Augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced version of the natural world, which uses virtual elements to provide assistance in everyday activities. The adoption of AR devices amongst enterprises is now becoming commonplace. Industries such as aerospace, manufacturing and logistics are exploring new ways to use AR in their day-to-day business operations.
Technology majors like Google, Microsoft and Apple are looking to tap the early-mover advantage in the AR segment. Google has launched ARCore, a software development kit that has brought AR technology to smartphones. ARCore is primarily used in motion tracking, environmental tracking and light estimation. In addition, it has launched Google Glass, which uses AR to simplify the surgery procedure. Meanwhile, Microsoft has launched Microsoft HoloLens, which is the first self-contained, holographic computer, powered by Windows 10. The HoloLens can be used to see the world around us with 3D objects and virtual screens superimposed on the real environment. Apple has also joined this league with the launch of ARKit, which integrates iOS device camera and motion pictures to produce AR experiences in apps and games.
According to a recent report by Orbis Research, the global augmented reality and mixed reality (MR) market was valued at $1.43 billion in 2017, and is expected to reach $12.97 billion by 2023, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43.93 per cent. The report was limited to public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. The countries under consideration included the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.
The US is expected to be one of the fastest growing AR and MR markets in the world. Most of the companies advancing in this technology are based in the US. Leading players, such as Microsoft and Magic Leap, are actively working on this technology. In Western Europe, the consumer market for AR and MR is expected to be the largest in the years to come. As per the report by International Data Corporation, the AR/virtual reality (VR) segment in Western Europe would register a CAGR of 210 per cent by 2020.
AR adoption in India
The Indian market is at a nascent stage when it comes to AR adoption, but it has the potential to become one of the major AR hubs in the world. The AR/VR market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 76 per cent.
A few start-ups in the country have set up shop using this technology. According to the Market Pulse Report
on AR and VR by GrowthEnabler, the past few years have witnessed the emergence of 170 AR/VR start-ups in India. About 27 per cent of these start-ups are based in Bengaluru, 25 per cent in Delhi and 13 per cent in Mumbai.
Scanta, a Delhi-based start-up, has built AR technology-based marketing solutions by using Apple’s ARKit. These solutions enable the brands to interact creatively with their customers. Coca-Cola India was the first brand to use AR to engage with its customers. Smartivity, another Delhi-based start-up, sells STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths)-based educational content in the form of AR-enabled toys, and do-it-yourself kits. It works with schools integrating its products into the school curriculum, and also exports to the US and Europe. FlipAR develops AR applications, which enable better purchase decisions and present interactive information. Simulanis, which was initially an e-learning and skills training company that delivered computer-aided design and training services to engineering students, has started working on AR and VR technologies.
However, the GrowthEnabler report states that in India, only 5 per cent of the 100 AR start-ups have received capital investment. Thus, AR has not yet found its feet in the Indian market.
Role of 5G
The upcoming roll-out of 5G has been creating a buzz in the industry and is expected to change the technological landscape across the world. This also indicates bright prospects for AR as it depends on high speeds and decreased latency, two of the key characteristics of 5G. Further, for AR to gain traction in the future, the connection quality needs to be improved. On the 5G network, a million connections would be provided per square km.
One of the challenges of AR is accurate object recognition. If objects in the real and virtual worlds are not aligned with each other, the illusion of two coexisting worlds cannot be created. Another challenge pertains to interoperability. Currently, application architecture does not support the integration of functions like social media and AR browsers. Further, many AR vendors have privacy issues in their apps.
Limited applicability is yet another challenge for AR. So far, AR has been applied in gaming, while other areas have largely remained untapped. In addition, there are legal challenges pertaining to privacy and safety concerns, which may lead to stricter regulations, thereby hampering AR development.
The way forward
Given its wide applicability, AR can revolutionise the technology industry. Many big players and start-ups across the globe have been working in this space. Some of them have been successful while the others have not delivered promising results primarily due to the lack of funding. In India, AR is still in the incubation stage and would thrive only when the funding requirements of start-ups are met. Apart from funding, AR has to overcome many other challenges. The upcoming 5G roll-out might prove to be a game changer for AR technology.