Augmented reality (AR) has virtually exploded on the scene in the wake of the smartphone boom, finding diverse business applications ranging from advertising to industrial uses. Leading brands like Mercedes Benz, Kia and Kellogg's, to name a few, are already using AR apps to give consumers an up-close experience of their products. These apps come alive on the smartphone, tablet or PC screen. And now with AR glasses coming into the picture, this technology is likely to be employed in diverse industries including manufacturing.
The growing demand for AR applications can be discerned from recent business developments like Spain-based telecom giant Telefónica's takeover of HP's AR arm Aurasma. This deal, arguably the largest in the global AR segment, will enable Telefónica to offer location-based marketing and mobile couponing services.
AR technology is fast spreading out. For instance, chipset vendors have already begun to incorporate it into their products. Likewise, Nokia has unveiled an AR browser, while Google's 'Project Glass' won the applause at the recent New York Fashion Week. Meanwhile, a Cambridge-based company has reportedly developed glasses that incorporate a tiny projector in one arm of the spectacles that enable the user to view the augmented image of an object without taking eyes away from it. Innovations like this will enhance the use of AR in high precision activities.
In many ways, AR is tailor-made for the gaming industry. AR programs can give gamers a 360 degree experience wherein the images are projected on walls, floors, furniture and other elements of the gamers' surrounding environment. Looking ahead, this technology could also augment classroom learning whereby students can get a real feel of the subjects they study, like standing in the middle of the Amazon rainforest or experiencing the Grand Canyon as if they were actually there.
Sports and entertainment industries could be one of the earliest to embrace AR in a big way. Besides, AR could find significant uses in the automobile industry, or for that matter, in the realm of medicine and surgery. Auto majors like Volkswagen are using AR's industrial applications to detect compatibility problems in new models before they enter production.
Current trends suggest that AR market will grow exponentially. According to research firm Semico, the global AR market will be worth $600 billion by 2016. Also, Juniper Research has stated in its report ‘Mobile Augmented Reality' that AR apps could reach 2.5 billion downloads in the next five years. This could also lead to many consumer and industrial majors taking keen business interest in pure-play AR firms.