Augmented Reality: some highlights on what happened in 2017

The year that is about to end was very important for the further affirmation of Augmented Reality in many sectors, from enterprise to consumer, also thanks to a series of innovations that were announced during 2017, which provided a relevant contribution to the market growth and to increase the expectations for future developments.

It is estimated that in 2016 the global Augmented Reality market has reached a value of 2.1 billion dollars, an important increase compared to the previous year, while the growth estimates for the period 2016-2024 foresee a compound annual growth rate equal to 60.9%. We are talking about very interesting figures, but that should not surprise us because practically all the giant techs are on the front lines in the development of AR solutions.

The most important innovations in 2017 in the field of Augmented Reality cover various fields, from software to hardware, to acquisitions, passing through interesting rumors.
We have made a summary of what we believe have been the most representative innovations of 2017.

Augmented Reality Software highlights

Augmented Reality software has seen in 2017 the arrival of some novelties destined to encourage the mass diffusion of mobile AR. We are talking about ARkit released by Apple and ARCore released by Google, two free development kits that allow the creation of mobile applications that use Augmented Reality, allowing you to place three-dimensional objects in space and keep them anchored to it in a very accurate way, only using the smartphone/tablet camera, without the need to resort to depth cameras as it was mandatory until recently with Google’s Project Tango.

Last autumn Microsoft made available the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which includes native support for reading and editing 3D content and the Mixed Reality Portal, a space dedicated to the use of applications made for headsets.

After a rather long period of apparent oblivion, another trend that could have an interesting future in the coming years is the reappearance of the AR within browsers. This was possible mainly due to the removal of restrictions on the accessibility of the camera on iOS devices. Some of the key players in this area include Google, Mozilla and Apple.

Augmented Reality Hardware highlights

The AR mobile and wearable devices’ landscape has evolved and matured during 2017, but has not been subject to upheavals that have led to a change of pace.
However, an important innovation was introduced once again by Apple with the presentation of the new iPhone X. It is not a device designed for Augmented Reality, but a smartphone that introduces, albeit in a limited way, the new hardware that enable a series of new AR features not previously possible on mobile devices.

In particular, Apple has equipped the new iPhone X with a front depth camera able to reconstruct a very accurate map of the users’ faces and to recognize a very wide range of facial expressions.
Although the real revolution will happen with the introduction of a rear depth camera, Apple’s innovation lets imagine a whole series of new immersive features that will be possible to implement in the future.

The best Augmented Reality Acquisitions

Tech Giant’s acquisition of technology startups is a phenomenon that needs to be constantly monitored because, from this type of business move, it is often possible to understand the direction of a company with respect to a technology.
And 2017 was a year full of acquisitions of AR startups and other companies in related fields.

Apple has acquired Vrvana, a manufacturer of Mixed Reality headsets, for 30 million dollars. In recent weeks, it has also completed a 400 million dollar acquisition of Shazam. Although the latter is not a AR / VR company, it is believed that Apple intends to use its core technology for its upcoming devices, including an Augmented Reality headset, whose details have not been disclosed yet.

Last September Google acquired HTC’s smartphone team for a value of 1.1 billion dollars, a clear sign that makes us understand how the Californian company intends to intensify its efforts in the world of mobile with the Google Pixel product line and further spreading of ARCore.

In 2017, Facebook, owner of Oculus, scored a series of acquisitions all in the face recognition field. We are talking about, Realface, AIMatter, MSQRD and Faciometrics.

Amazon for its part has only acquired Orbeus, specialized in Face Recognition. However, the launch of the Sumerian AR / VR development platform should not be overlooked.

The best Augmented Reality Announcements & Rumors

Let’s finish with a series of official and leaked announcements made in 2017 that will however produce effects for the consumers in the next few years.

Qualcomm has announced a couple of weeks ago the new Snapdragon 845 processor, counting among the news also a coprocessor for artificial intelligence and targeted optimization for AR / VR applications.

Magic Leap has finally unveiled its Magic Leap One headset, without releasing full technical specifications, or pricing details. We will know more in 2018, when the device will actually be launched on the market.

This post is also available in: Italian