In the next 7 years, true augmented reality will not become mainstream anywhere except the automotive industry — and here’s why.
Despite the explosive growth, AR software and content is now mostly created for small-screen devices: smartphones and tablets. True AR presumes that virtual objects will be integrated with the real environment and visible at various depths in your field of view — not only on the screen surface. Thus, for true AR to hit mass market, the industry needs a rich app and content ecosystem and hero device(s) capable of handling it. And the hardware is nowhere near ready.
Platforms like Apple’s ARKit only prove the lack of advanced hardware for true augmented reality. Developers rely on the smartphone screen as the main (if not only) means to deliver AR. Wearables are not really an option either. It’s almost impossible to shove the high-rendering performance, convenience, and good quality wide-angled picture of real AR into a small form factor.
If smartphones, tablets, and wearables are not ready for true AR, non-wearable gadgets must emerge. What gadget has the most potential to deeply integrate virtual objects in the surroundings? The answer comes from the automotive field — cars already have enough transparent surface to become an ideal hardware platform.
Sooner than later, the global automotive industry will be dominated by mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) companies. Uber, Lyft, Didi, and others have already changed the rules by making money on transportation rather than car sales. With technology advancements reducing the cost of driverless solutions, car manufacturers are losing ground as they offer nothing more than a commodity service.
Eventually, we’ll see the OEMs being acquired by top tier technology companies like Google. The share that vehicle electronics hold in a car’s value is growing fast, and I believe AR will drive it up even more in the next few years as the technology starts playing an even more important social role.
With the transformation to driverless cars expected to happen by 2025, AR can help users adjust to the new reality. During the transition, people will learn to trust driverless cars. Augmented reality is a natural way to visualize the decision processes in the car so the passenger feels more safe and confident.
To sum up, the automotive industry gives true AR the most opportunities to bloom, hardware-wise. On the other hand, AR has the potential to support the market in a smooth transition to driverless transportation. It means that augmented reality in automotive is a trend that will only grow bigger and pave the way for true AR in other industries.
Vitaly Ponomarev is the founder and CEO of WayRay, an AR auto company.