. This will enable the driver to make informed decisions with regard to safety issues.
Education – One challenge that teachers have in the classroom is retaining the attention of their students during lessons. Since augmented reality makes use of engaging visual representations, this challenge can be easily overcome when teachers are teaching.
Augmented reality is particularly helpful in teaching complex topics and teaching students with such disabilities as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
With these clear advantages, projections indicate that augmented reality will not only feature more in the education of children, it will also significantly impact the educational technology industry in the near future.
Gaming – The release of Pokemon Go in 2016 took gaming to a new level. Ever since then, augmented reality has been featuring in more and more games as it affords the gamer an exciting immersive experience.
Gaming has actually witnessed the highest share of investments into augmented reality technology with an impressive 54% of market share.
This trend will continue as more mobile devices are being made to support augmented reality, and as the online community continues to increase. Market projections for augmented reality gaming stand at a compound annual growth rate of about 152.7% by the year 2023.
Finance – Augmented reality has currently been adopted by banking institutions all over the world. The adoption of this technology has not only helped with streamlining workflow processes, it has equally enhanced the customer's experience.
Augmented reality has helped bankers to better analyze data and thus make better-informed and faster decisions, while clients have been enabled to visualize their accounts and investments more clearly and concisely, and so more easily keep track of their finances.
Many banks have reported an increase in profits since the implementation of augmented reality technology in their banking operations. As a result of this, it is expected that augmented reality will continue to see further and greater use in banking operations within the foreseeable future.
Insurance – The serviceability of augmented reality has not been lost on the insurance industry.
Insurance companies are now employing this technology in order to improve their delivery of customer service. In this regard, insurance company employees will be able to make an easier-to-understand presentation of their companies' insurance plans to prospective clients.
Insurance company field workers will also be able to easily assess damages to the properties of clients remotely. The clients will only be required to send pictures of the damages to the insurance company. These pictures will then be analyzed by a field worker with the aid of augmented reality. A physical visit to the client's property by the field worker would no longer be necessary.