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The Augmented Reality Market in 2020 and Key Takeaways for 2021

Educational

Thomas Amilien

In 2020, the use case is clear. Augmented reality has a central role to play in communication, collaboration, and training. 

While the pandemic greatly accelerated the adoption and use cases for Augmented Reality, among many other technologies, we expect these trends to continue to grow in the years to come as the enterprise and consumer AR ecosystems develop. 

In this blog post, we will explore some of the movements that are happening in the consumer and enterprise AR market in 2020, and three key takeaways of what to expect in 2021. 

Learning from VR consumer and enterprise trends, AR hardware makers have discovered that for mass adoption in AR, we also need relatively low cost, high-quality hardware, multi-user experiences and intuitive design for user interfaces. 

Enterprise AR Trends: Increasing Productivity 

Nreal and Magic Leap, both originally consumer focused products, have pivoted to primarily enterprise use cases. Recently, Nreal announced the Nreal Light Enterprise Edition that will launch by the end of 2020. 

The Micorosoft HoloLens and Lenovo AR enterprise headsets are also laying the foundations for a vibrant enterprise AR ecosystem by integrating features such as hand tracking and gesture recognition for ease of use. 

Enterprise AR will continue to primarily be used in training, remote guidance, and productivity improvement, helping users work hands-free with agile analysis to improve performance.

InspectAR and Ubimax are examples of solutions acquired by XR content creation studios with a strong enterprise focus on productivity in industrial and manufacturing use cases. 

Consumer Wearable AR Trends: Prototyping  

Wearable AR as we first imagined it through the lens of numerous science fiction books and films is still a ways away. 

Aria, Facebook’s AR glasses project, is pre-prototype phase, while Oppo, a leading global smart device brand, recently showcased their model for consumer AR glasses, partnering with Telecom for R&D. 

Taking it slow is a smart move, especially after the flop of the Google Lens AR glasses. However, Google is working on its comeback after acquiring North, a Canadian smart glasses company, to pursue their vision of wearable AR glasses for everyone. 

In 2021, we expect to hear further announcements in wearable AR from  Google, Apple, and Facebook. As a clear design model and UX standard is established, consumer wearable AR will begin to gain traction. 

Augmented Reality and Mobile AR Trends 

Until the above wearable AR devices enter the market, WebAR is overtaking app-based augmented reality to become the number one consumer AR use case. 

WebAR leverages the spatial web, directing consumers to activate interactive experiences through a one-click URL. With no need to download the app and with easily shareable content, brands are now exploring WebAR as a part of their digital marketing strategies to create meaningful experiences for audiences around the world. 

L’Oreal, for example, saw huge success with their AR makeup app, The New York Times launched a AR news feature in partnership with Instagram, and Snapchat’s Halloween AR lenses announced more advanced face filters and full body tracking, which will enable more sophisticated consumer use cases.  

Summary: What we Expect for 2021

Next year in consumer AR, expect to see increased adoption driven by easy-to-use WebAR and mobile native apps for retail and social media. This includes more advanced use cases based on developments in hardware (cameras) and software (tracking) for consumer-oriented augmented reality at scale. We also expect announcements in consumer wearable smart glasses with release dates in the following year or two. 

In Enterprise AR, we predict higher quality use cases based on the various rendering techniques developing, and the integration of intuitive UX design elements such as hand tracking and gesture recognition.

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