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Visual search is our top pick for AR use cases that will birth killer apps. It has all the ingredients: true utility and frequency. It also alleviates pain points. Holding up a phone to identify something is easier than typing in many situations. Google, the visual search heir apparent, is investing heavily.

Visual search also speaks to affinities of increasingly-buying empowered millennials, given comfort levels with the camera as an input. And it’s particularly fitting to lots of monetizable use cases such as product-based visual searches during “high-intent” moments (think: retails store aisles).

Of course, all of the above is theoretical given visual search’s attributes and their alignment with typical killer app requirements. But we’re also starting to see supporting evidence in consumers’ reported interest. For example, eMarketer reports 33 percent of consumers want visual search.

More specifically, 21 percent “have not used but very interested,” while 7 percent have used but not regularly. 3 percent use it regularly. If we expand the analysis to those “somewhat interested,” the total share of those who want visual search grows to 58 percent, pushing into the majority.

However, the elephant in the room is the low percentage of frequent users, at 3 percent. This stands to reason, given that visual search hasn’t culturally acclimated as a critical use case, though we believe it will. It’s also been harder to find and use in terms of “activation energy.”

The latter could change, given momentum to position visual search in easier places. As the underlying computer vision improves, we believe more visual search providers (Pinterest, Google, Snapchat, etc.) will do just that. Google already has, given its recent iOS integration.

Back to the 33 percent figure, it aligns with data from our research arm, ARtillery Intelligence. In the consumer AR survey (n=2,198), co-produced with survey research firm Thrive Analytics, 33 percent of respondents were interested in in-store product info (a top form of visual search).

This will be a moving target that we’ll continue to track, due to its importance for pushing spatial computing further into the mainstream. Given the killer app attributes listed above, visual search has the best chance of doing that, thereby exposing and accelerating AR in general.

Stay tuned for the next wave of consumer survey research with Thrive Analytics, published in an upcoming ARtillery Intelligence report. Meanwhile, check out the last wave, as well as our review of Google Lens. It’s best positioned to rule visual search, given Google’s knowledge graph.

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

Header image credit: Snap, Inc.