The Rise of Augmented Reality: How Businesses are Using AR in 2021

Augmented Reality (AR) has been one of the biggest tech trends of 2021, and its future is only looking more exciting. For many years, we’ve been hearing about AR and how it can change technology. This may have all seemed a bit distant before, but recent AR developments and investments are signaling the rise of this technology.

AR has become far more accessible than ever before, and all kinds of businesses are starting to use it to reshape their industries and engage consumers in new ways. Could this be the next big thing?

Follow this article to find out how businesses are actually applying AR right now, and what its future could look like.



What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality, or AR, is a type of interactive experience where computer-generated images and information is displayed over a user’s view of the real world. Remember when everyone was playing Pokemon GO? Those superimposed Pokemon on your phone screen are an example of augmented reality.

Pokemon Go Source

Instead of complete virtual reality, augmented reality still uses what we see in the real world, and enhances this experience with new sounds, visuals, or other sensory additions.

While Augmented Reality isn’t necessarily that new, it’s become a seriously exciting trend for businesses. Many businesses are finding new ways to utilize AR to offer unique consumer experiences.

Different Types of Augmented Reality

When we talk about augmented reality, we aren’t just referring to those images of Pokemon on your phone screen. There are six different types of augmented reality that are triggered by different actions and objects. These are:

  • Marker-Based AR: This type of AR superimposes virtual 3D images over a specific physical marker in the real world. An example of this would be a Snapchat filter staying attached to your face as your head moves.
  • Markerless AR: Markerless AR places the 3D images over the real-life environment without using image pattern recognition. Instead, it uses the features available in the real-time data by using things like a GPS and a digital compass. The next four types of AR are all versions of Markerless AR.
  • Location-Based AR: The augmentation is applied based on a specific location. No cue from a physical object or area of focus is necessary for location-based AR.
  • Projection-Based AR: Projection-based AR uses projects a still image onto a specific surface. The user can move around, and the augmentation will only remain on that same surface.
  • Superimposition AR: Superimposition AR focuses on a target object, and uses it to offer a new perspective of that object, extra information on the object, or a full replacement of the original object.
  • Outlining AR: This type of AR uses object recognition to understand the real-life environment and offer outlines and boundaries on specific objects. This is often used to help car navigation systems in the dark.



How are Businesses Using AR in 2021?

Augmented reality has been steadily evolving for years now, but this time it might actually be a real game-changer. Many industries are anticipating a new wave of AR, and all kinds of AR solutions are being developed and put to use.

Augmented reality is becoming increasingly available to consumers, and the number of AR devices is projected to reach 1.73 billion by 2024. As this technology becomes more mainstream, businesses are finding all kinds of ways to use it to engage their consumers. Here are some of the exciting ways that businesses are using AR right now.

Smart Glasses

Smart glasses have been around for some time, but they’ve never really taken off. Google tried it with their Google Glass, but this resulted in an underwhelming experience that made the idea come to a quick end. In theory, smart AR glasses offer an awesome experience. This is the ultimate form of wearable tech. However, they just haven’t really been able to attract consumers’ attention. Well, this could change very soon.

There has been a lot of talk about new smart glasses in 2021. Facebook has the much-anticipated smart glasses that they’ve developed in collaboration with Luxottica. Facebook is not alone though. Other big brands entering the smart glasses market include Lenovo, Vuzix, and even Apple. Google also recently acquired North, an AR glasses startup. We’re still waiting to see what will come from this.



So what exactly will we be able to do with these AR smart glasses? Augmented reality glasses can be used for fitness tracking - like cycling and swimming. The glasses can be used to boost productivity by including things like emails, messages, and calendar notifications in your glasses’ vision. AR glasses could be used to provide weather reports, offer training experiences, or keep track of logistics. They can even just be used for fun holographic expoeriences. The glasses can also be enhanced with sound for a further enhanced experience.

Even Snapchat is releasing augmented reality glasses to overlay lenses directly onto the world around you.

As soon as augmented reality glasses really take off, they could open up a whole new era for wearable technology.

Apple Glasses Source

Augmented Reality Contacts

Augmented reality vision doesn’t end at smart glasses. Mojo Vision, an exciting startup, has been working on augmented reality contact lenses.

These contact lenses can display anything, from the regular updates that you would get on your Apple Watch, to more complex sights that fit into the real world.

The prospect of AR contact lenses seems like the ultimate step forward for invisible computing, and it could be taking off sooner than we might realize.

Education

Distanced, online learning is becoming increasingly popular. Businesses are now using augmented reality to enhance the learning experience. In fact, the use of AR in education is estimated to be worth $5.3 billion by 2023.

Instead of just focusing on passive learning, AR technology allows students to become fully immersed in their learning experience. This helps to boost the engagement levels of students, and it makes education more fun.

A good example of how this can be applied is by Gibson - the guitar brand. Gibson launched their ‘Epic’ app that uses augmented reality to offer a fully immersive guitar learning experience. The app uses an augmented audio experience to offer a new, engaging spin on learning guitar.


Retail

One of the most exciting areas where augmented reality is being applied is in retail and eCommerce. All kinds of businesses are finding creative ways to use AR to provide a more engaging, immersive consumer experience. This technology is currently transforming the retail market, offering many new opportunities for businesses to engage customers.

Dulux has a really cool app that allows consumers to try out their paint colors through an augmented reality experience. Instead of committing to painting their walls, users can point their cameras at their walls, and try out different colors. IKEA has released a similar AR app, where users can experiment with what different IKEA products would look like in their homes.

