Embracing Augmented Reality
If I were to ask you, have you tried AR? A good amount of people would say that you have never used it before. However, if you've used Instagram filters, then you've actually used AR before, especially face-filters as that is part of AR tech. Social AR has been an accessible form of AR that has introduced many to the technology over the past few years. The tools to create custom filters are readily available on the platforms you use every day, from Snapchat’s Lens Studio to Facebook’s Spark AR Studio.
Most recently, TikTok also released its own internal platform for creating filters, opening up the world of AR to a whole new generation of creators and users. We have been using this to experiment with AR filters/gamification on TikTok. Despite this, there is a lot more to AR than just filters on social media and the tech has been evolving at a parabolic rate since experimentation with mass adoption started as an AR filter.
Not too long ago, you could literally count the number of companies focusing on building experiences on web-based AR experiences as nobody really saw a lot of viability in terms of mass adoption. However, the pandemic has definitely pivoted many to embrace this tech including brands and creators. Platforms like 8th Wall and Zappar are great examples of tools to create content that is new, interactive, immersive and most importantly, has a seamless, accessible user experience.
With contact tracing, a common feature of many regions due to COVID, most people are now accustomed to scanning QR codes on their phones. Apart from that, QR codes are now widely used to open up a menu or webpage. WebAR’s technology works in a similar way. Scan, and the user is directed to a WebAR experience. No app to download, no tools to install on your phone. It’s now becoming one of the leading ways for brands to get an instant connection with their audience and implement high-level 3D and interactive experiences without the hassle of downloading a specific app. With 5G and pixel streaming right around the corner, the experiences that web-browsers can handle would eventually rival that of a native app.
The potential of AR in our daily lives can be massive. But most people still relate AR to glasses with good reasoning. Mobile-based AR is easily adoptable but with AR Glasses becoming more aesthetically appealing, it may only be a matter of time before AR glasses turn into something as "needed" like a smartphone. But when most think of AR, their thoughts go straight to glasses. One day people will all be wearing AR-enabled glasses that provide world-scale experiences, and there’s a lot of hype around who will lead the way toward a lightweight, accessible set.
During the final quarter of last year, Magic Leap hinted at this with its Magic Leap 2 headset. The very same month, Facebook announced two new headsets. The first one is the Project Cambria, which will be a high-end version of the Oculus Quest 2 supporting mixed reality experience. The second one is Nazaré, which will be the company's first full AR headset. Qualcomm also announced its Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform. And Niantic also mentioned in its keynote that it is working on its own AR glasses along with Qualcomm. With competition brimming, it can only benefit the end user as prices become more competitive and the innovation of the tech speeds up.
Nurturing the Creator Ecosystem
Creating AR experiences used to be something that only developers and coders with the technical know-how are able to create as you needed an in-depth understanding of real-time game engines. However, SocialAR tools have helped this technology become more accessible for creators, but people still have a long way to go to tap into AR’s full potential. If people want to see a diverse set of content, then they need to make the tools and engines accessible to continue to build a diverse ecosystem of creators.
Earlier this year, Niantic announced its new beta version of its Lightship ARDK, a platform for creators to build their own world-scale AR experiences, similar to "Pokemon Go." The company's decision to expose its tools is a huge step in bringing a diverse set of AR experiences into the real world, a somewhat decentralised view and a more metaverse focused platform.
But it’s not just about building out experiences for digital worlds, it’s about bringing virtual experiences to the real world. AR is a major foundation to making that happen. the phygital is one of the most powerful kinds of experiences as it breaches the boundaries of virtual and physical. With Facebook announcing its new direction as a metaverse-based company, rebranding itself as Meta. Facebook has been a major player in pushing forward the mediums of AR and VR for years. This continued growth and exposure of AR tools to global audiences is how people will create a rich set of AR experiences across a number of different areas and industries.
Unlocking Unlimited Possibilities
Looking at the industries embracing AR, one area that we've really seen adopt AR more rapidly in recent times is fashion & cosmetics. Through the necessities of the pandemic, a lot of brands were using AR to help customers try clothes or try lipsticks and mascara on without having to physically touch the items. New face and body tracking features are making this all possible. Brands and creators are also looking toward using NFT technologies so users can purchase and own digital items that can be viewed through web and AR technologies.
Blockchain is another major technology that is deeply tied to the growth of augmented reality. Right now AR content is specific to whatever platform it runs on. But with Web 3 technologies, many are indicating it could be the next version of the internet: the spatial web, where 3-D content and data will exist on a decentralized platform so that AR can be interoperable across platforms.
AR has such a huge potential but has recently fallen under the radar due to the attention that metaverse and NFT related news have been getting. The power of AR is being able to project virtual content into the real world. It’s grounded in reality and soon it will be a part of many people's reality.