One of the most recent predictions from the tech world is that over one billion people will engage with augmented reality tech by 2021. With Facebook only recently reaching the 2 billion mark, perhaps one billion doesn’t seem quite as impossible as it sounds. If half of Facebook’s users adopt AR then the prediction can easily be met, the question is how AR will be accessed. Apple has a four-wave answer that includes mobile devices, wearables and hardware.
The most obvious first wave of AR tech is already in use. Facebook’s Camera Effects platform and Apple’s ARKit for iOS provide users the opportunity to engage with digital effects that merge with reality on the phone they already use. This wave will most likely account for the largest number of users, especially if AR becomes a standard feature in future smartphones.
The second wave is AR hardware, like Google’s Tango. This device is a smartphone/tablet that is used only for augmented reality. These singular devices are meant for AR geeks who are committed to the full augmented reality experience. Think gamers and graphic designers. There might not be a billion of them but they make up a huge consumer base.
Next up are wearables, both tethered smartglasses and untethered smartglasses, the third and fourth waves, respectively. Tethered smartglasses give the user a chance to fully engage with AR, leaving his or her hands free. The rest of their person isn’t entirely free, as indicated by the word tethered. Tethered smartglasses are peripherals to a users’ smartphone and make use of smartphone mobile coverage, battery power and existing apps. Standalone smartglasses will cost the most and will likely experience the most hiccups. But with every consumer base covered, it makes sense that Apple will likely dominate the future of augmented reality.