Because AR’s main job is to augment and enhance the physical world, its relevance is often tied to specific locations. This is what we call geo-local AR, and it’s all about AR experiences that are anchored to physical places in ways that confer meaning and relevance.

If this sounds familiar, it’s a subset of an existing construct known as the AR cloud. Also what we sometimes call the “metavearth” (name still in beta testing 😉), it’s a sort of real-world metaverse that evokes meaning beyond physical objects. In fact, the greek root meta means “beyond.”

This is all covered in a recent report from our research arm, ARtillery Intelligence. Entitled Geo-local AR: The Metavearth Materializes, it goes deep into opportunities and technical barriers. It’s also the topic of the latest ARtillery Briefs episode, with video and takeaways below.

Geolocal AR: The Metavearth Materializes

The Internet of Places

Starting at the top, what is geo-local AR? As noted, it’s all about AR experiences that enhance or contextualize physical places. We’re talking 3D navigation, informational overlays on storefronts, or virtual street art. As it often goes with emerging tech, use cases will develop organically.

This all builds on the fact that geo-relevance carries value. For example, Google click value is greater when local intent is signaled by the searcher, such as a “near me” or geographic modifiers like a zip code in the search query. The idea is that this signals transactional intent and immediacy.

So companies like Google, Yelp, Foursquare and many others have built businesses around this principle in driving local search and discovery – everything from gastropubs to gutter cleaners. And as AR emerges, it will inherit many of these value drivers for geo-relevant content.

Zeroing in on one of the above players, Google is leading the way in geo-local AR with its Lens visual search tool and Live View AR navigation. It’s well-positioned because of its knowledge graph, including a visual database for object recognition (Google Images and Street View).

The big picture for Google is to index the physical world, just like it has indexed the web. This extends the playbook with which it has amassed tremendous wealth over the past 20 years. And it all leads to what we call the “Internet of places” (yet another term for geo-local AR).

The AR Space Race, Part I: Google

Moves & Motivations

Of course, Google isn’t alone. Apple is similarly planting seeds for geo-local AR including its Geo-Anchors, visual navigation in Apple Maps and its Project Gobi for AR based point-of-sale engagement at retail partners. These are all orbiting parts of Apple’s AR glasses master plan.

Speaking of which, Apple’s motivations for geo-local AR are different than Google’s. Rather than building a physical-world knowledge graph like Google, Apple’s interests trace back to its core business: hardware. Geo-local AR could support that by creating worthwhile AR utilities.

The same principle applies to Meta, whose geo-local AR ambitions trace back to its broader metaverse blitz. Moves so far include Live Maps (still in development) which spatially-index the physical world. Think of it like Google’s Internet of Places but with a social twist.

Meta’s goal is to have all of this geo-local data deepen relationships between people and the physical world. That includes IRL social connections, product promotions, and local commerce. This would be a sort of embodied version of its social graph, fleshed out in the physical world.

Speaking of social, Snap is likewise developing geo-local AR plans including Local Lenses, Snap Scan, Snap Map, and other orbiting AR efforts. And Niantic is directly targeting a real-world metaverse through its Lightship platform, which will enable and accelerate geo-local AR apps.

Who Will Build the Metavearth?

Long Tail

And the list goes on…Amazon is making a few subtle but notable geo-local AR moves, while Microsoft Mesh is an enterprise version of much of the above. Then there’s a long tail of players like NexTech AR Solutions,* filling out the geo-local value chain in various ways.

But that all just scratches the surface and you can read more in the full report. In closing, it’s worth noting that geo-local AR will take years to assemble. That’s yet another tie to the metaverse, which will similarly take years or even decades to fully actualize, given all of its moving parts.

Beyond all the big-tech efforts outlined above, other geo-local AR moving parts and building blocks include 5G for location precision and LiDAR for more robust spatial mapping. Altogether, these efforts will get AR closer to its promise – making the physical world more rich and meaningful.

See the full briefs episode below, and the report it’s based on here

*The author of this article owns stock in NexTech AR Solutions. See our disclosure and ethics policy.

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