Year 2016 got quite a bad rap in media. But no matter how turbulent the year seemed when it comes to political matters or global conflicts, it definitely was an ecstatic year for Augmented Reality (AR).
What’s gonna happen in 2017? Will AR continue to grow into a mainstream technology? Or, what technological advancements would be crucial for the breakthrough? What use cases can we expect to see more of?
Instead of gazing into a crystal ball, we asked agencies around the globe to share their predictions and wishes for the new year.
What was the state of AR in 2016, as seen by agencies?
Most of the agency managers we surveyed have been around since the birth of this technology.
To some extent, 2016 could be considered as the year marking the tech’s “coming of age”. (Or, at least, becoming the cool kid at high school.) As we will see, many agencies considered it as the turning point when AR managed to steer the discussion which Virtual Reality seemed to domineer until recently.
Nevertheless, we have yet to see exactly what direction AR and related technologies will be taking when becoming truly mainstream. As Dutch Rose Media, one of the surveyed AR agencies put it:
"The AR world can be seen as a so-called ‘cowboy world’. Big companies are taking over small AR platforms; some AR companies are going broke; the immense speed of new developments are making concepts and content outdated in just a few months.
We often compare the AR world of today to the internet world as it was mid 90’-s: new and cool, but very unpredictable."
Rest assured: despite all the uncertainty, these agencies had a lot to say about the future of AR.
Here are the top Augmented Reality trends that agencies outlined for 2017.
1. Content will be king: AR (and VR) enable the next big shift in content consumption.
Content is agencies’ bread and butter, and it was exciting to see how well Augmented Reality seems to fit their offerings.
Key micro trends:
“AR has proven to be an engaging and popular format for content delivery and we're excited to see how we, and other developers can best harness this technology going into 2017." — Thundrnlightnin
# Democratization & Better Accessibility
We can safely say that scalable content platforms will be a key source of income for agencies in 2017, while this will also make AR experiences more affordable for marketers.
“From the user’s end, it would be great if users played a bigger role in the production of content. Users as producers will accelerate content and adoption, pushing it towards mainstream.” — Dingole LTD
Tagxy, a good example of User Generated Augmented Reality content
"Traditionally, AR has been expensive to create, with long lead times, technical difficulties and the inability to be flexible to meet individual business needs. 2017 will be an exciting year: we will start to see content being augmented by businesses of all sizes on platforms like ours." — Plattar
# The Rise of Content Management Systems
"We believe that the next big thing in AR in 2017 will be creating and managing content inside a Content Management System (CMS), and we are also focussing on further improving ours.
It gives companies independence and security. Companies can safely storage their content and then decide which AR platform works best for their specific purpose: GPS, image recognition, showing 3D models, and so on." — Dutch Rose Media
# Data Visualization
One key area of next-gen content consumption driven by Augmented Reality is data visualization. Agencies rejoiced over the idea that this technology can make it easier for people to interpret complex, real-time information in their natural surroundings.
"We do many applications in the training, demonstration and presentation space. The tech is really good for communicating complex concepts or datasets." — TREKK
Image credit: TREKK
“AR enables us to get abstract data, hiding in the cloud or on hard disk drives, back into our daily environment.
We wish to see [...] new AR-projects come to life and get the data into our recognition of reality.” — Augmented Minds
2. Experiential storytelling will take up, whether at home or in public surroundings.
Agencies expect to see more of the ‘social side’ of AR, making use of the fact that AR is much better connected to our real-world environment than ‘solo’ VR experiences are. Nevertheless, both technologies will be included in brands’ customer engagement toolkit.
“We think that Augmented Reality needs to take more advantage of group settings to tell stories in an event environment, just like Virtual Reality did last year.” — Mass Ideation
Key micro trends:
# Immersive Experiences
Putting audiences in scenarios beyond their reach — or imagination — still seems to be an important benefit of AR and VR technologies.
Image credit: Two Goats / Sony PlayStation
"As the publisher and network platforms evolve and creative technologists embrace the media, we believe that next year we will see more artistic 'out of body' experiences that take audiences to places they could never imagine."
— Two Goats
# Making Remote Events Accessible to All
One specific use case can be “taking” the users to remote events, utilizing the tech’s possibility to connect people (e.g. through holograms) instead of individual entertainment.
“Our team believes that AR will have a big share in games and entertainment activities. Besides playing, maybe we will also start to attend seminars and parties virtually.” — Spinzomedia
# In & Out of Home: Why Not Both
AR is very versatile, and it can easily be mobilized. Agencies expect it to be utilized in Out-of-Home promotions and indoor use cases alike.
Image credits: Sky Boy / Galeries Lafayette
"We are expecting to see more brands producing campaigns that use AR as the medium. Going towards Christmas, we have seen multiple examples of site activations in public squares and shopping centres.
