Recent augmented reality events in Beijing, namely Mobile Monday and Christine Perey’s AR in China have highlighted the surge in companies focusing on the new technology and its possibilities. A recent BBC article showed that augmented reality goes beyond gimmicks for business and ABI Research forecasts the AR market to be worth US$3bn by 2016, compared to just US$21mn in 2010.
AR is part of the digital evolution
According to Christine Perey of Perey Research & Consulting, “AR provides a way to experience digital information in tight association of the real world.” Perey also believes that AR is a natural evolution from physical object in the real world like print media to digital media on CDs to information on the web, eventually coming now into the age of augmented reality where we can now interact with the physical world.
Types of AR – Industrial, Desktop, Mobile
- Industrial – is more for professional use, such as in warfare for armies
- Desktop – is when you use the webcam from your computer to augment something on your physical form, made famous by experiments from the Transformers movie, try it!
- Mobile – is the use of consumer mobile devices and will be a massive market to watch out for
Use cases – endless!
Everyone agrees, AR is currently at the tip of the ice-berg but it will only be a matter of time before it reaches a tipping point and everything becomes augmented. For this reason, talks are already under way about international standards on how to use AR. Christine’s research shows that AR is evolving very rapidly and shows the categories and use cases below.
3 categories of how to use AR:
- Guide – a system that leads the user through a process in the real world in real time
- Create – a system that allows the user to attach digital objects to their real world
- Play – a system that supports 2-way interaction between objects and people
Current and emerging use cases (examples):
- Guides to getting around – transportation, city, cultural sites, architecture
- Social – finding friends, reviewing restaurants and bars
- Media – viewing TV, extra information on newspapers and magazines
- Marketing – collecting coupons and creating brand awareness
- Shopping – try before you buy things like watches, glasses
- Entertainment/Games – use your mobile to play or walk around with friends
- Automotive/Aerospace – design, manufacturing, repair and maintenance
- Medical/Healthcare – learning and operating
- Design/Architecture – see what it looks like before building it
- Defense – learning how to operate weaponry
- Print Publishing – show the user more on top of a magazine
A taste of AR
A few international AR companies presented their cool works. Here’s a snapshot: (note – videos are from YouTube, you might need VPN to view them)
Founded in 2009 in the Netherlands, now with 60 people and Intel VC backed, Layar is the leading AR browser.
One example of how the game company, Ubisoft used AR to launch its new title, Splinter Cell, stands out. They created an espionage game where people downloaded the mobile app and followed markers around Amsterdam city, to finally end up in a famous hotel with a real bouncer that let them into a room to play the game on Xbox.
Founded in 1999, the French based company is also Intel VC backed and has already completed more than 850 projects and is the leading AR technology provider.
One amazing campaign was created for the French eyewear company, Atol in a try-before you buy campaign where users can wear different styles of AR glasses. The campaign resulted in 50% increased traffic on their website and 40% new unique users and 6x more searches for ATOI on Google.
Founded in 2007, Qoncept is a Japanese based company, privately owned and specializing in AR marketing campaigns.
They worked with Girard Perregaux, a luxury Swiss watch brand to create an intriguing campaign that allowed users to wear a paper band with markers. When held in front of a camera, it looks like you are wearing different styles of watches.
Chinese AR companies are learning quickly
There were a few more AR companies which are doing exciting stuff. Olaworks from Korea is working on some very interesting technology such as facial recognition. MobileBus also from Korea is working on marker based AR games. The future is bright for AR and already some VC’s are looking at it for huge growth opportunities.
In China Senscape is doing a Layar like browser and has recently launched their service with one real estate channel. Another Chinese based company, AiSIDE is an alliance of software developers that supports using AR for iOS and Android development and licenses technology from German based AR company, Metaio. Although relatively fresh in the AR space, these companies are taking the learnings from the leaders in Europe and localizing the experience to the Chinese market. It is exciting to see advanced research and development in AR being undertaken at universities such as the Laboratory of Opto-electronics Technology and Information System at Beijing Institute of Technology. With labs like this, China could become a major player in AR.
International AR companies come to China to heat up market
So what are these AR companies doing in China?
- Attractive market – like every other company around the world, they know that China is the frontier of opportunities with its increasingly wealthy and massive population. Chinese are also a suitable population to target because they love cool technology and are spending more and more time on mobile smart devices.
- Educate China about AR – a recurring theme of all the companies, was that AR is still very infant and China like the rest of the world needs to be educated about what it is and how it can benefit society and business
- Find talent - many of them are also looking to open offices in China and Korea to capitalize on the strong and relatively cheap engineering talent that Asia has to offer.