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Augmented Reality: Where to Look

Steve Koenig, Sr. Director Market Research, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Augmented reality (AR) layers virtual elements over the physical environment to create enhanced visual experiences. At present, there is more to see in commercial/industrial applications than the consumer market—but that’s about to change.

Products including Microsoft Hololens and Google Glass EE are finding firm footing in business applications, from medicine to manufacturing. And WIRED reports Boeing, Volkswagen, DHL, GE and others have registered major gains in AR productivity and quality. Such transformative results from these pilot programs are inspiring other businesses to engage AR, bringing a new face to human-machine partnerships.

In the B2C market, businesses are discovering the game-changing nature of AR technology in creating altogether new brand experiences. Ray-Ban, for example, has implemented virtual try-on software powered by AR on their website. And fashion retailers including Ralph Lauren, Bergdorf Goodman and others are experimenting with AR-powered ‘smart’ mirrors that allow customers to try on clothes virtually instead of lugging along an armload of apparel – a critical innovation, since shoppers who visit dressing rooms are seven times more likely to make a purchase than those who just browse around on the sales floor.

But these early examples are just the beginning.

Get ready for a surge of AR innovation in the consumer space across a range of use cases including: social media, entertainment, e-commerce, mapping/indoor navigation, toys and, perhaps most importantly, visual search, according intelligence firm Tractica. Smartphone penetration has already hit 80 percent of U.S. households, CTA research shows, meaning the pump is primed for a gusher of mobile AR applications and tools. The forthcoming iOS 11-powered iPhone 8 from Apple, thanks to its ARKit, is widely expected to give AR a big push and trigger a seismic shift in the reality of the mobile device experience.

Want to hear more on AR and what to expect? Vote for my SXSW session ‘Augmented Reality 2018 – Evolution or Revolution?’. Voting runs through August 25.