Five years ago the world went crazy. Fences were jumped. Parks flooded with people. Gyms entered for purposes other than working out. Why? Pokémon Go. The first commercially successful Augmented Reality app took the world by storm as it demonstrated the entertainment uses of AR as well as its widespread readiness to be adopted if delivered in the right format. Through integrating nostalgia with new technology, the average person spent 43 minutes playing Pokémon Go daily, which is 13 minutes longer than people use WhatsApp and 18 minutes longer than people use Instagram.
Several lawsuits were filed against Niantic, the creators of Pokémon Go, as they were deemed to show a “flagrant disregard for the foreseeable consequences of populating the real world with virtual Pokémon”. If the introduction of Augmented Reality would cause “foreseeable” human behaviour, why is Pokémon Go, despite being widely successful, the only substantial AR app to breakthrough into mass-consumption over the past five years?
In our day-to-day lives we consume information across two spaces; our digital space & our physical space. Augmented Reality is the existing attempt to blend the two; ultimately forming a Mixed Reality where both worlds are seamlessly pieced together through the deployment of immersive technology. Through wearables such as the Google Glass (a form of Smart Glasses) to installations in the Moco Museum in Amsterdam, as well as several uses across Snapchat; Augmented Reality attempts to evolve and enrich our physical world experiences through building a Mixed Reality. Whether you use iPhone or Android, our devices now come armed and ready to utilise and share Augmented Reality experiences across a plethora of apps which leaves the activation opportunities vastly open.
Outside of entertainment, medical settings have been the next frontier of adoption for AR-enabled devices. Muensterer et al., (2014) conducted research largely focused around the potential applications across clinical practices, investigating the both the practical use and the level of tolerability amongst doctors wearing smart glasses throughout surgical procedures. Outside of the challenges with data protection, the test was deemed a success with those who wore the glasses everyday for four weeks likened the ease of access to photo and video documentation, making handsfree calls, and searching for unfamiliar medical terms or syndromes whilst still performing their everyday job.
So why hasn’t AR been widely integrated into everyday lives? or has it?
The past 15 months have been fascinating as the world was forced to shift substantially in its use of the internet, social media and digital communications because of COVID. As we grow increasingly more capable of sharing and receiving large quantities of information from the comfort of our home, Augmented Reality has many applications to integrate into the “new normal”. Whether that exists as a new line of communication; think possible integrations with Zoom or the New York Times bringing words to life, or existing as a layer built on top of an existing product or service such as a shopping element with brands such as IKEA and Warby Parker who have already adopted “try it at home” strategies to visualise their products to holographic renditions of Tupac.
The largest blocker to Augmented Reality entering the home is not a technology dependency but rather a cause of human psychology. Augmented Reality is fundamentally involved in many apps that we use; whether it’s lenses on Snapchat or filters on Instagram, Augmented Reality exists within our environment but not to the degree of a Pokemon Go.
The extent to which Augmented Reality will break into other spaces is similar to how the internet was born. It began with search, then sought after information before growing into many other categories and Augmented Reality will need to travel down a similar path before it is seen used by many. Voice technology is a lot closer than Augmented Reality and the adoption cycle of new tech will demonstrate just how far Augmented Reality can go. For some context, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Realitys’ “big brother” which focuses on full immersion, grew a massive 54% in 2020, and when the leaders of the industry involve Facebook & Sony, the mixed reality world we all will be living won’t be too far away.