The New Mobile AR Ecosystem

Jun 6, 2017 | Augmented Reality

Apple's mobile AR play

The Mobile AR space is heating up fast. It is now estimated that there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users globally by 2020. Key players’ strategies with respect to AR and VR have recently undergone a notable shift toward mobile, and high-octane 1-2-3 announcements from Facebook, Google and Apple at April-May-June developer conferences have opened a new game. According to the Digi-Capital 2017 report,

VR will be big, AR will be bigger and take longer. What sounded revolutionary when we first said it 2 years ago has become accepted wisdom. But now the market has actually launched, we’ve got 12 months of real world performance and major tech players’ strategies emerging. And that’s changed our views on VR/AR growth. A lot. Our new Augmented/Virtual Reality Report 2017 base case is that Mobile AR could become the primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021 (underperform $94 billion, outperform $122 billion) with AR taking the lion’s share of $83 billion and VR $25 billion.”

Here’s our summary of the emerging mobile AR ecosystem.

Facebook AR Studio
At Facebook’s F8 conference in April, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a AR Studio,a mobile AR development and distribution platform at Facebook scale. The company, which has 1.3 billion monthly active users, declared it is”‘making the camera the first mainstream augmented reality platform” and giving developers the power to start building for mobile AR immediately. The open platform will enable familiar AR features such as face masks, art frames and style transfers, as well as emerging 3D capabilities and 3D effects enabled by SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) and object recognition.


Google Tango and Lens

Google Tango is a mobile AR platform that uses computer vision to enable smartphones to detect their position relative to the world around them without using GPS or other external signals. Tango capabilities include sophisticated 3D mapping, spatial measurement, indoor navigation, and placement of virtual objects into physical environments.. In summer of 2016, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro was released as the first Tango-enabled consumer smartphone. The field will expand in July with ASUS’ debut of the ZenFone AR, the first 5.7-inch smartphone “built for augmented reality.”

And, at Google’s I/O developer conference in May, CEO Sundar Pichai announced Google Lens, a new technology that enables you to essentially search the internet through your smartphone camera. Google Lens is image search in reverse: you capture a photo and Google figures out what’s in it and helps you take action. During a demo, Google showed how you could connect to a home Wi-Fi network by taking a picture of the sticker on the router. Or take a picture of a restaurant and get rating information, menu, and hours – and see if there’s a table available tonight. Google didn’t announce when Lens would be available, but promised it “soon.”


Apple ARKit

This week at WWDC, Apple announced ARKit for augmented reality apps, breaking its silence on XR and officially entering the game. ARKit uses the built-in camera, processors,and motion sensors in iOS devices,and harnesses new developments in computer vision to enable “detailed and compelling virtual content on top of real world scenes for interactive gaming, immersive shopping experiences, industrial design and more.” Because ARKit will be available across the iOS ecosystem, Apple boasts it’s “the largest AR platform in the world.” Apple CEO Tim Cook indicated last year that the company is investing in AR, and said that it could be “huge.”


Snapchat World Lenses

Also worthy of note, Snapchat recently introduced World Lenses – new capabilities that extend its popular filters beyond faces and into any scene that you can capture with your smartphone’s camera. With branded Snap experiences on the rise – Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo “taco head” lens was viewed 224 million times – World Lenses could expand the potential.


Vuforia Project Chalk

Vuforia Project Chalk lets people communicate intuitively in real time in AR. Vuforia describes itself as the world’s most widely deployed AR platform, with more than 400 million app installs worldwide. It uses computer vision technology to track image targets and simple 3D objects in real time, and supports the majority of smartphones running on Android and iOS. Project Chalk lets people share an AR image and “draw” on it by making hand-drawn annotations that can communicate how to turn on a coffee machine, operate a remote control, fix a plumbing problem and more.


Aryzon’s Kickstarter

In the wildcard arena, Aryzon, offering 3D augmented reality for every smartphone, tripled its kickstarter goal in a matter of days with a very impressive demo that poises it as a potential cardboard of 3D AR – a feat many would have thought impossible. In its nascent stages, it’s being described as a “$30 alternative to Microsoft HoloLens.”


Pokemon Go and the Future of Mobile AR Content

Pokemon Go gave many consumers their first experience of mobile AR. It has now been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide, and has generated more than $1 billion in revenue in less than a year. Google’s Sundar Pichai, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella all hailed Pokémon Go as a major early win for AR. The mobile AR sensation also delivers interesting information about market demographics, as 68% of its users are between 13 and 29 years old.

The mobile AR market has been blown wide open by these new developments, and the future for content, experiences, and applications is bright and inviting. Stay tuned for our upcoming design and development insights as we venture into building the future in this exciting new space.

-Heather Raikes, Creative Director, 8ninths


If you are interested in discussing Mobile AR opportunities for your business, shoot us an email at info@ or give us a call at 206.456.5294.

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