For a fleeting, frenetic moment in 2016, the world went certifiably insane chasing tiny digital monsters all over the place. People quit or were fired from their jobs, crashed their cars, suffered horrendous injuries and much more in the utterly inexplicable pursuit of Pikachu and his coterie of digital misfits. It ended as suddenly as it burst into the zeitgeist, but Pokemon GO was more than just a game. Whether its creators intended it or not, it was a bold announcement that Augmented Reality (AR) is here and the opening stanza of a narrative that might change the mobile app world as we know it. As I write this, augmented reality app developers are scrambling to translate the allure that caused a global sensation into the next frontier of digital development.
More Than a Game
Pokemon GO was essentially the test case for AR as a technology. The intersection of real life with digital animation was a concept that few people had experienced in any meaningful way. Clearly, they liked it. Ultimately, there is only so far you can take the pointless acquisition of pretend monsters, and so the fad ran out of gas before too long. Nintendo made at best a modest profit from the craze, and at one point had to issue a statement to rabid investors regarding its expectations to that effect. This saw Nintendo shares plummet, temporarily, wiping obscene amounts of value from the pioneering game developer. For AR to truly establish itself as a force in the app development world, it will need to show that it has commercial applications beyond games and fads.
Limited Only by Imagination
The real question is: who will be the first to introduce an AR app that will capture the public’s attention for more than five minutes and deliver strong revenue and profits for its creators? As with anything in the digital world, if you can imagine it, you can create it. The challenge is to find the right formula that will resonate strongly with a wide audience.
Forging the Path
There are numerous examples of AR apps that already exist. Amongst the obligatory line-up of games with variations on the “zombie ate my brain” theme, there are some promising examples of how the technology can be applied to enhance our daily lives. Examples include apps that can:
– Visualize how a room will look with furniture and décor.
– Show how tattoos will look on your body before taking the plunge.
– Find your car in a crowded parking lot
– Provide price and other product information at the grocery store
To date, none that have really captured the collective global imagination in the way that Pokemon GO did. From a commercial perspective, the AR app field is still one that is ripe for the next visionary individual or organization to exploit a monumental opportunity.
Hacking Your Way to the Future
So, what will be the application that finally hits the sweet spot? The Australian airline Qantas ran a “Hackathon” in which app developers were competed to develop the best travel-related app concept in 48-hours. The winner was an AR app that assisted travelers to navigate international flight connections in unfamiliar airports. Across the globe, developers are working to integrate beacon technology to improve user experience for retail shoppers. Others are researching ways to integrate AR with Artificial Intelligence to utilize the enormous amount of data captured by our mobile devices to enhance our lives in a variety of ways
The future holds limitless potential, and we can’t wait to see who will finally through the AR barrier.