The Augmented Age

Augmented reality is getting bigger, the time to build your own AR app is now.

Since its inception, augmented reality, along with virtual reality were proclaimed to be the next big thing for consumers and marketers alike. Hardly a nouveaté today, following the worldwide hype of Pokemon Go a little over a year ago, and no longer the crazy futuristic concept it once was, the technology behind this trend is evolving into being more robust, mainstream and widely used. From virtual storefronts and showrooms to art displays and map overlays, AR apps require little other than your phone’s GPS and camera to work.

Why augment?

I remember starring intensely at the sky on a clear night when I was 10 years old, my grandpa helping me locate popular constellations like Cassiopeia, Lyra and Little Dipper. Today, all you have to do is point your smartphone at the sky to eliminate the guesswork and prevent your eyes from straining. Using GPS, augmented reality star finders enable us to gaze at the stars at night, instantly revealing the names of the constellations we can observe from our position, no matter the geo location. We can do the same with airplanes passing in the airspace above us – simply point your phone at the sky and the Plane Finder AR app will instantly provide you with the airline, flight number, speed and destination of the flight you’re looking at. 

AR apps in entertainment 

It’s easy to see how AR made its place in the gaming and entertainment industries, which were the first to fully embrace it. For them, it was the natural next step – a perfect response to the needs of their userbase, always looking for the next best thing in terms of gadgets and new experiences. 

Entertainment and thrill rides used to cost millions to build; today they can be developed at a fraction of the cost as props become virtual, experiences – simulated and realities – augmented or virtual. Theme parks around the world are placing entire new worlds in front of their customers, adding cinematic, driving, flying, fighting, or space exploration experiences, which can feel real and take much less space, time and money to build. They also no longer require buttons, joysticks or special software – everyone can experience these alternate universes using just their smartphone. Rides no longer have to involve a physical experience, which can be dangerous for fun seekers and expensive to maintain for providers – comfy leather cocoon chairs will do the trick. The newest additions at world renowned parks like Six Flags are VR coasters, which seem to be the preferred mode of experiencing things for many generation Z-ers, or Linksters (the generational cohort following the Millennials, which is the first generation to be born and grow up entirely in the digital era). 

AR / VR arcade simulators are becoming permanent fixtures in shopping centres and game zones, certain to deliver a quick and inexpensive thrill without ever having to leave to confines of a temperature-controlled building. 

Multi-industry opportunities

Some of the early industrial adopters of VR include the automotive, manufacturing, education, financial services, retail, government, healthcare, insurance, fashion, media and travel sectors to name a few. From simulated aquariums, terrariums or zoos to animated street exhibits or fashion shows coming alive, any dull or uneventful reality can get instantly better by introducing certain dynamic augmentations at a software level. 

Modern smartphones act as smart glasses to other, more colourful dimensions. The much anticipated Ikea furniture-placement app, now available on the newly released iOS 11, allows users to select furniture from its catalogue and place it virtually within a room, enabling them to fully envision the piece in their home before purchasing.

Developing AR applications

AR apps work by locating space that virtual objects can be placed on, detecting light in the physical space, which can then be reflected by virtual objects which cast a shadow like physical objects do, to appear realistic and a part of the existing space. The app needs to continuously recalculate positions and vantage points so that when you move the view (the physical reality) with your phone, the virtual object can stay put. Thus, your phone’s processor and memory space need to be able to handle these demanding processes. 

You don’t need to wait to splurge on an iPhone X to benefit from AR capabilities, however. The new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus feature new processors optimised for AR, the new iOS 11 offers appealing apps that turns your existing device into a mean AR machine. The selection of augmented reality apps available on the App and Play stores is ever increasing, ranging from basic to more advanced, free to premium.

To truly stand out with an AR app today, developers and their clients need to get creative and think about how their product or service can be showcased, tested or customised using software augmentations. Apple’s newly introduced ARKit SDK makes it much easier for app developers to plug into the iOS 11 augmented features and build apps that delight and impress. 

Copywriter: Ina Danova

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