This post is an excerpt from the recently published ARtillry Intelligence Briefing: Tech Giants Tackle AR. It examines Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Subscribe to future reports here.

Introduction: Finding an Addressable Market

Smart glasses – the modality in which augmented reality is mostly envisioned – is several years from meaningful consumer adoption, due to factors like cost, size and cultural acceptance. The nearer term AR opportunity lies instead with the installed base of 2.6 billion global smartphones.

Smart glasses will see near-term adoption in the enterprise though. There, stylistic and cultural
concerns don’t exist. Enterprise buyers also have less price sensitivity to costly smart glasses, due to potential savings and streamlined operations in areas like manufacturing and assembly.

Back to consumer markets, recent moves by major tech giants support the assertion that
smartphones will be the near-term vessel for AR. And Smartphone hardware advancements align
with AR capability — including optics, screen size, processing power and mobile broadband speeds.

There are also cultural factors, such as Millennials’ affinity for sharing multimedia like Snaps. These social sharing use cases have been the initial proving grounds for widespread mobile AR acceptance. They’ve taken form in features like Snapchat Selfie Lenses or games like Pokémon Go.

Though these early versions of AR lack the dimensional mapping to classify them as “true AR,” it
doesn’t matter: Their value lies in proof of concept for widespread market acceptance. That market validation has in turn signaled tech giants to invest heavily in mobile AR, as this report examines.

Part of that investment has been to advance “true AR.” In recent moves by Google, Facebook, Apple and others, there’s been deliberate emphasis on dimensionally accurate AR graphics. That science is known as simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), as explored in this report.

These foundational advancements have taken form in SDKs and toolsets for developers to carry us into AR’s next phase. That period will be characterized by more advanced, utilitarian, varied (and monetizable) AR apps, compared to the relatively primitive forms of mobile AR we’ve seen to date.

With that backdrop, we examine the individual moves of five market-defining players in mobile AR: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft. We’ll tackle them one by one.

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Disclosure: ARtillry has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this article, nor received payment for its production. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.

Header image credit: Apple