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Augmented reality (AR) in the form of head-mounted technology splays real-time special effects and interactive virtual environments in any room of the house. Basically, what the film industry has been doing for years in post production now happens in real-time. Developers of head-mounted displays (HMD) such as Microsoft, Google, Seebright and others are already exploring the potential of AR to literally change the way we see the world. As the results of a recent study by Juniper Research, “Augmented Reality: Consumer, Enterprise & Vehicles 2015-2019”, seem to suggest, nowhere will this be more prolific than in mobile gaming.
The study specifically alludes to the use of HMDs to enhance virtual gaming, which remain the area of greatest potential. But only a small portion of the 420 million annual AR mobile app downloads expected by 2019 will be for HMDs. Most, according to the study, will be for conventional mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Nevertheless, the role AR is expected to play in the mobile gaming universe is significant given there were only 30 million AR app downloads in 2014.
The study goes on to assess just how significant. Despite growing interest in Enterprise AR over the past year, progress has been slow, which Juniper credits to a lack of “cutting-edge” apps that go the extra mile in consumer engagement. Furthermore, graphics are still coming up short for mobile AR apps, most specifically from clogs in image rendering and poor object tracking. Juniper Research suggests that the impasse can be breached through enhanced dedicated circuitry for AR apps, an endeavor that some System on a Chip (SoC) vendors are already pursuing.
Looking forward, much of what AR will allow us to do is needlessly farcical. We can insert explosions over the cars in front of us during rush hour traffic, or slime the school principal during a graduation ceremony. And it is for this exact reason that AR has such great potential in gaming universes. It’s a long way off, but imagine flying the Millennium Falcon around the living room, and shooting down a TIE Fighter that is actually a mosquito, or somersaulting across Hyrule Field via the carpet of the computer den. Could AR function to scale, so that a LEGO city transforms into a gritty, frenetic metropolis? Also, could virtual gaming enter stage right, and eclipse the spotlight on AR apps? Or maybe, real-time environment interaction will be niche enough that AR games won’t heavily compete with virtual environments, sort of how Nintendo’s Wii used motion technology to skirt around direct competition with more graphically inclined consoles.
The possibilities are endless, but Juniper Research’s new study seems to suggest that AR is on the rise, and that by sometime next decade, HMDs could be the hardware that takes it to new heights.
Edited by Ken Briodagh