Augmented reality apps and wearable devices are emerging as the two most interesting developments in the world of mobile computing. In fact, AR technology and wearable devices extend the computing transformation which began with PCs decades back. Wearables have made computing devices even more portable, lightweight, instantaneous and unobtrusive. These devices actually opened opportunities for new modes of operation for both business models and processes.
The market trends are also predicting a favorable future. According to Canalys the ratio in 2011 was 488 million smartphones vs. 415 million PCs. The gap was further widened by tablets. As per the predictions of Transparency Market Research, the market for global wearable technology, which was $750 million in 2012, will grow to $5.8 billion by 2018. Augmented reality apps have also found traction on smartphones as we are already using these apps on our smart devices for finding nearby stores and facilities as well as to augment a real-life experience.
Augmented reality apps when combined with wearable devices not only soars the utility of the app but can also be accessed more rapidly. Markets and Markets predicted that the global market for augmented reality apps will increase from $692 million in 2013 to around $5.2 billion by 2016. The growth curve is quite similar to the growth of wearable technology market. Being hands-free has given a distinct advantage to the wearable devices over smartphones and tablets. Besides, these devices when coupled with augmented reality apps have the capability to open up various interesting scenarios across diverse industries such as retail, healthcare, financial services, education, government, transportation and more.
For example, AR technology has proved its ability in the field of navigating the physical environment. There are apps that not only help us to find and locate stores, but also to navigate their facilities by providing information about their products in stock, product issues, check wait times and more. In retail segment augmented reality apps coupled with wearable devices will enhance the shopping experience further. The technology already allows smartphones and tablets to act like barcode scanners for providing additional product information, price comparisons and product reviews while the buyer is in-store. The AR apps will offer similar functionality in more convenient manner with wearable devices. Shoppers can pick up and handle various items as they continue to do their hands-free online research. Some of the retailers have already offered the convenience of virtual dressing rooms and wearable devices like glasses will further simplify the functionality and even bring it to the showroom.
Apart from the retail industry, augmented reality apps and wearable devices are likely to facilitate various other industries. They can prove helpful for providing detailed and step-by-step guidance for complex manual tasks including inspection, maintenance and repair. And their service field may range from surgical procedures to warehouses. Wearable devices will also facilitate instant information and collaboration. Though this particular feature is of concern for government agencies like the U.K. Department of Transportation, it can enhance the existing social and mobile enabled applications for the enterprise.