At the same time, we also look forward to major media companies enhancing their existing mediums of talking with customers at home. AR provides an additional means of interactivity in our leisure time." — Plattar
3. Mobile will work as an enabler, helping the tech spread faster.
According to industry forecasts, the number of Mobile Augmented Reality users is expected to reach 200 million by 2018. Without any doubt, mobile devices play an important role in mass AR adoption.
Key micro trends:
# Leveraging on universal accessibility
Agencies thought that mobile platforms are a great start when jumping into AR, as these devices are already widely used.
"AR can be powered by the humble smartphone. This way, there is no friction in hardware adoption, unlike the friction VR is seeing now. This was the reason Pokemon Go exploded, as users were already armed with smartphones capable of powering the AR tech." — 16K Agency
Image credits: Dutch Rose Media
"Mobile devices are not going anywhere any time soon. Consumers spend more than 3 hours engaging on their device, and least of that is talking. Marketers need to develop a ‘small screen first mindset’." — TREKK
# New capabilities extending technical possibilities
Being ‘technologists’ at heart, surveyed agency managers were thrilled to share their vision on how mobile experiences could become even better.
"2017 will be a big year for adoption. One important thing to look at is that manufacturers are saying that they will be embedding the technology into their devices." — TREKK
Image credits: Lenovo
"The first consumer Project Tango device was a huge step forward. Nevertheless, the “big one” we are waiting for is a dual camera setup for iPhones to allow distance calculations. Once we’ve seen that, the full suite of use cases will be accessible." — Plattar
Image credits: Dingole LTD
"At Dingole, we would like to see more devices and apps that create experiences that fully utilize motion tracking, depth perception and spatial learning, to enhance the mobile AR experience." — Dingole LTD
4. Smart glasses will also benefit from advanced tech capabilities, and will substitute mobile devices for specific use cases.
While the main competitive advantages of mobile platforms are accessibility and scalability, agencies see a great future fit for smart glasses and wearable devices, too. However, current devices need to evolve in certain ways…
"We’re eager to see smart glasses becoming the next big generation of mobile devices. We believe we will only get to the ‘next real BIG thing’ if the hardware evolves into an ‘Augmented Reality & hands-free optimized’ direction." — Augmented Minds
Image credits: Atheer
"We would also like to see more wearable tech in 2017, with bigger fields of view and rock solid tracking." — Trifecta Communications
5. Big companies will lead by example, and give credibility to the “Augmented Reality movement”.
Small agencies and developers have proudly led the AR revolution as early adopters. There’s no doubt about that.
By 2016, big brands and device manufacturers have started to jump on the bandwagon, one after another. Agencies believe that this will accelerate the worldwide recognition of the tech.
"If you look at Nintendo, IKEA, Lego and hundreds of other companies and their products, [...] they make their customers benefit from new solutions, which is important to the success of such projects." — Augmented Minds
Image credits: LEGO
"We hope to see brands investing in the technology to better understand consumer insights, which help develop and expedite the creation of more immersive advertising and productivity." — Two Goats
6. “Mixed Reality” will emerge as a win-win option in the “Augmented Reality versus Virtual Reality” discussion.
Some experts bet on AR, other experts bet on VR...Agencies we talked to believed that there’s enough room for both. In 2017, we will see the “love child” of AR and VR conquer the world.
"2017 will be the start of an era that will usher in some of the biggest digital advancements we have ever seen on the face of the earth, through the birth of Mixed Reality.
Mixed Reality is a hybrid of AR & VR. It combines the use of sensors, advanced optics and next-gen computing power to map and track your surroundings. MR allows users to overlay and interact with augmented 3D holograms within their environment in a manner that is often too difficult to distinguish from reality..."
Image credits: Microsoft Minecraft with HoloLens
"...Through Mixed Reality, we will all be able to share, teach, learn, experience, explore and understand the world with a whole new set of eyes...a smarter, more connected and magical set of eyes!” — See Digital
7. Specific use cases will stand out.
Even if we always emphasize how versatile Augmented Reality — and Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality — are, there are certain verticals where agencies expect to see a more significant uptake.
# Marketing & Product Visualization
Marketers often love to experiment with new technology. AR-related solutions can be the next big shift in promotional experiences, according to agencies.
"We believe that we’ll start to see smart marketers and innovative brands make a shift in their marketing. MR will allow brands to immerse their target audience with the exact experience they are trying to sell. This is quite a shift from today’s marketing." — 16K Agency
Image credits: Plattar
"We’re really excited about seeing more product sales being enhanced through AR, as a means of product visualisation. We’ve seen some great results with our clients generating more sales, reducing product returns and creating excitement for their products through AR." — Plattar
# Print & Publishing
Connecting print assets to digital experiences is a perfect use case for Augmented Reality and related tech, such as image recognition.
