Op-Ed | Why Augmented Reality Changes Everything | Opinion, Op Ed

SAN FRANCISCO, United States — In September, Apple made an important announcement. Its new operating system iOS 11 will have some major new features, including advanced augmented reality (AR) capabilities that will be available in up to 300 million phones worldwide by the end of 2017. Google followed with the announcement of their own AR software, ARCore, which will be available in 100 million phones soon thereafter. The investment made by the two tech giants comes as AR has been billed as an imminent game-changer for not only retail, but also for consumer-facing industries like travel and hospitality.

For those not familiar with AR, it is a technology that allows users to seamlessly blend virtual objects with the “real world” by viewing them in live action as superimposed 3D imagery on the screen of handheld devices, like phones and tablets. But while AR is not a new technology, it has mostly played second fiddle to virtual reality (VR).

Unlike VR, which still isn’t widely used for a variety of reasons, AR does not require dedicated immersive hardware, like headgear, goggles and gloves. AR is built to work with smartphones and tablets; devices that are already in the hands of most consumers in the developed world. In industries like retail, where the bridge between online and offline is often manifested through consumer smartphones, AR can significantly benefit businesses.

By many accounts, the first indication that AR could be a global consumer phenomenon was when Niantic Inc. released Pokemon Go in 2016, an app that has since been downloaded over 750 million times and driven over $1.2 billion in sales. While Pokemon was a lightweight 2D AR experience, it showed consumers and brands the potential of an immersive, mixed reality consumer phone application. Did you know that Pokemon Go has driven over 500 million in-person visits to sponsored physical locations? It’s incredible.

Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore will up the ante in a significant way…

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