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Blog September 26, 2018

AR + VR: Why Augmented Reality on Smartphones is Winning

Currently, the state of virtual reality remains dominated by the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, along with the various headsets ─like the Samsung Gear ─ which press your smartphone up against your face. The problem with these is that they are still big and bulky, or in the case of the phone solution - not very effective. They are getting better as recent updates include a wireless Vive with improved resolution to allow for more realistic depictions of text.

Augmented reality, on the other hand, is all about smartphones. There have been recent interesting developments in AR wearables like Epson's MOVERIO, but these devices are still a long way from mass consumer adoption. They're too costly and unsightly. These current applications are much more suited to industrial applications like land surveying or logistics management. Similarly, there are companies having success where the hardware is provided, and the environment is consistent. Museums are one great example where organizations like ARtGlass are taking advantage of the static lighting and object placement to provide users with a richer experience.

The adoption of smart phone augmented reality is quickly distancing itself from virtual reality and AR wearables because people already have a personal relationship with the hardware and trust these devices. They are expensive, but smartphones are viewed as an appliance, not as a frivolous device.

Some may ask then why I don't recommend VR solutions like the Samsung Gear since they also work with existing phone screen technology. The problem with these phone options is that the experience is eons behind the rich and immersive experience of something like the Vive. By presenting these options to customers you might be inoculating them against future adoption. Like AR wearables, the only way VR works right now is if you are providing the hardware at your location. If you are trying to reach customers in their own context and provide a truly worthwhile experience, AR is the better choice.

The other thing about AR that makes it more relevant to consumer companies is that the renderings are scalable. While in a virtual reality experience you can view things at any scale, without any reference to the real world it loses value. When you're on the AR side, the possibilities are endless. Imagine looking at a product like a car or a boat. I can look at it as a 1:4 scale on my dining room table, or a 1:8 scale on my desk, or maybe a 1:1 full-size scale in my garage and I can see if it fits and walk around it. The ability to place these objects on different sized planes and have them represent themselves based on the environment you are in is an extremely powerful tool, especially if you're a product company.

AR is really only limited by what you can imagine: from watching a movie where you're the director and you get to see all the perspectives and choose what you are focusing on, or watching a football game on the surface of your pool table. You could even use AR on that very same pool table as a training tool to help you improve your game by showing the outcome of every shot and angle. It's a major technology advancement with boundless possibilities.

This is not science fiction. We have it in our developer's hands. We're creating proof of concept applications and this technology is taking off. If you are a company who wants your customers to see and interact with your products within their own home or business - get on it.