Innovative technologies transform science fiction into reality, and AR is undoubtedly one of them. Holograms, like in the Star Wars and the Marvel movies, now surround us in the real world, bringing a new immersive experience, and it’s more than just entertainment. Today, augmented reality is an effective business tool.
Across a number of different industries like retail, business, gaming, healthcare, and even the military, augmented reality is used for solving various business challenges. It’s important to keep an eye on these technologies to know where the industry is heading. As we discuss these 12 augmented reality trends making moves in 2023, think about how these solutions may benefit your own business.
It’s likely no surprise to you that augmented reality is being used alongside other metaverse technologies. The metaverse has barraged news media over this past year since Facebook’s ‘Meta’ rebranding. However, it’s not just marketing hogwash. One of the goals of metaverse technologies is to strike down the barriers between the digital and physical worlds. Since augmented reality can display virtual objects embedded in our real world, various opportunities emerge for businesses and consumers alike.
If we’re going to bring digital experiences into the real world, AR is a great start. Using body and face tracking, as well as advanced scene depth sensing, companies are already working on camera filters that accomplish this. Geenee AR and Ready Player Me partnered up to make this experience a reality. By inserting your avatar into Geenee’s WebAR Builder software, you can effectively ‘wear’ your avatar on camera. The software also takes into account cosmetic items on your Ready Player Me character, including accessories in the form of NFTs.
This technology isn’t new. It’s been seen in use with apps like Snapchat and Instagram for a long time. However, the innovative element is how the app allows users to drop their avatar that they use on other platforms into the app and use it in AR. In the future, this technology could be used to better hybridize virtual meetings. If one person on your team is using a VR headset to attend a meeting and you’re attending without a VR headset, an AR avatar of the person could represent them at your meeting.
Making more cost-effective and powerful AR headsets is the number one barrier to entry here. Time will tell how the technology evolves.
Although it may not seem like an augmented reality technology on the surface, spatial audio is very important for enhancing the immersion of AR experiences. Metaverse technologists are obsessed with including all of our five senses in the process, and our hearing is no exception. To make VR and AR experiences more immersive, 3D audio is needed. Users should be able to tell where a sound is coming from in 3D space based on their own position.
Meta recently added an advanced engine to its AR Spark Studio to create sound effects by mixing multiple sounds. This allows creators to create multi-sensory effects that allow people to use both sight and sound to feel more immersed in the augmented reality experience. In this way, we can make sounds play in response to human interaction with our AR effect.
Metaverse fans love taking things from the digital world into the real world and vice versa with AR. This technology has actually been around since before the metaverse craze. For example, Meta is working on displaying digital collectibles in AR. All creators will need to do is import their NFTs as 2D virtual objects into Instagram Stories and combine them with “See in AR” functionality. This will open up new opportunities for collectors and creators to access and share their NFTs beyond their wallets and it will certainly quickly become one of the key augmented reality market trends in 2023.
There has also been some buzz about virtual art, or art from the real world being offered as AR experiences. For example, Sotheby’s, the fourth oldest auction house in the world, has begun offering AR experiences to bidders through an Instagram filter that allows them to see art up for auction up close and personal. Sotheby’s used this technology to sell a painting for $121.2 million.
There are two ways that artificial intelligence plays nicely with augmented reality:
Artificial intelligence powers facial and spatial recognition software needed for AR to function.
AR and AI solutions can work together to provide innovative solutions.
These roles aren’t necessarily exclusive. They tend to blend together quite a bit.
Augmented reality and artificial intelligence are separate technologies. However, it’s no surprise that AI and AR work well together due to AR’s needs. Complicated algorithms must be used to make sense of sensor data of the environment. AI can simplify that process and make it more accurate than a model made exclusively by a human.
An example of this in practice is the app ClipDrop. The app allows users to quickly digitize an item in the real world into a 3D object for use in programs like PowerPoint, Photoshop, Google Docs, and more. 3D scanning can be used to import real-world objects into metaverse environments as well. 3D scanning may be a great way for businesses to speed up the pipeline of offering items for virtual trial experiences as well.
