How Snapchat and Pokemon Go are Introducing the World to AR
As of September 1st of this year, approximately 58% of the United States doesn’t even know what Augmented Reality is. AT ALL. Not a clue. And while that might not be incredibly shocking to some of us considering half the population grew up in a generation where the Internet, computers, smartphones and pretty much every piece of technology we use on a daily basis didn’t even exist, augmented reality is going to be a major player in the coming years. But while augmented reality to most can be described as a futuristic technology, it is interesting to know that AR has been around since 1990 and was originally developed to help Boeing workers install fuselage and electronic cables on aircrafts. On an immersive digital display, virtual graphics were blended with physical objects to aid the building process.
The key difference between then and now is that most people in the United States and increasingly around the world have the ability to interact with augmented reality through the use of their smartphones, making the case that with the right implementation of the technology anybody will be able to participate in the fun of AR. As we have seen already, social media giant Snapchat has begun playing with this technology with the integration of “filters,” that allow users to alter the way that their selfies look like by pairing your physical face with a digital overlay. In an attempt to keep users engaged with their app for longer periods of time and encourage users to send more and more of these filtered pictures to friends, Snapchat has become the major player in social media communication. But while the majority of Snapchat users enjoy using filters, I don’t think many people actually understand that what they are interacting with is augmented reality. The technology that has the key to change the way we digest information and interact with others is going somewhat unnoticed.
At least that’s what it seemed like until recently when Pokemon Go was released by Niantic. With 100 million downloads in the first couple weeks of being released, Pokemon Go successfully integrated augmented reality into a mainstream mobile application that encouraged users to be social. But what might be more impressive than introducing the world to this new technology is the competition that Niantic was able to beat.
Back in 2013, Google was the front-runner in the race to integrated AR into everyday life with their own form of technology known as the Google Glass. But as everyone probably knows, Glass was hit with a number of privacy concerns as the question of whether they would be intrusive in certain situations, not to mention the $1,500 price tag, and the Glass cracked under pressure. Facebook has thrown its hat into the reality ring with their purchase of Oculus in 2014, the virtual reality headset company that is mostly responsible for bringing VR to the mainstream. Although this is not quite the same as augmented reality, as virtual reality does not pair the physical real world like AR does, Facebook’s purchase of Oculus (for a cool $2 billion) shows that the social media giant is aware that a future beyond the screen is imminent. While nothing big has resulted from the purchase yet, Facebook is undoubtedly looking to change the way information is created and consumed and stay in the race of who will own this new technology. Microsoft joined the party recently with its release of the HoloLens, a bridge between augmented reality and virtual reality, placing itself between Snapchat and Facebook. The HoloLens looks like a Google Glass 2.0, with a physical pair of glasses that allow you to see holograms within your physical room. With a heavy focus on prototyping and gaming, Microsoft has begun to push the boundaries of what you can interact with digitally in a physical setting. So as you can tell, two of the most influential social companies in the world are diving into altered reality, one has done it successfully so far with Snapchats filters, and the other Facebook is yet to be tested but I am sure will be powerful soon. The surprise winner so far however has been Pokemon Go, which seemed to come out of left field and effectively change the world of gaming.
According to a study done by the Bureau of Statistics in 2014, more than have of the waking day of most working adults is spent on technology and media. This includes video, audio, social media, gaming and reading. Pretty unbelievable statistic right? But not necessarily surprising either. I can only image that this stat has increased as the years have gone on, meaning one thing, we consume a HUGE amount of information every single day. But, up until recently, that information has been limited to just what we can display on a screen or in a book. This statistic was created back when neither Snapchat’s filters or Pokemon Go was around meaning that the opportunity to interact with information in an entirely new way is just beginning.
With the help of these two success stories of augmented reality, the amount of people who know about this technology is starting to rise. We live in a culture that has been susceptible to disruption, especially with the turn of the Internet era. Facebook disrupted the way that people share pictures, information about themselves and socialize from the traditional method of face-to-face communication and physically sharing data. Uber uprooted the traditional method of transportation a few years ago by introducing the world to a new way to share cars and get a ride at a moments notice. Airbnb drastically changed the perspective people had about traveling and developed a business around opening up your home in order to create extra income while helping travelers easily discover a new city. These are major success stories of how designing around new technology can result in better ways to live and change otherwise stagnant industries. The next question is what new industries will be impacted with the rise of augmented reality?
The next question is what new industries will be impacted with the rise of augmented reality? As we have already seen in the last year, communication has become increasingly interesting thanks to Snapchat. Gaming has taken a huge step forward thanks to Pokemon Go. And while both of these platforms can be considered mainstream now, augmented reality will look to impact other forms of everyday life. The possibilities for augmented reality really are endless. Most futurists think that education, home design and healthcare are next in line to be drastically updated with new forms of technology and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was through the use of augmented reality. While most forms of technology require acceptance by the general public in order to become successful we can thank the pioneers of augmented reality Snapchat and Pokemon Go for getting the ball rolling. Now it only seems that the next big shift in interactive technology will be introduced soon with the help of augmented reality.