Since the 1960s, Augmented Reality has evolved to become an increasingly present technology in both private and commercial life. Millions of people want to use AR with their smartphones, thus enriching the immersive experience, seeing what they could not see with the naked eye or perceiving sounds they could never hear without technological support.
Smartphones are still a very important and significant driver of AR growth due to their convenience. The smartphone, as opposed to other devices, is the most appropriate medium to popularize the mass adoption of AR for two reasons: because it is present in every person’s life and it has the necessary hardware (CPU, GPU, sensors) that this technology requires.
Why are Smartphones the most popular device for Augmented Reality?
Globally, 5.9 million people own and use a smartphone while 171 million people own a VR headset.
According to a survey conducted by NielsenI 86 % of people come into contact with augmented reality for the first time thanks to their smartphone; the latter ranks higher than other devices.
The use of AR with the smartphone, in e-commerce, has a significant influence on customer engagement, customer behavior and therefore, on sales.
The importance of the smartphone in the world of AR was further confirmed by Meta, stating that it will be possible to interact with its metaverse Horizon Worlds even without a 3D visor. Meta is working on a web version (thus also available from smartphones) of its social virtual reality platform, Horizon Worlds.
The expansion would allow users to experience Horizon Worlds without having to use Quest VR visors, which are currently the only way to access the virtual world on which Meta is building its metaverse. Meta’s goal in launching web and mobile versions of its virtual world is to convince more people to enter Horizon Worlds, avoiding the need to purchase a Quest VR visor.
The smartphone also allows us to overcome certain barriers related to augmented reality devices:
– the battery life;
– mobile connectivity;
– the development of other apps (hence the creation of an ecosystem to be enjoyed with dedicated glasses and visors).
How to view Augmented Reality with a smartphone?
Smartphone technology with AR enables people not only to view virtual images immersed in real-world contexts, but also to connect with these images and objects, to interact with them, and to exponentially enhance the experience, simply by using the camera on their device. This is possible thanks to tracking systems that recognise real-world objects and create virtual reference planes with which to anchor the digital content projected by the applications. The device’s cameras capture real-world images and the application processes the 3D content that is coherently projected. The result of this fusion is redirected to the display of the mobile device, with which the user can interact thanks to the touchscreen interface.
However, in addition to the advantages, there are also limitations, such as: during use, the AR environment is limited by the size of the smartphone screen, unlike, for example, the 360-degree field of view that glasses can offer.
What experiences can the user have using the smartphone with AR?
There are many ways in which AR enabled smartphones can add value, such as:
Want to paint your house and not sure what colour you’ve chosen? No need to try it on or paint a part of the wall, just use your smartphone with Augmented Reality. Using it is very simple, you open the camera and you can see the walls in a different colour.
Through your smartphone you can see the furniture before you buy it, visualize it in different rooms of the house so that you know, in advance, whether you like it or not, whether it is worth putting it in one room or another and in what position. An example is the Ikea Place app, where all the company’s furniture is available to be projected inside your home.
With your smartphone and AR you can also learn and study. In the field of education and training, it helps improve the teaching-learning process by making it more connected to the surrounding environment; learning can become a more collaborative journey through the creation of interactive spaces that can encourage greater student engagement.
– Entertainment and Videogames:
The entertainment industry represents one of the main areas of deployment for augmented reality on mobile devices, thanks to the possibility of developing ad hoc applications to generate audience engagement towards a product or event.
Industry 4.0 sees augmented reality as one of the new enabling technologies, especially for training and remote assistance. Through the use of smartphones, it is possible both to guide the operator in direct contact with the plants and manufactured articles on the factory floor and to carry out remote assistance, where highly specialized technicians, by means of voice prompts and instructions via app, can follow the operator in real time to solve problems occurring on the plants.
– Hybrid working and Unified communication:
The spread of smart working has caused the spread of unified communication applications, such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Zoom, Google Meet and many others. These platforms have already seen, or will soon see, the implementation of virtual reality and augmented reality modules to make moments of communion with colleagues and content sharing increasingly immersive. The environment of collaboration platforms becomes capable of going beyond the simple video shot on a display, configuring itself as a metaverse that is hybrid by nature, in which each person can intervene in a traditional manner or through an avatar, depending on the technological interfaces at their disposal.
Augmented reality technologies make it possible to use smartphones to try on products such as make-up, clothes, watches, etc. Thanks to the use of smartphones with AR, brands are able to engage their audience by making them interact virtually with products wherever they are. Among the many examples we could cite are interactive shop windows, thanks to which customers can ‘play’ with the product in various ways, or virtual mirrors, mirrors that exploit real-time tracking functions and augmented reality to act as real virtual fitting rooms.
The numerous augmented reality functions with smartphones allow extending the social experience with new features, such as AR filters, capable of personalizing the interaction with the product.
According to some recent estimates, the AR adv market in 2022 will be worth about $3 billion, in terms of pure advertising on third-party channels (e.g. Instagram, Snapchat, etc.), not counting publications on proprietary channels and the creation of content for advertising campaigns.
– Architecture and Real Estate:
The smartphone with augmented reality can also be used in the field of AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction), supporting practically all phases of a construction life cycle.
The smartphone with AR has the ability to add contextual content, augmented reality through the mobile device can for example act as a guide along the exhibition route, rather than integrating didactic information to digitally extend the narrative of the physical exhibits on display.
Will the smartphone be the most chosen device to experience AR?
The potential of augmented reality using the smartphone is capable of moving very high numbers, which are unanimously confirmed by any analytical forecast. According to a paper published by Statista, around 1.73 billion people are expected to consciously use augmented reality applications with their smartphones by 2024. The market is largely driven by mobile AR applications, which will continue to remain by far the most popular in the market, with a market impact that Statista estimated to be in the region of USD 9.5 billion in 2021, against a user base of around 810 million people.