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The development of the mobile app market is driven by a myriad of factors. The growth of Internet penetration, the digitalization of business, the increase in the number of social networks and the development of advanced technologies, are all capabilities that can be maximized in the mobile environment. One of these technologies is augmented reality (AR), which is picking up steam recently.

Mobile AR market overview

The introduction of augmented reality has largely become widespread thanks to mobile devices. Since the release of Pokemon Go in 2016, brands have been actively using augmented reality features in their apps to capture the attention of users, and this trend keeps growing. According to Statista, the mobile augmented reality (AR) market will reach over $26 billion by 2025.

A huge contribution to the development of mobile AR was made by the emergence of mobile AR SDKs developed by Google, and Apple. ARCore and ARKit greatly simplified the process of implementing augmented reality. There are over 891 million ARKit active users and over 182 million ARCore active users worldwide today, according to the ARtillery Intelligence report.

Mobile AR is easily accessible to billions of users since most smartphones support AR. Unlike VR, augmented reality does not require expensive equipment, which makes the cost of creating AR applications justified. With AR, developers can achieve a high-quality immersive experience by overlaying digital elements on real-world objects, and users only need their smartphone cameras to reach it. The adoption of 5G also contributes to the development of mobile AR and is one of the main trends dominating the mobile app market. 5G enables speed to handle AR & VR 3D objects more effectively. According to Emarketer, 83.1 million consumers in the US use AR monthly.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also left its mark on the development of the mobile augmented reality market. In these conditions of isolation, AR applications have become a robust technology for increasing the effectiveness of remote education, improving the online shopping experience and remote team collaboration. Also, the growing adoption of augmented reality in business is driven by the growing demand in healthcare, and in retail and tourism, which allows hundreds of enterprises to unlock the prospects of AR technology.

But the most interesting thing is that not only does the growth of the mobile market stimulate the development of AR, but the process works in reverse. The growing interest in augmented reality is driving the development of mobile applications, as most companies prefer mobile AR over WebAR to implement their ideas.

Types of augmented reality apps

There are several ways to implement augmented reality in mobile applications, which refer to different types of AR. Among them are location-based and marker-based AR.

Location-based AR apps

As the name suggests, location-based augmented reality relies on geolocation data when providing AR experiences to users. Such applications do not need any special markers to know where they should place the virtual object, since they use device sensors, existing geo markers, motion tracking, and GPS to do this.

Location-based augmented reality can be used for both outdoor and indoor navigation, resulting in many business cases. For example, you can create virtual city guides to help tourists not miss any sights. When people point their phone at a certain object, the application provides all the information about it in an interactive format.

Beyond navigation, you can find use cases for location-based AR in retail, education, games, entertainment, advertising, and more. For example, you may have heard of the Yelp app, which shows information about restaurants, bars, and other places based on user reviews. The Star Walk app, which allows users to explore information about the stars by pointing their smartphone towards the sky, is also an example of a location-based app.

Marker-based AR apps

Marker-based AR apps work based on special markers that trigger the device to start displaying an augmented experience. These markers can be QR codes, logos, or product packaging – the main requirement is that they must be unique. Marker-based augmented reality is powered by image recognition. By activating the tracking module, the camera detects and recognizes the marker and enables augmentation. In this case, the AR object is strictly tied to the marker and usually appears on top of it. If the user puts the camera away, the AR effects disappear.

The main benefit of marker-based AR is accuracy, which location-based apps lack. This type of AR application is widely used in marketing to create interactive branded materials like logos, posters, catalogs, business cards, brochures, etc. Also, marker-based AR empowers virtual tours in galleries and museums by allowing visitors to scan exhibits or arts and get interesting information about them. In education, marker-based AR can improve the learning experience by enabling students to scan specific items in books and get information more engagingly. Scanning tags in retail stores can provide shoppers with product features or even instructions, making it easier for them to compare and select products.