Automatic design is another use case of combining AR and AI. An app called SketchAR is an example of this technology in action. Users can freely draw in AR using this app. However, they can also use an AI to draw for them. The AI can create structures quickly. This shows that it’s possible for AI programs to design objects in 3D space using the real world as the source environment. In the future, this may mean that AI will be able to design and create structures for use in the real world.
One of the main vehicles for delivering augmented reality experiences has been mobile devices. Most consumers have some kind of mobile device, and AR headsets haven’t gone mainstream for consumer use just yet. Because of that, businesses have found a number of opportunities to leverage mobile devices for AR. The technology has improved significantly as well over the years.
In 2022, Google introduced a new API for geospatial experiences. This allows developers to create experiences that are tied to specific locations in space. In the past, AR experiences have been purely relative to the user or in arbitrary locations set by the user.
Geospatial API allows developers to set latitude and longitude coordinates for AR content. Scanning the physical space isn’t necessary either. It works very similarly to Apple ARKit Location Anchors, comparing images of the surrounding area to Google Street View images to determine a specific location nearly instantaneously.
Several new features were introduced by Apple for their ARKit 6 upgrade in 2022 at WWDC. One of them is a 4K video recording while ARKit content is in use. The depth API has also received an upgrade to make scene occlusion and other experiences much more realistic. Apple’s LiDAR scanner allows AR experiences to be prepared so quickly that they call the technology ‘instant AR’.
Apple also improves its motion capture feature. When the camera is focused on another person, motion capture data can be taken from their movements and applied to a 3D model. One of the other latest upgrades is people occlusion, which allows virtual objects to pass in front of and behind people in the scene.
One major example of these ARKit 6 enhancements in use is through RoomPlan, a solution that leverages LiDAR scanning to quickly create floor plans of a house or other structure.
The competition between Apple and Google in the augmented reality arena has been more or less the same over the past several years. As usual, both technologies are on par with one another in terms of software.
However, hardware is where things get more interesting. Apple’s LiDAR scanner and similar technologies found on higher-end Samsung devices can leverage the highest quality AR experiences available. However, there’s a wide variety of hardware differences between Android devices. Many Android devices simply aren’t powerful enough to handle higher-end AR.
Because of this, businesses need to be strategic about the kinds of AR experiences they want to offer. If they want to offer high-quality experiences to a smaller, wealthier audience with the devices that can handle it, they can let their imaginations run wild. However, if a business is looking for an accessible experience for more devices, they will need to tone things down a bit with a simpler app.
Another important trend in augmented reality is WebAR. Powered by web browsers, WebAR doesn’t require users to download additional software. This is the best-case scenario for accessibility. However, it comes at a cost — WebAR offers the most basic AR experiences and lacks many of the features that native AR can offer on mobile devices.
However, in some cases, WebAR can be very useful for simple experiences. Like adding filters to faces, changing the color of hair or objects, background replacement, and simple 3D objects. Simpler virtual try-on experiences are possible with WebAR. These are used by a number of businesses like L’Oréal and Maybelline for their cosmetic products.
Tom Emrich from 8th Wall, the world’s leading WebAR development platform, notes that WebAR is the key to bridging the gap between the virtual and physical worlds. Although WebAR isn’t very powerful at the moment, the evolution of WebAR may be one of the most important ways to engage with the Internet in the future. 8th Wall is continuing to improve WebAR technologies to fulfill this vision.
One major challenge in developing AR is making apps cross-platform. There’s also the unfortunate truth that cross-platform applications will most likely not be quite as good as the full potential of native ones. However, cross-platform apps can be very high quality if the right steps are taken. Cross-platform AR is easier to code and can result in a faster time to market. However, performance and presentation can suffer.
Generally, it’s better to keep an app native if the app is very complex and needs to use the full potential of native features. However, if the app is simpler and doesn’t need extremely high performance, cross-platform will do just fine.
For example, if you are creating an online store where 90% of the functionality is not platform-dependent, does not require maximum performance and has a simple product preview module in AR, then you can opt for cross-platform AR. But if we deal with an application whose functionality requires maximum performance or is platform-dependent, then the native option is better. This applies to projects such as 3D scanning or AR navigation.
Working with an augmented reality development company is a great way to build cross-platform applications with the highest quality possible. This allows you not only to improve the quality of your product but also helps you focus on other aspects of your business.
