The Coming of Augmented Reality Apps for Businesses

08 Nov, 2018

e possibilities of our smartphones are constantly expanding as well as the number of interesting apps we can download and use for work or entertainment. The technology of Augmented Reality isn’t something new on the market, but it is rather undiscovered yet. According to Statista, AR and VR software for video games will be worth 11.6 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. However, it isn’t just about video games, both AR and VR are already often used in other spheres too – healthcare, live streaming, real estate, retail, tourism, education, etc.

We asked Dmytro Skorokhod, iOS developer at Perfectial what makes AR so attractive for businesses, and what is the future of AR tech.

The obsession with augmented reality

It’s hard to predict the future, but it’s vital for every business these days to keep up with the newest tech. Prior my work at Perfectial, I worked at Accenture in Latvia, probably one of the world’s most known tech companies and early adopters of the latest technologies. I keep up with their work till this day. They have recently invested in Ripple cryptocurrency and AR for fashion industry. This is the key indicator for me. Observing such a progressive company helps to understand what will shape the technology future in the next decade.

AR, as well as Blockchain, has a reputation of risky, but very promising tech. When IT companies invest in such technologies, we understand that this is a venture investment. Everything can end very quickly and quite sadly (remember Google Glass?). But personally, I’ve made a decision and chose AR as the field I want to work in and grow as professional. I am a true believer in the future of Augmented Reality apps.

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Fashion, selfies and other future applications of AR tech

I think that Augmented Reality changing rooms will be massively popular in the next few years. Online stores and clothing manufacturers will change completely, and will hardly exist without AR in the future. At the moment, the imperfections of AR technologies and the high cost of 3D modeling are the main obstacles for that.

Still, I think the AR will arrive to the jewelry industry much faster than the clothing since jewelers are already creating 3D models for every product they make. Moreover, it’s easier to show earrings or a ring on a person than a shirt or jeans.

I think taking selfies using augmented reality in the background as well as placing additional AR elements and applying effects will soon become really popular. Such apps already exist in all sorts and shapes. However, for example, ARKit, a framework released in 2017 for developing iOS-based AR apps, supports a front camera only for the iPhone X. To support other smartphone models, software developers are using alternative frameworks that are less powerful, more complicated, and often paid. So there is a limited choice of applications and sets of 2D and 3D models that can be used for a selfie. The real boom in AR selfie will happen when smartphones similar to iPhone X will be used massively.

AR vs VR

AR doesn’t require buying any additional equipment, which is respectively a huge advantage for businesses. In fact, when you’re developing a VR app, your target audience is only those who have a VR headset. In contrast, when you’re developing AR, everyone who has a smartphone can use it, and that means pretty much everyone. The scale is completely different. Although ARKit does not work on devices that have a processor that is older than Apple’s A9 (supported models begin with iPhone 6S and SE), the users will eventually update their smartphones. Basically, it’s Apple’s policy to not allow the installation of the new iOS versions on older devices. Nowadays, not many people use old models, such as iPhone 5C, and especially older ones. According to an AppLovin research, in 2016, 63% of users switched to iPhone 6. Similarly, in the future, people will stop using the iPhone 6 when removed from support. As for Android, device upgrades are probably slower, but it’s still going to happen. And this means that billions of people will have access to the augmented reality in the next 5-10 years.

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Are AR apps harsh on your smartphone performance?

The simple answer is not really. A lot of AR applications don’t need too many resources. AR changing rooms are a good example. You can try on one or two clothes and when done the memory of your device will clean itself automatically. If you want to try out some gaming with AR, you will surely need the most advanced smartphone to really experience all the effects and complex game worlds. Recently, Apple has released a lightweight model format USDZ, as well as, the built-in support for synchronization between different devices, so everything should perform quite smoothly now. Basically, it’s a revolution in the gaming industry.

Why we invest in AR for businesses

Here, at Perfectial we’re all about strategic decisions and perspective tech. Being a software development partner to many B2B businesses we tend to think how our clients can deliver on their promise to their customers. Hence, the adoption of the latest and greatest tech. Some of our clients are world known big names that require a digital transformation of their businesses in order to outrun the competition, and it’s the game that never stops. This approach requires the constant adoption of early technologies. We, as software developers, are committed to those changes, thus the experiments with AR that help us to understand it better.

Personally, I am a huge fan and a very active user of AR applications. The possibilities are endless, and I believe everyone can make use of those one way or another  fun, fashion, education, and whatnot. My wife and I sometimes even use such apps for romantic stuff, like putting candles everywhere in the room. This one time I’ve managed to put so many candles on the screen that my phone started overheating. Had to put them down.

AR for fun

Regarding my favorite AR apps, I’d have to say LEGO AR Studio. I mean, who doesn’t like building stuff out of Legos, putting amazing worlds together? You can actually find some great apps built by Ukrainian developers as well. INKHUNTER, for example. You can try out a tattoo with this app. You need to physically paint a smile on the spot you’d like a virtual art to appear, and the app will transform it into an AR tattoo.

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Although such apps may seem quite simple on the outside, they require a lot of intellectual work and software engineering skills to work properly and appear in the first place. Engineers need an expertise in algorithms as well as deep knowledge of linear algebra and analytical geometry. Thank God for frameworks (ARKit from Apple and ARCore from Google) that have made our lives easier. The development of AR apps is also comfortable for Apple devices because of some very useful frameworks, like SceneKit for 3D graphics and SpriteKit for 2D. In May 2018 Google has also launched Sceneform for Android, similar to SceneKit. So, that helped to cut the development time and made the work more fun.

At the moment, we’re developing a few prototypes at Perfectial to learn the AR possibilities for businesses. Among them, an application able to tell when a person makes a kick. This app uses Core ML, a framework from Apple for machine learning based models. We’ve also created an application to measure distances, a similar app to famous IKEA Place, the one that can virtually furnish a room for you. And an app for creating 3D paintings that can float in the middle of a room. You can find more about those at the article on our blog (bit.ly/arkitapp).

But the app we’ve chosen to publish at the App Store is the Solar system with flying Tesla Roadster. 3D Tesla’s model was created for us by a very cool artist from Macedonia  Duško Avramovski. We actually showed this app at a local kindergarten (the toughest audience of all) during the week they studied planets, and kids loved it. They were very excited, especially when we told them that there’s a car in space they have to find.

So, whether it’s fun, education or any other purpose, I believe, Augmented Reality is the future, and it’s definitely worth investing in. It’s fun to learn, master, and use. The process of creating something people can actually use and benefit of is very rewarding.

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