It’s no surprise that Augmented Reality is one of the hottest topics in tech right now. Sparked initially by Pokemon Go's record breaking AR game release, accelerated by the Apple’s announcement of ARkit (the company's new AR feature that will roll out as standard through iOS11) and finally turbo-charged by Google’s rapid retaliation with ARCore; it’s pared down version of Tango that is set to become a core feature on Android devices.
Mobile AR is going mainstream. Quickly. And whilst many believe that it’s a community familiarity and priming exercise in advance of a long-term plan for the rumored Glasses products, nonetheless it represents phenomenal creative and commercial opportunities. Particularly for Agencies.
Analysts predict that when Apple updates iOS in a matter of days, the company could load AR software onto as many as one billion mobile devices. Initially, ARcore will only be available on Samsung’s S8 and Pixel (Google’s own HW design), however few would argue against the pace at which other OEM’s running Android will integrate the technology (GMS’s issue's in China notwithstanding).
So the global install base for mobile AR by mid-2018 could be north of a billion devices. In light of these numbers, the opportunities for Brands to explore and develop new dimensions of engagement, experience, social, m-commerce, training, utility etc. are extraordinary. Whether they are iterations of existing products or the start of entirely new life cycles, it would be very brave to bet against the amount of investment that’s going to start flowing towards AR.
The mainstream arrival of AR has the immediate potential to open up significant new revenue pools across an entire agency delivery cycle: planning, creative, design, UX, UI, dev, production, project management and ongoing maintenance/support.
But as well as hard financial, expect growth to come from other, arguably more important sources, too. Such as the fresh talent requirements that AR will command. New content, distribution and commercial partnerships. M&A activity from the AR start-up community that is already expanding like wild fire. R&D excursions to explore and secure early competitive advantage across the plethora of new opportunities the eco-system is likely to open up, such as webAR, programmatic AR, integration with CRM and loyalty platforms, dimensional UI and UX design, ARcommerce etc.
No-one is expecting to wake up in a world of iOS 11, with overnight, ubiquitous AR. We need to remember that both the ARkit and ARcore SDK’s are in their first cycle, and the developer community is still in the early stages of pushing the boundaries of what can be done. (Follow @madwithARkit as a useful reference guide to what’s being shipped). But we only have to map back to how quickly Apps and the App Store grew (in sophistication and numbers) to understand how quickly AR is likely to expand.
From a dev perspective, the understanding of this adventure and its potential is still at a very early stage. But I’d vouch that from a creative, planning and business perspective, the understanding is even further behind still. Which should signal towards an exciting opportunity for Agency owners and their creative and planning talent.
Adopting a proactive stance now to begin gathering knowledge, on boarding experience and building competence will only empower client servicing and creative teams to lead the AR opportunity as it grows, versus being pulled along by it. Worse still, lose it all together to smaller, more agile, specialist competition.
In addition to this, investing time and resource now to proactively understand how to design and build AR products and features built on empathy and curiosity, and that 'really' make difference, we might well be spared new AR era of phart-apps, and other such pointless, memory crunching use-cases.
In many ways, Google’s announcement of ARCore was the tipping point for inevitability. It’s no longer a case of ‘If' of ‘When' brands will pivot into AR, it’s a case How, and How Quickly?
Don't Look Down is an independent consultancy, advising and helping brands to unlock the creative and commercial potential of immersive technology. For more information on my consulting services, writing or speaking requests, please drop me a quick note here, call me on +44772451787, or book a call here