It seems like with every year that passes, comfortable and consumer-friendly AR glasses are just around the corner. One of the latest devices up in the air is Meta’s planned mixed reality headset currently called Cambria. This is a new product line separate from their successful Meta Quest 2.
However, the Cambria headset seems to be geared more toward wealthier audiences looking to get an early experience with the future of AR. Because of this, it seems that Cambria isn’t the magic bullet everyone was hoping for. However, it may be a step in the right direction.
Another important thing to watch out for is the evolution of Apple’s LiDAR scanner. Apple is one of the top companies predicted to introduce a consumer-focused AR headset or glasses in the future. In 2020, their advanced depth sensor was equipped on the iPad Pro, and later was equipped on the iPhone 12 Pro. The more that this technology and processing can be miniaturized, the more likely that we may see comfortable to wear ‘Apple Glasses’ in the future.
In addition to AR glasses, there are even more innovative devices that promise to take a prominent place among the augmented reality future trends. In June 2022, Mojo Vision Labs in Saratoga, California hosted the first demonstration of augmented reality smart contact lenses. Relying on eye tracking, communications and software, AR lenses integrate with user interface to enable an augmented reality experience. Mojo Lens has a custom-tuned accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer that continuously track eye movements to ensure that AR images remain still as the eyes move.
There are a number of different applications for Augmented Reality in the marketing industry. For example, business cards are a popular and simple choice that can work with simple AR solutions. By adding interactivity to marketing material like a business card, you stand out from the competition and offer potential customers a whole new and exciting experience to get to know your company.
The MobiDev demo below shows how this business idea can be implemented using ARKit.
AR manuals are also a popular choice among businesses looking to provide their customers with more detailed and feature-rich instructions and documentation. AR not only allows for delivering information in an engaging way, but also significantly improves the user experience without forcing the buyer to spend a lot of effort to master one or another mechanism.
The MobiDev demo below presents a virtual user instruction for a coffee machine to show AR virtual manuals in action.
AR also has many opportunities for use in advertising. Web banner ads have decreased in popularity with users considerably over the years. Click through rate of banner ads have dropped from 0.72% in 2016 to 0.35% in 2019. One reason why this may be the case is those banner ads are disruptive to the content the user is trying to access. However, AR ads may provide more seamless access to content, obstructing content less. For example, with Facebook’s new augmented reality ads users can access AR experiences from their timeline with special ads with various capabilities. Some of these features include virtual try-on, placing virtual objects in their homes, and more.
In 2022, AR navigation has become more fluid and achievable than ever before. Most importantly, the rise of technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) antennas, Wi-Fi RTT and ultra wideband (UWB) make indoor navigation much more viable than in previous years. One of the most useful applications of this technology is for displaying AR directions in large indoor locations like distribution centers, shopping malls, and airports.
Watch the demo below to find out how MobiDev implemented mobile AR for navigation of the corporate campus.
Something that shouldn’t be overlooked is this technology’s potential to be used by both consumer and business users. Just as a guest in a store may use AR indoor navigation to find the product they’re looking for, a distribution center worker may use it to find a particular item in their warehouse. Although comfortable and affordable glasses with AR capability aren’t quite here yet, the capacity for the business applications of AR in distribution centers, stores, and other sectors is there.
With indoor navigation, buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) services can be made much more efficient. Team members tasked to ‘pick’ the items in the store for order fulfillment can use AR directions to directly navigate to find the item as opposed to following coordinate directions to find the item. This eliminates time spent looking through many similar items and finding the correct aisle and section of the store. All the team member has to do is hold up their device and see the directions on the screen.
However, there are some limitations that need to be taken into account, such as items that have been misplaced around the store. If they have been moved by guests or incorrectly logged into the system, the team member might use AR navigation on their device to arrive at an empty spot on a shelf.
According to Deloitte Research, augmented reality and AI will transform the traditional healthcare business model by offering AR/MR-enabled hands-free solutions and IA-based diagnostic tools. For example, Microsoft Hololens 2 can provide information to the surgeon while allowing them to use both of their hands during the procedure.