Mobile AR experience across different industries

AR functionality isn’t new but it is still an exciting feature for any mobile app user. According to Retail Perceptions, 71% of consumers say they would shop more often if they used AR since AR functionality can make key eCommerce mobile app features more dynamic and engaging. But its use cases don’t end in retail. One of the strengths of augmented reality that drives its popularity is its adaptability and versatility, which allows it to be used with benefit in various industries.

Education

Google Play and AppStore are overflowing with AR training and learning apps that transform the learning experience into an interactive process. This is especially important in the context of Covid-19 restrictions when during remote classes, teachers need not only to keep students’ attention, but also to convey information clearly. Augmented reality can dramatically impact the speed and quality of perception of educational materials by adding visualization and game elements to the process.

For example, the Chem101 AR app helps students learn more about complex compounds in chemistry with special interactive cards. Human Anatomy Atlas makes learning anatomy more fun and effective. solAR provides a 3D visual representation of all of the planets for a more visual astronomy study, and the list goes on and on. According to Fact.MR forecasts, AR in the education market is projected to reach $85 billion by 2031.

Real estate

According to statistics, about 95% of millennials are looking for a home online. Augmented reality allows you to achieve the effect of real presence when viewing real estate on a website or in an AR-enabled application thanks to the use of 3D elements. Thus, buyers can assess whether the object meets their expectations without leaving their homes. For example, the Curate app helps buyers make interior design decisions by trying out different colors, lighting palettes, and furniture using AR technology before making a purchase.

AR also brings many benefits to building design and construction. Augmented Reality enables advanced 3D modeling that allows you to not only visualize, but also conduct virtual tours of buildings under construction to see how the changes will be incorporated into the project.

Healthcare

The healthcare industry is widely adopting mobile technologies, especially after the Covid-19 outbreak, when remote medical care went mainstream. The possibilities of augmented reality for this industry only reinforce this trend, and many companies create applications specifically to improve the efficiency of services using AR technology.

Healthcare use cases for AR range from interactive learning materials for medical students and physicians to assistance during surgeries. Modern AR solutions allow overlaying medical data onto a surgeon’s view of a patient, increasing the accuracy of diagnosis and treatment.

AR assistants also can improve the remote communication between doctors and patients during telemedicine sessions. Distractions are one of the main reasons why virtual meetings fail, which can be fraught with consequences for a medical consultation. AR-powered tools like 3D screens allow you to take notes and create visualizations that help patients better describe symptoms and doctors explain diagnoses. It can become a widespread alternative to screen sharing that physicians today use to illustrate their words.

Marketing, Advertising and Retail

With a huge number of advertising messages around, the main task of marketers is to break through the noise and convey information about their product to potential users. Augmented reality copes with this task perfectly well. Interactive branded content is far from the limit of AR in marketing. Virtual showrooms and try-on solutions not only draw users’ attention to the product, but also help them overcome the barriers that arise in the online shopping process, ideally fitting into the framework of an integrated eCommerce marketing strategy. According to AR Insider, mobile AR ad placement will grow from an estimated $1.36 billion in 2020 to $6.68 billion in 2025.

As CNBC informs, 10,000 US stores were expected to close in 2021 due to Covid-19. In the online market, retailers face huge competition. In an attempt to gain market share, large and small brands are focusing on providing exceptional customer experiences through innovative technologies such as augmented reality. For example, stores place indoor displays to showcase how shoppers’ faces will look with different makeup or accessories. Furniture eCommerce stores, following the example of IKEA, create mobile applications that allow users to see how this or that furniture will fit into the interior of their houses using real-life parameters and dimensions.

Final thoughts

AR is one of the main tools of innovation for many industries since it provides an enveloping experience close to virtual reality, but is a more accessible and versatile technology. The development of AR solutions is closely related to mobile applications since smartphones are a simple and effective way to discover the possibilities of augmented reality. Therefore, businesses interested in adopting AR resort to mobile development, setting new trends in this field. Who knows, maybe in the next decade AR features will become an integral part of any mobile application. As the market grows, technology develops and we will see many more revolutionary solutions that change our reality.