Within 24 hours of mobile app Pokémon Go’s launch, the app was circulating through news headlines across the globe, and the world had finally caught wind of the technology that will change industry forever: Augmented Reality. By the end of this decade, we will depend on Augmented Reality [AR] as much as we depend on our Smartphones right now. AR is poised to disrupt nearly every existing modern industry, and open a market for its products that Digi-Capital estimates to be $150 billion by 2020 – and rapidly growing.
Augmented Reality technology seems complicated, but is actually simple: it combines 3-D sensor technology with a miniature projector to display images on a pair of glasses. The images are projected in a manner so that they appear to the wearer as holograms, thereby ‘augmenting’ the wearer’s reality. Pokémon Go is a primitive version of AR, as it does not involve a headset or optical projection, but nonetheless blends the digital with the physical.
AR has been a fantasy for sci-fi and tech fans since the 1980’s, but the technology to develop it did not exist until the past decade. The majority of AR startups began during a three-year window from 2010-2013.
DAQRI, started in 2010, makes a helmet for industrial manufacturers and machine operators. The company is estimated to be worth $453 million by 2020. Matt Kammerait, Vice President of Marketing at DAQRI, states, “at DAQRI, we see AR allowing anyone to be or do anything, no matter where they are - across domains as broad as art and science. It fundamentally erases the gap between what you know and what you could know, which today is separated by requiring a search or access to digital stores of knowledge.”
Even Elon Musk’s SpaceX is jumping into AR technology, as he demonstrates SpaceX’s new software that allows engineers to pull apart a virtual rocket engine using hand gestures.
These, and hundreds of other companies are developing AR technology that applies to every industry – health care, technology, consumer products, sports – you name it, and there’s a crucial role for AR to fill in any industry.
The Silicon Valley gold rush has begun; Tech behemoths such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Intel are chomping at the bit for a piece of the future AR market, and have made acquisition after acquisition of small AR startups.
In 2015, Apple started an entirely new ‘Augmented/Virtual Reality Department’, hired dozens of new employees, and bought out several 3-D scanning and facial recognition tech companies.
Google has been reworking its Google Glass after a less-than-spectacular launch a few years ago.
Microsoft developed an AR headset called the HoloLens, which is hitting the consumer electronics market right now.
Intel purchased Recon Instruments in 2012 for $175 million. Recon specializes in AR glasses for athletes, namely runners.
Currently, most basic AR headsets cost just over $1,000 - more specialized headsets are much more expensive. As these companies advance their technology from prototype products to economies of scale, the price of AR technology will fall over the next decade, first enabling businesses, and then consumers, to purchase their own headsets.