Image credits: Trifecta Communications
"We expect to see 25% of magazines and print material using AR by the end of 2017." — Trifecta Communications
# Functional use cases
Besides commercial projects, some agencies also wished to see campaigns and apps serving everyday needs and our wellbeing.
Image credits: Spinzomedia
"We’d like to see more functional use cases for AR. It would be good to see AR being used beyond advertising and retail and implemented more often in scenarios like education, health or even tourism." — Dingole LTD
Bonus trend: agencies being thankful to certain pocket monsters
A roundup of 2016 would not be complete without saying thank you to Pikachu and his friends.
Some loved Pokemon GO. Others hated it. Many experts said that it had many flaws that future AR apps need to improve on. Still, no one can deny that this specific app shot “Augmented Reality” into public awareness in a matter of days.
"2015 saw much hype around VR, rather than AR. We can attribute the VR 'hype cycle' to giants like Facebook, Google and Samsung publicly announcing their advancements in VR hardware.
The huge success of Pokemon GO put AR on the map and has balanced up conversations for what the Mixed Reality ‘MR’ future will look like." — 16K Agency
Image credits: Niantic Labs Pokemon GO / The New Yorker
"The explosion of Pokemon GO, as a lot has been said in the news, allowed the awareness of AR to creep in. This has meant that, leading into 2017, the industry as a whole is in a much better position than what was previously." — Plattar
AR definitely gained a momentum in 2016. Now, it’s time for agencies, developers and marketers to keep it alive throughout 2017, for an even bigger and better year for AR.
As closing words, here’s what the CEO of Mass Ideation has to say to all his peers out there:
“Developers from all industries need to take a look at AR to help the tech push forward. We are really looking forward to all the problems AR will help solve and hopefully we begin to see more developers dive in this year.”
Meet the agencies participating in this trend report around the globe:
|16K Agency was started by Australian and Swedish founders with a passion for media, marketing, advertising and innovation. Their aim is to “bring ground-breaking innovation” to the Nordic media industry.|
|Augmented Minds is a full-service Augmented Reality development agency based in Germany. Besides executing AR development, they also provide strategic consulting. They are specialized in Augmented Print, Augmented Advertising, Augmented Marketing and AR Games.|
|Dingole LTD is a team of storytellers and technical wizards that are pioneering the development of Augmented Reality across the sunny Caribbean region (see the Trinipedia reality browser for Trinidad and Tobago).|
|Dutch Rose Media agency creates surprising and magical mobile experiences with Augmented Reality. Their unique expertise is to combine different solutions, such as Catchoom’s Image Recognition software, location-based storytelling and object recognition. They’ve delivered exciting projects for some of the biggest companies in their native Netherlands, such as Philips or HEMA.|
|Mass Ideation: this US-based CraftAR customer strategizes and creates visual, animated and interactive content for various forms of communications, marketing and advertising. Among other clients, they crafted Augmented Reality projects for Nickelodeon and the Wildlife Conservation Society.|
|Plattar claims to offer “the world's simplest Augmented Reality creator”. Founded in Melbourne, the cloud-based platform that allows users to create, manage, and distribute augmented reality (AR) content. It works with a template-driven app builder and content management system for managing AR experiences.|
|See Digital is a US-based consultancy firm specializing in Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality & Mixed Reality. The founder, Keith Curtin is also writing for The Next Web about these emerging technologies.|
|Spinzomedia is a fully-fledged marketing agency, offering services from digital marketing to Augmented Reality to mobile applications. They created the first Augmented Reality browser in Egypt, VAR.|
|Thundrnlightnin is a UK-based full service creative agency, delivering effective, strategic, digital services. They want to become the “leanest, meanest, guerilla marketing machine”, helping brands make lots of noise in a visually spectacular way.|
|TREKK is a US-based, full-service multi-channel marketing communications agency with clients around the globe. TREKK develops Augmented Reality as part of their “Paper to Pixels strategy” and cross-channel campaigns. They’ve been working a lot with companies like Canon Solutions America.|
|Trifecta Communications: the Oklahoma-based team “works in the future...striving mightily to bring it into the present”. Serving organizations around the globe, they’ve had some really interesting projects for cause-based marketing, besides commercial assignments. They also have their own virtual reality and AR content platform.|
|Two Goats is an experiential marketing agency, connecting brands to global audiences via emerging technologies including Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. They have a production facility in Soho, New York and London, from creative ideation to content production. They developed projects for companies like New Balance, British Airways and Lamborghini.|
Some answers may have been shortened or edited to the necessary extent for improved readability.