Augmented reality (AR) has often struggled to live up to expectations but is evolving into a utility in specific consumer and enterprise applications. Upcoming metaverse platforms will integrate AR-related technologies, helping to bring the technology to the fore.

AR has traditionally been associated with video games, thanks to the popularity of Pokémon Go (released in 2016). However, the gaming industry has failed to build on this early success, largely due to an inability to move beyond the formula established by Pokémon Go and a tendency to over-hype mediocre titles.

Meanwhile, enterprises are experimenting with AR headsets and smart glasses. AR was perceived as the most disruptive technology in GlobalData’s Emerging Technology Sentiment Analysis Q2 2021 report, ahead of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and cybersecurity. 70% of respondents, up from 51% in Q1 2021, stated that AR would cause either slight or significant disruption to their industry.

Augmented reality and the consumer market

On the consumer front, AR is primarily used in social media, gaming, and ecommerce. While Pokémon Go and Snapchat Lenses helped popularize AR as a tool for entertainment, ecommerce is using it as a utility. Social media companies like Snap, Facebook, Tencent, and ByteDance, and retailers such as Shopify, Sephora, and ASOS, have merged ecommerce and AR, offering users the ability to try on products virtually.

The ease of viewing products online, coupled with the ability to interact with those products, gives users a novel and immersive shopping experience. Reportedly, shoppers are willing to pay more for a product if they can test it using AR. In addition, mobile apps such as Gaode Map, Google Translate, and Mondly are adding AR for navigation and education.

AR also enables consumer brands to provide more inventive, eye-catching, and interactive ads and move beyond non-interactive media like print and TV. In 2020, the pandemic drove brands towards online advertising, with many adopting AR to bring novel experiences to users. Shopify has reported a 94% increase in conversion rate for products that featured AR or 3D content.

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A key technology in the future of work

Augmented reality will be a key technology in the future of work, with images or graphics used to convey information or communicate messages.

Large enterprises across several industries use AR for remote collaboration, training, maintenance, product design, and customer support. The benefits, including increased employee productivity and reduction in service resolution time, will boost AR’s adoption in the future.

The pandemic has led several enterprises in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors to adopt AR, mainly for remote collaboration. Although the use of AR in enterprises is growing, large-scale adoption of AR headsets and smart glasses will be limited in the foreseeable future due to the devices’ high cost. Meanwhile, the use of AR tools via mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, will expand among small and medium-sized enterprises.

Metaverse platforms will bring AR to the forefront

Companies developing metaverses will increasingly focus on AR, thanks to AR’s ability to allow the user to see the real world overlaid with a layer of digital content. In addition, AR-related technologies such as simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), facial recognition, and motion tracking will be vital for developing metaverse-based use cases. Therefore, metaverse platforms, such as Niantic’s consumer-facing Real World Platform and Microsoft’s enterprise-oriented Mesh, will expand AR’s utility in the future.