Industry News – April 2021
As ever the industry behind the compelling use cases for augmented reality moves inexorably onwards with every passing quarter. This quarter we have seen big leaps in wearable technology news, some huge commercial deals and some wonderful case studies. Let’s start with the latter.
While COVID has been, let’s say, “an issue” for the Out Of Home industry, one thing it has done for Darabase and others who operate at the intersection of advertising and immersive technology is to drive the use of the QR code. QR codes are camera-first experiences and so arguably AR. This new usage is fantastic since, while most users will not identify it as augmented reality, it has acclimatised the whole nation and large parts of the world to using their mobile phone camera as an interface with rich functionality. In the context of AR use cases, the advancements of web AR means we can now much more seamlessly use a QR code to launch AR experiences by simply taking users from the native camera to a web based AR experience – no download required, very little friction and improved engagement. QR codes are now being used for all sorts of things, from pub menus to retail and now within OOH creative, making them an essential marketing tool in 2021 according to adweek. You can also find a useful best practice guide here from leading web AR technologists 8th Wall.
Google are also pushing the boundaries of mobile phone technology for AR by using binocular cameras for depth and redefining maps. They have continued the exciting rollout of AR wayfinding technology in Google Maps to shopping centres and placing content on physical objects and places. This is very exciting as it fully validates Darabase’s vision of the future where context of place is vital to the user experience, which is also layered on the physical world by default. We of course take a technology platform agnostic approach, but all the big players are clearly moving in the same direction. There is a whole series of articles from AR Insider about The AR Location Wars, which are well worth a read.
If one fact from the last few weeks powerfully points to AR being the future of digital it’s the news that 10,000 people work in the Facebook AR/VR teams. That’s nearly 1 in 5 employees and they spend roughly $6bn a year on AR/VR development. Facebook continue to set out their vision of the future and their “commitment to AR” with blog posts and videos on the Facebook Realty Labs blog.
Niantic is another of the biggest players and continuing news from them that Pokémon Go! was no flash in the pan with nearly $2bn in rev in 2020 means they have a significant war chest to promote their version of the AR future. Clues to this were revealed in a teasing Twitter post from John Hanke thier CEO with an image of Niantic branded AR glasses and in other news that they have a new game “Pikmin” in development with Nintendo, a game called Urban legends that shows how multiplayer AR will work in the real world, plus they recently released a video of their 5G trial with T-Mobile US.
Microsoft, who have been focussing on Enterprise AR with their Hololens product, already had a large scale deal with the US Army. In a deal that may never be surpassed they have just announced a new $22bn deal over 10 years which includes a first tranche of 120,000 pairs of AR glasses for infantry. A good round up of all XR wearables can be found here.
Moving on from commercial deals, we also saw news of the ongoing product development and iteration with the other big players. There was a leak over Samsung glasses. Snap announced a new version of glasses for developers of AR lenses, particularly focussing on the real world and there is a new Qualcomm AR glasses reference design available.
But no wrap up would ever be complete without some mention of Apple who seem poised to announce a mixed reality headset next month. They have said they want AR to be recordable and permanently stored and available to you to relive. They also highlight their ability to amend the images recorded to take real things out! While I can see the benefit of editing photos in this context how will we tell the difference between what’s recorded and edited and what actually happened?
I’d like to finish by bringing us back to today’s world rather than tomorrow’s. The big proptech news in the immersive space is the public listing of Matterport who produce technology for capturing space and making virtual tours. They are now valued at over $2bn and listed via a SPAC. Many congratulations to them.
Finally some great new case studies include:
A nice example of fun location-based AR with flowers on TikTok
NHS donation lens which shows your internal organs in AR via body tracking
A retro promise with Space Invaders coming to the real world.
A fun new retail based game from Hugo Boss
Louis Vuitton went to great lengths to bring true location based AR alive on their Paris store