Augmented Reality is becoming a genuine reality. Several corporations have placed big bets on AR's capabilities to continue to transform human interaction with the digital world, which is still in its early years, but it is growing.
iOS vs Android
By compiling a list of some of the big players, and their respective strong suits, some light will hopefully be shed on how these pieces all play together. Ultimately, AR is a massive opportunity. These big corporations have shown success with chances like these before, so there is some confidence of success, but failure is always a possibility, if not a certainty for some.
Google and Apple are primed to continue the iOS v. Android fight in the AR space. ARKit is Apple’s augmented reality mass market solution, released alongside iOS 11. Augmented reality has big potential in the smartphone world. Google is already involved through Project Tango and ARCore but it’s Apple that’s pushing the technology notably hard through iOS 11 and ARKit. Now that iOS 11 has launched, millions of iPhones and iPads are AR compatible and there’s be no need for any external hardware to get started.
Google just announced ARCore, the Android equivalent, a couple of weeks ago. It’s not as clear, though, the number of devices that will be capable of running ARCore, since the Android space is more fragmented. Devices hoping to run ARCore will need the perfect combination of fast enough hardware, properly calibrated sensors, and running the latest version of Android. Luckily for Google, since ARCore is fairly resource intensive, mainly newer top of the line devices will be able to run it, and those are typically a bit more up to date when compared to the entire Android device base.
Microsoft, Snap and the Chipmakers
Microsoft is another big player in this space, yet is still staying somewhat under the radar. Realistically, they have been making Xbox Kinect and it’s related software for years, and while this is a completely different use case for AR, it is a use case nonetheless.
Then comes Snapchat, who has actually already released some augmented reality hardware, the Spectacles. At only $150, this seemingly useless gadget actually displays some powerful use cases of augmented reality, and leads me to believe that Google got massive amounts of data on the uses of spectacle based AR devices with the Google Glasses. It is also fairly clear that Apple Glasses are not far behind.
Then come the chipmakers that will be providing the physical hardware for all this amazing software. To name a few, Nvidia (NVDA), AMD, Intel (INTC), and Himax (HIMX) are primed for massive chip demand. Considering the computational needs of augmented reality, this demand will only go up from where it is today.
Facebook Vs. Occulus
Let’s not forget Facebook, whose purchase of Occulus in 2014 along with it’s most recent F8 developer conference announcements seems to also prime the company for some big augmented reality news in the near future.
While Occulus is a virtual reality headset company, virtual reality and augmented reality somewhat fit together quite nicely. Both involve similar needs in terms of computational muscle, but augmented reality requires a much more generic approach to software. The world is a big and varied place, and there are so many environments that we can take our augmented reality enabled devices into. The Arctic tundra is very different in it’s lighting and other characteristics when compared to the depths of the Amazonian rainforest, and this has a huge impact on how AR software should overlay items within these different places.
Augmented reality has more potential, though, to provide value in the real world. There has yet to be a massively compelling reason to dive into virtual reality, other than some cool looking gaming experiences. With augmented reality, though, software products that affect real people every day will be possible.
Once a usable and useful spectacle based AR solution comes out, that’s when augmented reality will really take off. Objects around our world will have a digital layer, viewable only in the appropriate augmented “dimension”. This is already something some apps are primed to launch alongside iOS 11.
To recap, the AR9 will be: AMD, Apple, Facebook, Google, Himax, Intel, Microsoft, Nvidia, Snapchat. Will there be more? Definitely, and several companies will likely have meteoric rises to fame with augmented reality’s mainstream adoption. For now, though, this group of nine will definitely make augmented reality waves around the globe.
Benjamin is a passionate software engineer with a strong technical background, with ambitions to deliver a delightful experience to as many users as possible. He previously interned at Google, Apple and LinkedIn. He built his first PC at 15, and has recently upgraded to iOS/crypto-currency experiments. Benjamin holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from UCLA and is completing a master’s degree in Software Engineering at Harvard University.