When examining mobile AR use cases that have resonated most with consumers, the list includes gaming and socially-fueled lenses. These activities are driven by gamification and virality. They also piggyback on existing/popular user behavior, such as sharing selfies.
In fact, one reason that social lenses and gaming have pulled ahead in mobile AR is that they’re immersive versions of activities that are familiar. Rather than trying to educate and attract consumers to wholly-new behaviors, these flavors of AR appeal to existing comfort levels.
A similar concept plays out in VR, where the most popular activities are gaming and watching 2D movies. In fact, the latter is the most desired form of VR according to consumer survey data from our research arm, ARtillery Intelligence. Consumers tend to stick to what they know.
Back to AR, its handheld present is a bridge to its head-worn future. But will we see the former’s use cases – again, gaming and social – shine in the latter? Or will we see new and native activities that lean into unique hardware capabilities? The answer could be a bit of both.
One piece of evidence to help answer this question recently hit our desks. Data from Nreal maps out the activities that are most popular on Nreal Air. Before jumping in, we should acknowledge that Nreal Air’s AR capabilities are somewhat limited, so it’s likewise a limited sample.
Putting that limitation aside, it’s notable that the device’s use cases are streaming entertainment (79 percent), gaming on a giant virtual monitor (69 percent), working on virtual monitors (39 percent), and web browsing (29) percent. These each have familiar analogs in 2D computing.
We’ll say once again that these results occur within the bounds of what Nreal Air can do. The device isn’t capable of AR that interacts with its surroundings in dimensionally-accurate ways. But there are still native “lite AR” use cases possible within Nreal Air’s three degrees of freedom.
For example, things like biometrics, alerts, and captions for the physical world could develop natively in lite AR. But for now, the most popular activities seem to involve virtual arrays of the same 2D screens that surround us in the physical world. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Disorient and Disinterest
Going deeper on the question of whether or not AR glasses will shine with new or existing use cases, we’ll see both as noted. But they will be separated by time. In other words, like the progression of mobile AR, early experiences succeed by meeting users where they’re comfortable.
But over time, the name of the game is to lead those users into intermediate and advanced forms of AR that are more native. That gradual progression needs to occur in order to align with consumers’ comfort and cognition. Move too fast and you could disorient and disinterest them.
As we examined recently, Snap is wise to this principle. It started with AR lenses that were whimsical, approachable, and all about selfies. Now it’s in the midst of a transition to more world-facing AR. This deliberate progression is at the heart of its leading position in consumer AR.
AR glasses apps could follow a similar evolutionary path. Expect the technology to rely on training wheels before it can balance on its own. Or, to paraphrase our friend and colleague Charlie Fink, AR is most successful when it takes the things we already do and makes them better.