When Facebook and Apple make extraordinary investments in new technology like they are with augmented reality, you know it’s something to pay attention to. Both companies have made it clear recently that they are committed to developing, testing and implementing augmented reality technology. Apple is more focused on creating tools for the development community while Facebook’s strategy is making AR available to the masses.
What is augmented reality (AR)?
Augmented reality is the technology that puts virtual objects into the real world either through an AR headset or by using the camera on a phone or tablet. Users then interact with those virtual objects from the screen, and the line that separates the virtual from the real world becomes a bit fuzzy. The bunny ears and moustaches of selfie philtres are one of the most obvious applications, but augmented reality was also the technology behind the Pokémon GO video game that launched in 2016 and quickly became an obsession for many around the world as users chased Pokémon characters around public areas. We’re just at the beginning of the possibilities and as augmented reality matures it is expected to change many things from how we work to how we play, learn and connect.
Apple’s ARKit 2.0 Released
With the announcement recently that they were releasing ARKit 2.0, the third version of Apple’s developer platform for AR apps, the company is stepping up its commitment to the technology. Bank of America Merrill Lynch expects augmented reality to be an $8 billion “revenue opportunity” for Apple.
One of the drivers of Apple’s growth is expected to be AR apps that will “command a price premium” but also the additional sales of iPhones due to the new technology. Here are a few apps that are already deployed or are in prototype thanks to ARKit:
- IKEA Place: No more guessing how furniture will look, feel and fit in your home. With this app, you can imagine it and virtually “place” true-to-scale IKEA objects in your space.
- American Airlines: This AR app prototype overlays real-time info to your surroundings in airport terminals so you can navigate with ease whether you need to grab something to eat or find the nearest restroom.
- Complete Anatomy: Imagine how lifelike learning can be with the Complete Anatomy app that lets users see the human body in great detail.
Facebook Tests AR Ads
Despite recent negative press, Facebook is still popular and has a tremendous reach on its platforms—more than 1.3 billion users on Messenger, 2 billion on Facebook and 800 million on Instagram.
Facebook wants to make AR available to the masses and with their tremendous reach they already have a head start. It’s easier for people to experiment in AR with the app they already have—Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger—and they definitely expect to expand beyond face philtres.
Some Facebook advertisers are getting exclusive access to test out ads with special effects with “tap it to try it on features.” Want to see how a pair of sunglasses looks on your face—you can do so virtually with AR. So far, Pottery Barn, Wayfair, NYX Professional Makeup and Bobbi Brown are a few businesses who have been able to test this AR ad functionality.
Another AR innovation introduced at the F8 conference was the ability to make regular photos look 3D. This has potential to provide additional applications in AR such as incorporating a 3D object as a virtual gift in a news post. Besides, AR can be used in Facebook Messenger to visualise and try out products.
Facebook also introduced a feature that lets you connect images, logos and signs with augmented content. It’s part of a closed beta test of “target tracking” that uses the Facebook camera and movie posters for A Wrinkle in Time and Ready Player One that connects real-world pictures with augmented content. This is an example of persistent AR, where the experience is connected—and persists—based on places or things in the real world.
The partnership between developers and the large tech companies of Apple and Facebook allowed AR applications to be dreamed up and built out creating opportunities for games and play, business solutions and revenue opportunities.