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4 Barriers That Threaten AR’s Journey to the Mainstream

Augmented Reality Development
Technology, Information and Media
There’s no doubt: AR is the future. But barriers remain to this day that prevent it from achieving widespread adoption. We take a close look at them and chart out the possible escape routes.

Although AR (Augmented Reality) already represents an installed base of over a billion units, it remains an elusive concept for many businesses and consumers. But with the coming of the metaverse, some of tech’s biggest names have made a pivot to AR, putting the spotlight on a new view of the real world. 

As a result, the market for AR and VR (Virtual Reality) is projected to reach $94.4 billion by 2023. Poised on the brink of such explosive growth, it would be useful to take stock of the barriers that remain in the way of progress for companies looking to make the most of AR-enabled devices and services.

Chiefly, there are four. 

Barrier #1: Devices, devices, devices

Right now, AR is interesting, but not practical — especially in an industrial context. Users always need to be holding a device in their hands, looking through a small window. 

Devices like Snap Inc’s Spectacles command just a few square inches of the user’s physical surroundings and don’t breach the threshold of a truly different reality yet — despite making a case for immersive AR.

ARKit and ARCore – One Big Leap for AR

When Apple released ARKit in 2017, followed within hours by the rollout of ARCore for Android, new doors opened. These powerful frameworks allowed app developers better access to and exploration of augmented reality development that overlay digital on real.

Today, ARKit’s innovation sees it deliver on many fronts.

  • Better location anchors

This goes over mere longitudinal and latitudinal placement of objects in AR to a more accurate and anchored one. With this update, users can now take a 360-degree view of the Empire State Building in New York and freely move around it. If you’re curious about checking this out yourself, read our DIY guide on building a distance visualizer with just your iPhone!

  • 3D Photogrammetry

RealityKit 2 just uses the iPhone to shoot 2D images of the object and gets the Mac’s Object Capture API to churn out lifelike 3D models. A developer can just start a new photogrammetry session in RealityKit and call the process function to reproduce the model of the real-world environment at the desired level of detail. If you’re still looking for the next step, well, stop. Because that’s that.

Barrier #2: It’s all about the UX

In a 2021 survey by Perkins Coie, respondents said that good user experience is the top barrier to the greater adoption of XR (AR and VR) solutions. 

The problem arises when one considers that existing digital content for websites and apps can’t simply be repurposed for AR technologies and platforms. Everything starts from scratch — starting with how the content is written and the user flows reimagined.

Fortunately, help is on its way. Although the content and design requirements for AR are enormous, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are fast scaling to deliver. 

Barrier #3: Hang on, where are the industry adopters?

As all sectors of the economy recognize AR’s benefits, they’ll leverage it for an expanding range of uses. 

Right now, the adoption of AR apps is patchy because of the device barrier. Each industry has its processes set in stone. Innovation cannot break through conservatism overnight.

As this report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) points out, AR’s potential for better K-12 education is significant. A lack of funding, hardware, and curriculums that can adapt to AR prove to be the stumbling blocks. 

Barrier #4: Who’s steering the ship?

Outside of entertainment, it’s hard to say who currently leads the charge in AR. As Apple, Microsoft, Meta (what you once knew as Facebook), Snapchat, and countless other players vie for market share, the ensuing chaos has left no clear innovator in charge.

The technology lacks a true ambassador. And in the absence of unified pro-AR voices, negative coverage of intrusive AR content is being given disproportionate weight.

In fact, some of the visions painted for AR’s future are just plain false. For instance, depictions of AR as a channel that deliver overwhelming retail experiences present a false future. They don’t reflect practical possibilities because no provider can push all their content out at once.

But AR is not without its concerns

There are, however, some areas of concern for AR that can’t be ignored. Where the AR experience could become overwhelming is with location-based apps. If Google maps delivered a constant stream of real time geo-spatially targeted ads as the user navigates, there could be pushback.

To counterbalance this potential for drowning its consumers in too much information, AR companies must increasingly customize and curate their apps to foster lasting best practices for unobtrusive user experiences..

But is it still worth it?

While AR is not yet widespread across industries and the Internet of Things (IoT), its approaching impact is enormous. The installed AR base is still small enough to force serious contemplation regarding heavy investments of time and resources into augmented reality experiences.

But the vision is getting closer and clearer every day. Digging in and driving ahead to deliver bottom line-impacting, user-delighting AR experiences will be 100% worth it. Case in point is Facebook’s rebranding as Meta — an all-in trillion dollar bet on their VR and AR systems.

What this means for your business

At Mutual Mobile, we couldn't agree more with the scope AR/VR holds for sweeping changes. Our fluency in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) comes from the work we delivered for companies like Walmart and Royal Caribbean, to name a few.

Our engineers are exploring ways to create AR/VR experiences that will transform your interactions with customers. By experimenting and building during the early adoption stages, businesses like yours will be in a position to leverage the early mover advantage when computer-generated AR deployment at scale hits the mainstream.

And as we all know, early movers enjoy all the pros and none of the cons.

Together, let’s get moving

Own the future.

John Sommer

John Sommer worked at Mutual Mobile as a Creative Director.

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