Is Apple, Facebook Or Microsoft The Future Of Augmented Reality?

(Click on image to enlarge)

(Source: Digi-Capital AR/VR Analytics Platform)

Messaging based mobile AR is the largest platform type today, as well as in long term forecasts. Facebook’s mobile AR filters and lenses on Messenger and Instagram make it the largest company in the space, even with leadership from Snap and others. Yet OS based mobile AR platforms ARKit and ARCore (Google Play) could see the largest single platform active installed bases by 2024.

(Click on image to enlarge)

(Source: Digi-Capital AR/VR Analytics Platform)

Mobile AR software’s installed base and commercial dynamics look like a variant of mobile, which plays to Facebook’s strengths. Advertising could be mobile AR’s biggest revenue stream both short and long term, making it critical to an advertising driven company like Facebook. It’s worth noting that a lot of this adspend is going towards traditional ad units viewed around user generated mobile AR content (i.e. filters and lenses on messaging platforms), rather than just mobile AR ad units. This does not mean that sponsored mobile AR filters and lenses are not a significant part of the mix going forward.

Apple – the integrated consumer play

As Digi-Capital has said since 2016, only Tim Cook and his inner circle really know what Apple is going to do in AR before they do it. This was proven in 2017, when Apple caught many (including us) by surprise with the launch of ARKit. The same thing happened in 2019, when Apple added a triple camera system to the back of the iPhone 11 Pro, instead of the rear facing depth sensor we had anticipated. So where in 2017 we fundamentally revised our forecasts post-ARKit, in 2020 we’ve done the same thing based on a revised view of Apple’s potential roadmap.

Smartglasses have to deliver on 5 major challenges before they can become mass market consumer devices: (1) hero device (i.e. an Apple quality device, whether made by Apple or someone else), (2) all-day battery life, (3) mobile connectivity, (4) app ecosystem, and (5) price. While most attention is paid to what that hero device will look like and when it will get here, two of the other challenges are particularly hard to solve.

Until a major breakthrough in battery technology or device efficiency, a lightweight pair of standalone AR smartglasses doing heavy duty AR is hard to power all day without a battery pack or hot swappable batteries (fine for enterprise users, a harder sell for consumers). This is a non-trivial problem. Plus it’s a major risk for the developer ecosystem to invest heavily in building apps for new platforms until the installed base reaches scale. It’s the chicken and egg problem that all new tech platforms face. Mobile tethered smartglasses offer a potential solution to both.

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Don T. Sloan 3 months ago Member's comment

I remember when everyone said Nintendo would be the future of augmented reality, whatever happened with that?