With all of this talk of AR (Augmented Reality) based games, applications, and utilities, it certainly is a great time to begin exploring the possibilities that AR applications can provide. So although the sky is the limit with mobile applications, what exactly are the limitations and challenges that AR provides to developers, and app owners who may want to develop a unique AR experience? Check out the full list of challenges from our App Developers.
By 2020, it’s expected that the AR industry will be a 162 billion dollar industry. If you’re not sure what AR is, that might be an incentive to start learning. AR can be defined as 2D/3D visual integration into live video content and/or user environment. In this case, the best example is to think of Pokemon Go. If you consider even for a moment the amount of revenue Pokemon Go has generated, let alone the industry estimation by 2020, AR is definitely something to pay attention to. But it’s such a young industry, meaning it’s not without its challenges. There are currently two types of AR app development, apps that utilize GPS, and apps that utilize AR markers and images. So before we jump into the challenges of AR, let’s jump into the two types of AR apps:
Apps Using GPS
This type of software utilizes GPS targeting to show visual integration over interesting points and landmarks in an area. These are developed by mobile app developers using existing platforms such as Layar, Wikitude and Junaio. This sort of app is exactly what Pokemon Go uses, integrating points of interest and GPS tracking to mark your location, and the location of other stops relevant to the game or utility.
Apps Using AR Markers and Images
This marker based software uses images and QR codes as a basis to mark objects and display relevant graphics/content over top. Potential SDKs for this include ARToolKit, FLARToolKit, and a few others. This sort of AR app can be used for utilities such as training purposes by marking various bits of equipment with “markers” (QR Codes, Bar Codes, etc), and displaying how to use that piece of equipment over top (as an example).
So now that you’re familiar with the types of AR applications, what are some of the challenges and limitations developers experience today?
The problem with mass producing mobile devices is that the sensors inside are not always accurate. Accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and other built-in sensors become inaccurate over time, making accurate placements of AR objects less and less accurate over time. Although developers can combat interference and inaccurate readings with exponential smoothing, it can still be very difficult to be consistently pinpoint accurate.
GPS in mobile is typically accurate for 6 meters in any direction. This can present certain limitations if your mobile application is reliant on pinpoint accurate coordinates. To combat this, you need to make sure that the GPS point of interest has a big enough area of activation around it to ensure that people using the app will always be in an acceptable range, rather than leaving you and your users frustrated at the inaccuracy.
Cameras in mobile devices are making amazing strides in quality, MP, and features. Although this technology advances on a yearly basis, camera technology just has not become advanced enough to understand certain objects from a picture. For example, if you’re teaching your team how to use a machine, you can’t currently scan the buttons and levers accurately with your phone camera to activate a fully functional AR experience. To work around this, phones CAN see and understand certain markers such as QR codes or barcodes to make patterns that stand out to your mobile device.
This is probably the biggest challenge yet. As technology progresses, not everyone can/will get the latest and greatest device. This means that most devices used by the general public likely are incapable of running your AR application. Poor cameras, lack of memory, bad hardware, poor processing speeds, and slow internet cause AR apps to lag and malfunction. There are specific devices built for AR such as Google Glass, AR headsets, HoloLens and Meta but the adoption rate on these devices from the general public just isn’t high enough due to high prices and the current infancy of the AR industry.
Wouldn’t it be sweet to use Facebook or Minecraft in an AR space? Well, it turns out these big players in the tech industry are super slow to adopt this new technology. It is for sure in the works, but until technology catches up to a level big players like Facebook are comfortable releasing AR products with, we may not see adoption from large companies like this for a while. That being said, it is currently happening. Minecraft has teamed up with Microsoft Hololens to create game worlds right in your living room. IKEA has also created an application that allows you to preview furniture from their catalogue right in your own home through a mobile device’s AR capabilities.
To put it bluntly, there really aren’t many good AR applications available on iOS or Android devices as AR is still a young industry. This means that there isn’t a huge demand for AR applications compared to traditional software yet. AR technology is also tricky, it’s difficult for providers to keep pushing fresh updates to keep the app engaging as the graphics, coding, and time required are substantially larger than traditional applications. It pays to have an App Development team, but even with apps like Pokemon Go, it’s important to plan future updates well in advance to keep your app from becoming stagnant.
When I told my dad about the possibilities of AR, he looked at me as though it was something out of a science fiction novel. When I told him it was something happening right now, he still couldn’t get his mind around it and didn’t even try to. There are tons of business leaders who have the same stance as my dad. They simply can’t understand it, much less consider investing in this technology. While there is merit in traditional methods, the modern business needs to constantly evolve to stay current and push past the competition. However, since AR is still such an up and coming industry, it’s expected that it will take time to adopt just like all game-changing innovation.
Hopefully, this article has shed light on the current state of the AR industry and the challenges it presents. While this article shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing a great idea, it should shed light on how exactly you can adapt your idea to fit the current markets and the needs of users. Overall, there is a fantastic future of potential for businesses, entrepreneurs, and users who will use these apps on their various mobile devices. If you’re interested in discussing an Augmented Reality application of your own, visit the Contact section of our website. Our team of App Developers would love to discuss how we can turn your idea into a reality. At Vog we build more than apps, we build businesses.