The Augmented Reality (AR) market is expected to reach US $100 billion by 2020. This astronomical trajectory is no surprise, with associated technology like smart glasses and AR and Virtual Reality (VR) headsets increasing the value of the industry and the apps created.

Today, more industries are integrating AR and VR technology — demonstrating how far-reaching the possibilities of AR and VR can be. Use cases for AR and VR have popped up in a myriad of industries including education, medicine, retail, and entertainment.

AR, in particular, is growing more prevalent and expected to surpass VR in mass adoption. Medical students in the United States have used AR to learn 3D procedures and practice their operation skills. Motorcycle giant Harley Davidson uses AR to allow clients to customise their vehicles before purchase. AR also allows designers to apply changes and customisations — whether digital or physical products — without costly trial and error.

In the realm of VR, companies have been able to create experiences such as virtual tours of museums using VR technology. VR is also disrupting the gaming sphere, with VR games adding another level of immersive experiences for gamers all around the world.

AR and VR aren’t just niche experiences anymore, with developers creating apps for everyday use on mobile devices. Companies are also expanding the AR and VR mobile experience, shifting from entertainment and gaming like Snapchat’s Spectacles and Pokemon Go, into use cases that disrupt industries.

In 2019, more retail brands are expected to adopt AR and VR components into their marketing and advertising, as well as leveraging the tech to give customers new buying experiences.

Top VR and AR apps in 2019

More and more developers are making the most out of VR and AR creating apps that have practical, everyday use, as well as educational purposes. Here are some of today’s leading mobile apps in VR and AR development:

Fulldive VR (iOS, Android)

Fulldive VR is an all-in-one social VR platform. You can watch videos in 3D on the platform, as well as browse the internet in a new way. Its social component allows users to see what others are watching, like, and comment on the media available in the app. There are videos as well as games tailor-made for the VR experience within the platform. It is also compatible with Cardboard and Daydream headsets.

Ink Hunter (iOS, Android)

This app makes use of AR to allow people to try out tattoo designs before they get permanently inked. Customers can upload their own designs or choose from existing designs. Drawing a ‘square smile’ with a pen on an area of the body will tell the app where to place the design and it will be appended via AR for users to see how it will look.

Measure Kit (iOS)

Using AR, users can accurately measure distance, height, and angles using their smartphones. The app can even calculate trajectories, check level, measure entire rooms, and use cube measurements to approximate if an object fits in spaces. MeasureKit yields accurate results and uses AR to display virtual measurements and give real-time calculations on-screen while the user sees what they’re measuring. Android-compatible apps include Google’s “Measure” and AirMeasure.

Google Arts & Culture VR (iOS, Android)

Through VR, people can experience art and world cultures unlike ever before — without the need for expensive travel or packed tourist attractions. Google Arts & Culture VR offers virtual tours of museums and galleries. Users can zoom in to see details and take guided tours with audio from museum curators provided within the app. This app is compatible with Daydream headsets.

Google Translate (iOS, Android)

Google Translate’s camera mode makes use of AR, instantly translating between languages in the real world into the app. Through this feature, users can instantly translate signages, menus, and the like in a foreign language, appearing as their native text on their phone. No need for manual typing through translation apps.

YouTube VR (iOS, Android)

YouTube VR enables users to experience videos on their platform in 3D. With its large database, and content creators uploading media that is a fit for the VR experience, YouTube VR has become a leading app in VR. Youtube VR even allows users to watch regular channels and videos that are not 360° or 3D. It even allows voice search to help users find the videos they want to watch easily.

IKEA Place (iOS, Android)

Users can try out IKEA products and see how they look like in their space without needing to go out to the store and make a purchase. Through the use of AR, users can place and move items, allowing them to approximate where items would go, how they would look, and even how they could function after purchase.

NYT VR (iOS, Android)

The New York Times’ VR app allows users to experience different stories produced by The New York Times. From war coverage to world expeditions, users get a closer, 360-degree look via high-quality films. The app updates with new content every month and is compatible with Google Cardboard.

SketchAR (iOS, Android)

This app uses AR to help users learn how to draw step by step. The progression of each sketch is shown on the app via AR, and the user can follow the outline right on the paper easily. It is also compatible with HoloLens, enabling the app to guide the artist on technique while using AR to show how it should look on the canvas.

Designing your own mixed reality apps

Both Android and Apple have created tools for developers to integrate Mixed Reality — the combination of Augmented and Virtual Reality — into today’s everyday apps. Android’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit give app developers the opportunity to add AR features into their apps.

As for VR, there are a plethora of tools available now for developers. For Windows desktops, there’s Unity 3D (mostly used for game development) that allows you to preview your project using a head mounted display. For web-based VR experiences, developers today use tools such as Three.js, A-Frame, and React VR.

With demand and use for AR and VR not yet at critical mass for standard languages and toolsets, picking which tool to use to develop your app depends on what kind of reality you want to create an even which device or headset you want to design for.

Making immersive experience apps today does not automatically guarantee lasting success. Developing AR and VR apps should move beyond novelty and towards real, practical value. The alternative is an app user will use once or twice before deleting it from their phone.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are certainly not new technologies, but they are experiencing rapid growth. With so many possibilities adopting these technologies could be beneficial in more ways than the marketing perspective, or jumping on the latest trend.

The adoption of VR and AR could change how customers interact with your app, product and brand, and disrupt industries in ways we’ve yet to imagine.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality may well be the future. Learn how to design for the future and make the most out of Mixed Reality by taking Academy Xi’s Mixed Reality Design course.


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