Is Augmented Reality Just a Novelty?

January 31, 2018 - 4 minutes read

Augmented reality (AR) has come a long way from being a subject only discussed in social circles of the San Francisco developer community. With the help of Pokemon Go, AR broke into the mainstream spotlight. But while everyone’s excited for its future, many are wondering — where does it go from here?

Some Very Real Obstacles

AR is quickly becoming the main driving force of the AR/VR market. But there are a few obstacles impeding its growth into a major platform for the mass market. Separated from other technologies, AR has no dedicated device that affords us a substantial battery life and dynamic connectivity to integrate with our day-to-day lives.

Sure, there are headsets, but these are either limited physically by an actual cord or a limited battery life. Because of these limiting circumstances, AR has remained as a sort of niche in the developer community. Even when the tech aspect is put aside, it’s easy to see why organizations and businesses haven’t given it much thought: monetization remains an elusive accomplishment.

Game of Phones

Before Pokemon Go, the concept of using a phone for AR had not yet entered the mainstream. After the game’s release, it became apparent that mobile phones fulfill some of the requirements for the AR industry to flourish. Of course, it didn’t fit the imagined goggles we were so sure would be the main vessel to experience AR through. But phones did provide decent battery life and the much-needed connectivity for AR to be adaptable.

Both Google and Apple recently released AR development kits, ARCore and ARKit, respectively. Couple this with the fact that the latest smartphones place a larger emphasis on AR capabilities than previous iterations, and it sounds like AR is well on its way to tackling the lack of a development community. But in reality, these efforts are laying down the foundation for a developer community to form.

The probability that this community becomes a reality actually depends on, you guessed it, money. With the wild success of Pokemon Go, it makes sense that most for-profit ventures into AR development focus on gaming. It’s one of the only “tested” markets for AR, new content can be easily accessed by the masses, and many different apps can be made in this category. This, in turn, opens the opportunity for an actual AR app economy to form which in turn drives more development… you get the picture.

Money Drives Development Drives Money

Whether you think AR is a novelty or not strictly depends on your view of its current position in the technological ecosystem. Of course, AR has made its debut in a few other mobile arenas, like retail and real estate. But until another monumental success like Pokemon Go occurs outside of gaming, this niche will keep on driving AR until another breakthrough happens. Branding is one of the most promising venues for AR to grow in; the impact that AR could have by providing unique experiences is hard to quantify, but it gives businesses invaluable assets: your attention and memory.

Regardless, dedicated AR adoption is still quite a ways off. Exactly how far off depends on where the money and following tech talent go; when the perfect balance of viability and profitability is struck, then and only then will we see dedicated AR break out of its current novelty status as gaming hardware. Until then, if you want to see the future of AR, look no further than your app store.

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