Augmented Reality is still developing as a technology, but is beginning to move into the mainstream. The big tech companies are scrambling to build sustainable AR ecosystems to gain early foothold in the potentially lucrative market, while specialist firms are focusing on areas like content development.

Listed below are the leading companies in Augmented Reality, as identified by GlobalData.

Alibaba – China

In 2018, Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant launched Taobao Buy, an app that aims to make online shopping more interactive. The app, accessible via Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets, allows users to browse and interact for a select range of products from Alibaba’s online store. Alibaba acquired Infinity AR and has also invested in Augmented Reality companies like WayRay and Magic Leap.

Alphabet – US

Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is built on the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform and aims to supports enterprises with computer vision and machine learning applications. Google’s other Augmented Reality investments include Chrome AR and Cloud Anchors. In 2019 it introduced Scene Viewer, which allows users to view 3D models of products on websites, and launched persistent Cloud Anchors to enable real-world, multiplayer AR games.

Amazon – US

In 2017, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched Amazon Sumerian, a managed service that aims to help developers create VR, AR, and 3D apps and games. The service is integrated with other AWS services. Alexa is also available on smart glasses like the Vuzix Blade and Focals by North. On the retail side, the AR View feature on Amazon’s mobile app allows users to visualise products in their homes.

Apple – US

Apple’s AR game plan is heavily dependent on its ARKit SDK, which operates on all iOS devices. ARKit 3 launched in 2019 and features automatic real-time occlusion, real-time motion capture, RealityKit, and Reality Composer. The ARKit SDK has also been integrated with the Safari browser for WebAR experiences. Apple’s long-awaited AR headset and smart glasses are expected to debut around 2022-2023.

AT&T – US

AT&T is the exclusive US wireless carrier partner to Magic Leap and intends to use its 5G capabilities to develop AR-based enterprise offerings such as data visualisation. Its DirectTV Now and AT&T TV streaming services are available to Magic Leap One customers. Warner Bros (part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia subsidiary) patented a full-immersion movie theatre experience, designed to work with HoloLens and Magic Leap One.

Facebook – US

Facebook’s AR drive has been spearheaded by the Spark AR platform. The company has plans to introduce AR smart glasses featuring a custom chipset and has reportedly begun working on a project, Orion, in partnership with the Ray-Ban makers. Facebook is also developing edge computing systems that will effectively break network latency barriers.

Magic Leap – US

Magic Leap launched its long-awaited headset, the Magic Leap One, in August 2018 to mixed reviews. With AT&T as its exclusive US wireless carrier partner, the company is targeting enterprises, rather than consumers. Magic Leap’s acquisitions are indicative of its interest in computer vision, AR telepresence, and game development competencies.

Microsoft – US

Microsoft’s approach to the AR market is largely focused around its HoloLens headset. It is the strongest player in the AR hardware market. The HoloLens 2 headset features a range of hardware and software upgrades and comes with cloud services such as Azure Spatial Anchors and Azure Remote Rendering.

Niantic – US

Niantic is best known as the developer of Pokémon Go, the mobile AR sensation which generated $2bn in revenue from in-app purchases. Other notable mobile AR games developed by the company include Ingress Prime and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Niantic’s Real World Platform aims to improve the game development process by addressing barriers like latency. The company acquired Escher Reality and Matrix Mill to beef up its AR cloud and machine learning abilities.

Qualcomm – US

Qualcomm launched the XR1 chipset in 2018, claiming it would improve battery life, enhance audio and video quality, and reduce power consumption and temperature on AR headsets. It also boasts that its Cloud AI 100 chipsets will fuel the development of cloud-based AR services. Qualcomm announced its XR-optimised certification program, to enable smartphones running on the Snapdragon 855 processor to access 5G-powered AR content.

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Samsung – South Korea

Samsung demoed an experimental AR headset in 2018 and applied for a foldable smart glass design patent in 2019. While it confirms its foray into smart glasses, its smartphones are developing their AR. The latest Galaxy handsets have 3D depth-sensing cameras, Bixby Vision, and AR emojis. Samsung is also working on Project Whare, an AR cloud initiative.

Snap – US

Snapchat offers AR features like filters, lenses, Snappables, 3D Bitmoji, and Shoppable AR. In partnership with games companies, like Zynga, Snapchat offers AR games. It also sells Spectacles smart glasses. The Spectacles 3 range features HD cameras for depth perception and is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones.

Tencent – US

Tencent’s involvement in the technology spans from the development of WeChat’s AR framework to the launch of mobile AR game Let’s Hunt Monsters. The company introduced AR features on the WeChat Mini Program platform in 2019, enabling users to experience AR without downloading an app. The AR features support gaming, shopping, virtual tryons, and real estate inquiries, alongside other applications.

Unity – US

Unity offers a large number of 2D and 3D models, templates, SDKs, and Augmented Reality tools for developers through the Unity Asset Store. The company supports the leading AR devices and serves as an integrated platform for Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Unity is investing in AI to augment its 3D features and offer more flexible, creative tools for developers.

Vuzix – US

Backed by Intel, Vuzix’s devices have applications in gaming, manufacturing, training, and military. The company has consistently promoted the use of smart glasses in enterprises and supported DHL’s Vision Picking program as well as developing AR smartglasses for Toshiba. Vuzix is presently involved in the development of waveguide-based AR headsets for use in US military aircraft.

Walt Disney – US

Walt Disney’s patented Augmented Reality system and the Procam toolbox bring Disney characters to life in its theme parks worldwide. Disney Research plans to introduce AR costumes to theme parks. Hulu, Disney’s streaming subsidiary, launched the second season of TV series Light as a Feather, allowing fans to virtually interact with avatars.

This is an edited extract from the Augmented Reality – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.

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