There’s a lot of hype about augmented reality (AR) and its impact on content. Lately, it’s getting difficult to avoid. From analyst firms to magazines—and from newspapers to corporate websites and blogs—everyone seems to be writing about how AR will transform the way we live, work, and play.
Virtual reality versus augmented reality
To understand the potential impact that AR may have in the future, it helps to start with a clear understanding of the difference between augmented and virtual reality (VR). AR and VR are related. AR is a distant cousin to VR. The primary difference between the two is rooted in reality.
- Virtual reality aims to create convincing—yet artificial—computer-generated experiences that feel real. VR experiences are designed to be stimulating, immersive simulations that are made possible with the help of a headset like Facebook’s Oculs Rift.
- Augmented reality, on the other hand, aims to complement reality by adding a layer of complementary information—something useful or entertaining—on top of reality. It’s live and in real-time. AR makes it possible for us to produce content that can be super-imposed over an image of physical world with the help of a camera-equipped mobile device or specialized headgear. If you’ve watched live television broadcasts of sporting events, chances are you’ve seen AR in action. But, AR’s true value is in the capability it provides users. AR can help consumers make simple repairs to an automobile, learn to cook, and more.
Related: How Augmented Reality Works
While opportunities to apply AR to business are almost unlimited, opinions about its value vary.
The Future of Computing? Perhaps.
Some exclaim AR is “the future of computing!”. They cite examples of AR’s ability to radically transform education, healthcare, food safety, manufacturing, fashion, retail, and entertainment. A recent report from Forrester says AR’s “immersive digital overlays represent an opportunity to improve customer engagement.”
Gartner predicts that “through 2021, businesses will see a rapid evolution of immersive content and applications that will range from consumer entertainment experiences to optimizing complex work processes.”
Gartner also predicts that by 2020, 10 million consumers will use augmented reality while shopping online. “Immersive technologies such as augmented reality increase user engagement with a product or service by enabling a consumer to fully explore features and conveying additional information that can aid in a buying decision,” Gartner says. “This will drive immersive interfaces, including both augmented and virtual reality, to become the standard customer experience paradigm for scenarios requiring human-to-machine interactions.”
Others are not so easily impressed. The nay-sayers complain that adoption of AR technology is slow; and the bar to entry, too high. Others say what started as a revolutionary technology with amazing promise has been co-opted—and dramatically watered-down—by the tech players like Facebook.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, predicts augmented reality will dramatically change the types of content we produce. At its annual F8 developer’s conference in San Jose, CA recently, Zuckerberg laid out his vision for incorporating AR into Facebook. Zuckerberg says he believes the future of augmented reality won’t involve headsets or televisions. Instead, widespread adoption will be driven by smartphones and other mobile devices with cameras.
Not Everyone Agrees
“The problem is that the acceptable bar for what can, or should, be considered augmented reality is dropping quickly,” reports market researcher, Bob O’Donnell in USA Today. O’Donnell (and others like him) believe the original promise of AR has been diluted and can’t be delivered through a smartphone camera. (NOTE: see also: Camera Effects Platform)
The question of which technology company will be the big winner in the advancement of augmented reality to a wide audience is not clear yet. Some speculate that Apple (a late entry into the AR space) could easily find itself on top. “If Apple put augmented reality in the iPhone 8’s cameras,” writes Caitlin McGarry in Macworld, “the company would own the full stack: hardware powerful enough to put AR experiences in the palm of your hand without burning through your battery and the software support to entice developers into creating those experiences.”
A Big Market With A Big Opportunity
With support from industry heavyweights like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, analysts predict the AR market in the US could reach $50 billion USD (see chart below) in annual sales by 2021. Global growth is expected to reach 90 billion USD annually by the same time. With such a big opportunity for revenue generation, it’s no wonder that nearly every tech brand is looking for a way to grab their share of this promising market.
The question for content producing companies is not should they create AR content, but how will they manage the complex relationships between content assets in a world of layers. Add localization and translation to the mix, and the need for powerful, enterprise-wide content management becomes clear.