In technology and advertising circles, January is traditionally the time for the annual trek to Las Vegas and the CES conference. This year CES is online only and while it will be different, there are already lots of promising teasers from all the major players. In this round up however we look back at the continuing flow of news through Q4 2020.
The hardware and software ecosystem that underpins all mobile and head-mounted AR experiences continues to develop and thrive. A number of technology giants and smaller start-ups outside of the usual big four have made interesting developments in Q4. Specifically, we have seen Canon announce the MREAL S1 goggles, Tilt Five raised $7.5m to develop new goggles for games, Zappar raised on Kickstarter for a 6DoF XR head-mounted viewer and Shadow Creator have put the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset to good use. In fact, the Qualcomm XR2 program has been so successful in the last year, it is credited with doubling the size of the hardware ecosystem. Commercial traction is also continuing with a £1bn NHS contract including the provision of AR headsets and NReal headsets now being sold in Japan.
The Apple rumour mill continues with reports that the LiDAR scanner launched on the iPhone 12 Pro in the autumn will be present in all versions of the iPhone 13. This one feature, which detects depth information, has already spawned a number of new apps which consumers can use to record 3D models of the world around them just like a photo. These include Polycam, 3D Scanner App, SiteScape and many others. Here’s a quick video from SiteScape showing the type of output you can get. More advanced features based on this technology could include future Apple glasses helping users to see better in low light levels. All these features are ways of tracking the world around you and new software is also playing a big role. 8th Wall has combined target image tracking with world surface tracking in some new and very exciting features available right now on mobile and importantly inside a standard browser so it’s available to all.
Developments of these types then make their way naturally into commercial activity. This continues to surge with 2020 (and now 2021) restrictions serving to demonstrate to advertisers and other commercial organisations the value that AR can bring in helping consumers do things in different and inherently better ways. Some of these are indoor experiences such as the WWF turning your sitting room into a rainforest, but imagine a spectacular implementation of this covering the whole of Piccadilly in London. This is the direction of travel as we move AR from faces and spaces to places. EE are taking the leap with Rita Ora swerving skyscrapers in London, Macy’s famous parade gets AR decorations, the Coca Cola Lorry makes an AR appearance in the streets of Romania and KAWS continues to put art in public locations, this time in Beijing.
5G is another important driver of AR adoption over time and while the Qualcomm chipset mentioned previously is a significant technology driver of this, we also see two big commercial players coming together to demonstrate the value and benefits with the first Verizon powered 5G Snap Landmarker experience. Expect much more of this over time as experiences become differentiated by the bandwidth available on location.
Snap also saw a new Anime filter used 3 billion times in the first week of launch! Big IP owners continue to invest in AR and Nintendo has leveraged Mario Karts in a new “Live” version of the iconic karting game. And let’s not forget to mention the original innovator in the AR gaming space; Pokémon Go! has now passed $4 billion in revenues and continues to grow, ensuring it’s owner Niantic’s ongoing investment in (sic) “use(ing) emerging AR technology to spark creative and engaging journeys in the real world”.
With Digi-Capital now suggesting that there are 1 billion monthly active users of AR on mobile we can genuinely say that AR on mobile is a mass media channel for commercial activity right now and as result brands will be very active in this media in 2021.