With the continued restrictions associated with Covid-19, the use of augmented reality solutions is becoming increasingly important to address issues such as the complexity of remote patient support and the increased burden on hospitals. This includes both telesurgery solutions and mental health apps that are helping people to maintain psychological balance during these difficult times. For example, features such as drawing and annotating on the 3D screen can make communication between doctors and patients much easier and clearer. Remote assistance tools can also help clinicians support their patients while reducing downtime.
Combining with machine learning algorithms, AR technology can become an efficient option for disease detection. Back in 2020, Google announced the development of an AR-based microscope for the Department of Defense (DoD) to improve the accuracy of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Such a hybrid device uses a camera to capture images in real-time which are then processed using computer diagnostics to immediately display results and diagnose diseases at an early stage.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic called for numerous innovations that could help extend experiences to online shoppers. Augmented reality was one of the technologies that benefitted the most from this disruption. It resulted in an explosion of virtual try-on solutions.
Brands are actively adopting AR technology to improve the user experience when shopping online. For example, Dior has repeatedly launched AR shoes experiences allowing customers to virtually try on shoes before buying. Back in 2020, Dior teamed up with Snapchat to create such an initiative for the first time.
FRED Jewelry uses AR to let customers customize bracelets on the company website with a 3D configurator and try them on virtually.
As quarantine lockdowns have come to an end and brick-and-mortar stores have seen customers return, there is still an opportunity for AR to help with in-store experiences too. Smart mirrors are a great way to enrich the in-store experience and reduce the load on fitting rooms. Customers can walk up to smart mirrors and try on clothes in-store with advanced AR technologies not available on their smartphones.
Smart mirrors are also helpful in situations where certain sizes of clothes aren’t available in store and need to be shipped to customers. Smart mirrors and virtual fitting room technologies from home can help with these needs.
Many AR applications are consumer-focused. However, AR has a lot of potential for use in industries like manufacturing. For example, worker training can be enhanced with AR experiences powered by CAD data. AR can also assist technicians through routine maintenance processes. AR applications can highlight elements of devices being worked on to guide technicians through the process at hand. This is generally more accessible through head-mounted solutions than through mobile applications.
In more simple applications, AR can help give workers more contextual information about objects in a factory when set up appropriately. By highlighting an object with a mobile device, a worker can learn more about it and if any action, such as maintenance, needs to be taken.
AR also has a promise for remote troubleshooting. Remote support agents can place virtual markers on the screen for workers to follow on the other end of the call. This can allow for more rich and valuable remote support in factory locations.
Augmented reality has a number of different applications that can be useful for the automotive industry. One of the more futuristic and interesting technologies emerging in this space is AR highlighting on-road objects through the use of a heads-up display (HUD). This can make drivers aware of hazards and GPS directions without requiring them to take their eyes off the road. AR is also in use for entertainment and information, such as 3D car manuals and other applications.
One interesting application of AR in the automotive industry is for parking assistance. With the help of 5G connectivity, empty parking spaces can be highlighted on a driver’s heads-up display. This can also provide a great deal of data that can be useful for optimizing the layouts and operations of parking facilities like parking lots and garages.
The WakeUp app developed by MobiDev also can be a great example of using augmented reality in the automotive industry. The objective of WakeUp is to help keep drivers awake by using ARKit facial recognition technology to detect when a driver’s eyes are closed or their head is tilted. If the eyes remain closed or head is tilted for too long, the device plays an alarm to help wake the driver up.
There is room for this technology to grow. For example, TrueDepth camera with its infrared sensing can help to perform head and eye tracking in complete darkness. Also, artificial intelligence could detect behaviors from a driver that indicate that they might become drowsy and alert the driver before it’s too late. These are the directions in which we are going to develop these products in the future.
The augmented reality market will continue to grow as the years go by, especially as technology becomes more and more accessible to consumers. With there being a significant growth in the focus on metaverse technologies, AR is the next step for many businesses. Those who are playing the long game may want to jump into this sector a bit early.
However, those looking to respond to more immediate growth and change may find better success in retail and mobile applications. AR-capable smartphones and tablets are everywhere and are great opportunities to advertise and extend conversion-driving experiences to users.
With the market expected to reach $97.76 billion in 2028, it’s clear that augmented reality is the future for many industries. That future will be determined by businesses that adapt to today’s challenges in new and innovative ways. Companies that offer rich AR experiences to their customers will be much better equipped to stand up alongside their competition.