Ikea AR app Source

AR-powered mirrors can be used to show people what it would look like to wear certain items of clothing without having to get changed. Warby Parker also has a similar app that allows users to virtually try on different frames.

Social commerce is also experiencing some new cool AR developments, such as Snapscan’s Screenshop integration. This allows users to scan their friend’s outfit, and then shop for similar products directly on the app. With AR developments like this, the way that we shop is changing completely.

Entertainment

Ever wanted to ride a Super Mario Kart? Of course you have. This is something you can do through Super Nintendo World’s fully immersive AR experience. This new part of Universal Studios gives users augmented reality headsets for a completely unique ride. The AR transforms a short rail ride into something spectacular.

Legoland in New York has also a unique AR ride called Lego Factory adventure. This ride uses augmented reality to transform riders into Lego mini-figures.

With advancements and innovations like this, AR opens up a whole new world of entertainment potential.

Super Nintendo World

Social Media

Social media is one of the most popular examples of how augmented reality is applied. Think about dog ear filters on Snapchat - this is a classic example of augmented reality in action. These filters have been around for some time, but now it’s TikTok’s turn to introduce their own AR development.

Snapchat filter

Source

TikTok recently launched its Effect Studio creative toolset, which is currently in private beta testing. Developers can build AR effects for TikTok to make the platform even more exciting. Just like Facebook and Snapchat, this new AR development will help to engage TikTok users even more, and add a whole new spin to the type of content that creators can make.

TikTok Effect House

LiDAR

LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is nothing new. Basically, LiDAR is used to measure ranges and distances via remote sensing. This is necessary for advanced AR capabilities.

LiDAR is being pushed even further in 2021 by Apple. Apple has been using LiDAR technology in its premium products since it released the iPad Pro in 2020. An advanced LiDAR sensor will be a standard addition to the upcoming release of the new iPhone. This will improve the camera’s depth perception, and enhance the AR experience in a big way.

As LiDAR technology starts to become a standard feature on smartphones, augmented reality will start to offer greater possibilities to users. This also signals the development of more portable AR products.

Remote Assistance

37% of jobs in the US have the potential of being possible via telework. As telework continues to increase, businesses need to find ways of replacing in-person tasks with virtual experiences. Offering virtual manuals and remote assistance with the use of augmented reality is a great way to achieve this.

A good example of this is remote IT technician assistance. The IT technician can assist the customer through a screen. The customer can move their phone screen over parts of their computer, and the IT technician can use AR over the customer’s screen to assist them.

Augmented reality can also be used to create virtual user manuals. The technology can superimpose instructions, insights, or explanations over certain items. This could be applied to things like factory machinery, or a dashboard of a car.


Automotive

AR is turning video games into a reality with heads-up displays (HUDs). This use of AR can help drivers to stay focused on the road, and direct their attention to any possible dangers or nearby objects.

Volvo uses the Varjo XR-1 mixed reality headset in an interesting way. The headset uses AR to display virtual objects to drivers. This could be to help with driver training, such as having to do a sudden stop in case of an unexpected hazard. It could also be used to just keep the driver entertained, and offer them interesting insights while on the road.

AR in the automotive industry can also be used to offer a virtual driving experience of a new car. BMW offers an AR app, where users can see what a new BMW looks like in their driveway. You can also use this AR platform to decide on the perfect color for your new car.

Car AR Source

Events

With Covid-19 restrictions being implemented all over the world, augmented reality has been used to offer unique virtual events. The Pot Noodle Virtual Careers Fair is a great example of this. The original event was canceled due to social distancing restrictions. Instead of calling the event off, the event developed a fully immersive AR career fair experience. Users could just point their smartphones at any open space, and an augmented reality career fair would appear.

This is just one example of how events can be enhanced by AR. This includes both remote/virtual events as well as in-person events with added AR features.

An interesting thing to take note of is that this particular career fair used WebAR instead of an app. WebAR currently has 3.04 billion compatible devices, which is something that can help to make AR experiences even more accessible.

Virtual AR event

How Will Augmented Reality Change the Future?

If you keep track of tech trends, then you’ve probably been hearing about augmented reality for some time. However, right now the future for augmented reality is looking more exciting than ever. By 2025, the value of AR in the market is expected to reach $25 billion.

As AR technology becomes more portable, and more businesses start to integrate AR into their operations, we could be entering a whole new world of augmented reality. This could be seen through augmented real estate viewings, retail experiences, engineering applications, and way more.

Businesses today should definitely be keeping up with trends and developments in AR. As this technology becomes more accessible, using it could be the thing that sets you apart from the competition and revolutionizes your business.



Augmented Reality and AI

When considering the future of augmented reality, we can’t forget about artificial intelligence (AI). AI can enhance AR by offer better interactions with the physical world. AR cameras can help AI systems to collect more data for smarter, more exciting features and capabilities.

Using AR and AI together can help to produce features like object detection, scene labeling, text analysis, and more.

Check out this article to learn more about AI and how it’s shaping our future.

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Conclusion

Augmented reality has been a hot topic for a few years already, but now it’s really starting to take off. A wide range of industries are applying AR, and new AR developments are being made all the time. This makes augmented reality one of the most exciting tech trends to keep an eye on.

If you own a business, then you probably want to start thinking about how you could be implementing AR in the near future. This technology might soon start enhancing many different processes that you’re currently used to.

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Written by Tom

Tom is a marketing content writer at Wishpond, focused on the latest marketing and tech trends. Also a keen sourdough baker and dog person.