Augmented reality is a term, invented by the Boeing researcher Thomas Caudell back in 1990. Nevertheless, uses for augmented reality began appearing only recently. In particular, the most striking augmented reality examples include the fun game Pokemon GO, as well as futuristic Google Glasses.
What does augmented reality mean? This concept is often confused with virtual reality. However, unlike the latter, the augmented reality only communicates certain digital information about the real life objects that is transmitted to the application. This is accomplished with a help of a device capable of processing a video signal (for example, smartphones or tablets with cameras). Virtual reality, in its turn, is a full-fledged alternative to an environment, visually perceived by a person, going far beyond the real world’s capabilities.
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Augmented reality applications are a separate branch of the IT-sphere, which can provide huge profits to their developers. Researchers predict that by the beginning of 2024 the size of the augmented reality applications (including gaming, advertising, medical, educational, geological, and other types of apps) market would reach $165 billion. In this article, we tried to consider the specifics of different types of augmented reality business projects, as well as the best augmented reality apps from a commercial point of view.
The most popular kinds of Augmented Reality applications
Entertainment. The gaming area is best suited for the implementation of augmented reality applications. In particular, incredible excitement among the mass audience was produced by a still very popular free game Pokemon GO, monetized through micropayments. Analyzing the user’s location through GPS sensors, this application reproduces the appearance of cartoon characters in real environments. Before the advent of Pokemon GO, as early as 2011, the first versions of Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita were released – special game consoles, which, due to their considerable retail price, did not justify the expected sales level. Anyway, how practice shows, the most profitable for developers are those applications of augmented reality that were designed for users of already existing mobile devices – smartphones and tablets.
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Retail. IKEA, the home retail giant, back in 2013 offered its customers a special application that allows recreating any of supplied goods at any desired scale and position over real environments. Its simplicity and unobtrusive design attracted an additional customer audience, thereby significantly increasing the sales. Lego trademark, well-known for their children model kits, also decided to use the augmented reality application to increase profits. Digital Box product, developed within the framework of the advertising campaign of the new model series, allows the online buyers to watch each model in an already assembled form while providing the opportunity to view it from all sides (literally – “spin in hands”). L’Oreal company does not lag behind these advanced brands, offering the services of online makeup planning. A simple, at first glance, application attracts potential buyers to new products of L’Oreal without the need for purposeful and obtrusive advertising campaigns.
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Tourism. One of the most practical application spheres for augmented reality software is tourism. Such solutions as Layar and Field Trip have long become an integral part of amateur travelers’ equipment. Based on geolocation, such augmented reality applications provide the user-specific information about the visited sites (for example, a description of the attraction at which the camera of the personal mobile device is directed).
Science. The famous Star Walk application contributes not only to exciting outdoor activities. Star Walk is a fairly advanced tool for the practical study of astronomy. Helping to recognize more than 200 thousand species of celestial bodies, this application is an excellent alternative to expensive digital telescopes. Note also that NASA annually allocates a separate budget for the implementation of fundamentally new ideas using the technology of augmented reality for public use, thereby indirectly motivating new specialists to cooperate.
Which AR app should I build?
Due to the fact that augmented reality applications are becoming more popular every day, the demand for specialists in this field has increased notably. If you never before were engaged in the development of this kind of applications, first you must answer three very important questions, listed below:
– What would be the purpose of the application? Above we considered the 4 most popular types of augmented reality applications. In all fairness, it is worth noting that the least expensive in terms of consumable resources are games, as well as beauty and retail applications. Typically, the emphasis in this kind of software is placed to the attractive design and user-friendly interface. The engineering and development of such apps are quite feasible for any experienced team of programmers. In turn, other types of applications will require the involvement of third-party services and specific knowledge specialists, which in turn will entail the additional time expenses and the emergence of new difficulties in the workflow.
– What would be the target platform? As for the mobile platforms, iOS and Android are undisputed leaders here. This can be explained, first of all, by the fact that the most commercially successful applications are developed for a mass target audience, which means ensuring the lowest possible cost for the finished product. AR platforms such as Google Glass, Nintendo 3DS, and Sony PlayStation Vita require the purchase of special devices for the visualization of the digital information, making the application itself less accessible to the end user as compared to mobile OSes.
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– What would be the main operating principle of the application? You can choose two fundamentally different ways of implementing your application: with AR markers or by using the locative data. Any object caught into the camera’s field of vision, starting with special marks in the form of simple geometric shapes and ending with difficult to recognize elements, such as people’s faces, can be a marker. Special software analyzes them acutely. Then, based on the received data, it reproduces on the screen of the user’s mobile device the corresponding digital information (be it the text describing the object’s characteristics or new virtual objects that do not exist in reality). A textbook example describing the principle of such markers’ effect is the well-known QR codes, which, after digital processing, launch certain sequences of actions in a running application. Non-marker technologies are based on the determination of user’s mobile device coordinates. Using the data obtained through GPS and various sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, etc.), the application generates useful information for the user and displays it on the gadget screen.
As the statistics show, business in the field of augmented reality application development can be extremely profitable. Therefore, in order to create a successfully sold product, it is necessary not only to come up with a fruitful startup idea but also to clearly define the ways of its implementation, the platform for development and the target audience.