The following is a guest contributed post by Vince Cacace, CEO at Vertebrae.
The beginning of the era of augmented reality is here, and we have the device in our pocket to thank.
When a new technological innovation evolves from the theoretical to the practical, the most common question people ask is, “how do I get it?”
Within the next three to eight years, we will ultimately associate our relationship with augmented reality through smart glasses or contacts where digital images are overlaid onto our field of vision by intelligent optics. In the meantime, augmented reality will be introduced to the masses through a much more familiar medium… The smartphone.
New Technology Adopts The Dominant Platform
Paradigms are slow to change. Just because a new innovation or piece of hardware is getting a lot of headlines, that doesn’t mean people are actually using it or even know what it is.
For instance, it took years for traffic from mobile Web browsers to bypass that from desktop browsers. For all the hype that the iPhone had from, say, 2007 through 2012, mobile was not yet the dominant computing platform.
Companies which make money on digital traffic—media, entertainment, advertising etc.—recognized the traffic patterns and began preparing for the mobile-first future, even if it was not then a reality in their products and platforms. When a new technology comes about, most early innovations tend towards the dominant computing platform at the time. Companies loathe to abandon a viable business to move towards a newer and sparsely adopted vehicle.
Today, the dominant computing platform is mobile. People spend more time on their smartphones than on desktop computers or watching television. Thus, similar to mobile’s impact on VR 1.0 adoption (via 360 video), mobile is the perfect distribution method for the early stages of augmented reality.
Making Augmented The Reality
The foundational companies of the mobile era are the ones building the infrastructure on which immersive (spanning both VR & AR) media realities will be built. We are back to the iOS and Android platform wars of 2007, where companies are competing to own the software ecosystem of AR – to later dominate the hardware side if and when AR glasses are the device that replaces your smartphone.
Last week, the public stood transfixed at the augmented reality capabilities Apple showed off with the unveiling of the iPhone 8 and iOS 11. Artists and designers are taking to Apple’s ARKit introduced in iOS 11 to create some truly stunning animations and Waking Life-style dreamscapes presented through an iPhone’s screen. ARKit will be a foundational principle for the growth of augmented reality, accelerated through Apple’s popularity and power.
Similarly, Google’s ARCore is designed to enable creators to more easily develop augmented reality experiences that set the stage for more advanced features and functions as the technology develops in years to come. All this in addition to Project Tango.
Facebook and Snapchat are also in the game. Snap’s World Lenses are going further than vomiting rainbows of years past– and allow users to place and interact with 3D objects in the world around them. Snap has already tested the waters on a hardware play with Spectacles (which are not AR, but expose people to the concept of a wearable camera where the content can later be augmented from the app). Facebook’s Camera—part of its core Facebook app—is now enabling facial filters and other introductory AR features.
Now is the time for mobile AR, and immersive media more broadly, and it will be exciting to see which companies take advantage. Advertisers will have a field day due to the personalized experiences consumers can have with products. Imagine trying on a pair of Ray-Ban’s, or seeing what a new Mazda looks like in your driveway- without physically having either product.
Nobody (except for Niantic with Pokemon Go) has found a sticky AR use case yet – and it will be interesting to see what resonates with consumers over the coming months.
On the other hand, advertisers can take advantage of AR advertising at scale right away – delivered over the mobile browser. An AR ad doesn’t need to be sticky – it just needs to have utility and provide an engaging and personalized experience for a consumer on the path to purchase. That’s why we, at Vertebrae, have developed a turnkey and accessible cross-platform solution for advertisers that want to take advantage of all AR has to offer.
Predictions surrounding VR/AR headsets may generally agree to mass consumer adoption being three to eight years out, but the global mass adoption of smartphones– coupled with the improvements in the subsequent technology on those phones– creates an immediate lane for companies to engage audiences with immersive, interactive, virtual and augmented experiences across the mobile landscape.