Augmented Reality: The Past, Present & Future
Augmented reality (AR) is moving towards a universal takeover. With development in the technology from major companies, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Meta (previously Facebook), AR is set to be the most influential technology of the decade.
But where did AR start? What is the current state of AR and how is it integrating into everyday life? And what does the future hold for AR and how will we get there? Learn about it all in this guide.
What is augmented reality?
To understand its origins, current state, and future potential, it is first important to understand what augmented reality is. Augmented reality integrates digital information with the user’s real-time environment. In simpler terms, AR allows the users to see the real world, with digital objects projected onto it.
Even if you think you haven’t experienced AR, you probably have. Have you ever used Snapchat or Instagram filters? Well, if you have, you have experienced AR.
AR technology comes in many forms, and social media filters are only the tip of the iceberg.
Augmented reality: the past
Despite sounding futuristic to many, augmented reality is not a totally new concept. Although difficult to identify its exact first use, the term ‘augmented reality’ was first coined in 1990 and saw accelerated use and innovations from there.
Augmented reality: early applications
Many consider the first ‘real use’ of augmented reality to be Louis Rosenberg’s Virtual Fixtures, developed for US Air Force Pilots training. The AR system was extremely complex and required the user to wear a full upper body exoskeleton and binocular magnifiers. Users could then interact with virtual overlays and see robotic arms in place of their own, experiencing the first AR system in practice.
Another early use of AR came in 1994 in the Theatre industry. A stage performance by director Julie Martin titled ‘Dancing in Cyberspace’. The performance involved dancers and acrobats engaging with and performing around virtual (life-sized) objects projected on stage in real time.
Augmented reality: innovative marketing
Fast forwarding to more recent AR developments, the iPhone 4 was the first iPhone that had the capabilities to run AR. A true milestone for AR as this is when it became widely accessible to the public.
At Engine Creative, the team behind Reydar, our augmented reality marketing projects were not far behind this. One of our early projects included work with Top Gear magazine to create the world’s first augmented reality magazine in 2011, where readers could use their phones to scan pages in a physical copy of the magazine to receive a digital editorial piece.
Another innovative AR project we worked on was for multi-platinum selling artists The Ting Tings. The Ting Tings and Sony Music partnered with Engine Creative to bring the ‘Sounds From Nowheresville’ album cover to life. Fans who purchased the new album could see the album cover art rip apart to reveal the ‘Hang It Up’ music video, using the Arasms app and their smartphone camera. See the AR album cover burst to life below.
These early projects defined what augmented reality was all about, taking a traditionally physical experience and augmenting it digitally. And although from this point AR became used in more applications, it wasn’t until recent years that AR innovations became more interactive, immersive, and most importantly, accessible.
Augmented reality: the present
As AR technology has progressed, as have its applications and purpose. The technology available today is paving the way for exponential growth. Forecasts predict that the AR market is expected to grow from a value of USD 4.14 billion in 2020 to USD 97.6 billion in 2028, with users and devices simultaneously increasing.
What is the current state of AR?
Often people relate gaming with augmented reality, and the popularity and success of the 2016 mobile game Pok‘e’Mon Go aided in building this common conception. But although gaming and AR go hand in hand, AR’s capabilities and purpose reach far beyond this.
Augmented reality has become much more accessible thanks to innovations in app-based AR and web-based AR (WebAR). App-based AR allows for a wider range of features, whilst WebAR is far more user-friendly and accessible.
App-based AR is available via downloaded apps and provides a highly immersive augmented reality experience, generally offering more comprehensive tracking and placement of digital objects in rendered environments. Apps can deliver more sophisticated content opportunities, higher quality 3D objects and increased functionality compared to WebAR, however, is not as accessible.
Much like scanning a barcode to see a menu at a bar or restaurant, WebAR allows users to access an immersive and interactive AR experience without the need for an app to function. This means that users can immerse themselves in AR using only their smartphone camera and web browser.
WebAR has led to AR in retail becoming quietly powerful, as of 2020, only 1% of retailers utilised AR within their customer journey. However, this small percentage see results that would be eyewatering to anyone within the industry.
of consumers say they prefer retailers with AR experiences. Source: threekit
of users would shop more often if they used AR. Source: threekit
of shoppers think that AR would allow them to make better purchase decisions. Source: Reydar
higher conversion rates utilising AR within your customer journey. Source: Dataprot
From social media filters and 3D AR viewers to video games and augmented retail store experiences – AR innovation is taking over and becoming more common than you might think.
Augmented Reality Agency: What Can We Offer?
At Reydar, we have been developing AR and 3D experiences for a variety of clients using unique applications for over a decade. Our goal is to bring your products to life across the web, augmented reality and beyond.
The Reydar AR viewer allows users to view products in their own environment as if the product is right in front of them. Allowing shoppers to visualise and interact with products, wherever they are and whenever they want. Test out our 3D model viewer below and ping the laptop into your own space using our AR technology:
At the heart of our efforts, lies the ReyBeam Product Network. This network is the first end-to-end 3D marketing platform and is a central hub to manage your 3D models for the web, augmented reality and metaverse. 3D model products can be easily uploaded to our platform (or let us help you create them), and then it is as simple as adding product information and integrating them into your augmented reality experiences. You can also add a Reydar QR code to your marketing collateral to further enhance experiences. Learn more about the ReyBeam Product Network here.
The future of augmented reality
There seems to be one common conception amongst audiences on what the future holds for augmented reality – AR glasses. And although there are plenty of examples suggesting this to be the route, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and rumours of Apple releasing smart glasses, it is still difficult to pinpoint the exact route that AR is going to take.
Another key aspect of the future of AR is 5G connections. It is predicted that the expansion of 5G networks is going to bolster AR innovation and capabilities. 5G connections allow for faster loading and more realistic 3D objects, allowing experiences to become even more immersive. This means that devices (including AR glasses) would be more than capable of connecting to programs, software or interactions from cloud-based servers.
With major players like Google and Meta entering the scene, and the term ‘metaverse’ being mentioned more than ever, it is not hard to see that innovations in AR will be incredibly influential in the next decade. There is still a lot of work to be done to bring these potential augmented reality products and ideas to reality. But the fact that companies, both large and small are investing in working out exactly what and how future AR tech will work, is incredibly promising for the field.
Current AR experiences will not remain a novelty or flashy for long, as technological investments and acknowledgement of the potential of AR increases, as will its use and applications. We cannot for certain define where augmented reality will go in the coming years, but we can certainly guarantee that it is here to stay.