Greenlight Perspective 2020: How Augmented Reality Will Evolve Alongside the 2020 Mobile Computing Landscape

J.C. Kuang, Analyst J.C. Kuang, Analyst Augmented Reality, Augmented Reality Intelligence Service, Devices & Technology, Imaging & Video, Insight Articles, Interfaces

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2019 saw the beginning of a major wave of disruption in mobile computing in the form of augmented reality. Across entertainment, social media, and business use cases, tablets and smartphones have emerged as the de-facto platform for many different AR applications and yielded immediate business benefits of their massive addressable market.

Led by major global stakeholders including PTC, Apple, and Facebook, mobile platforms being recognized as ideal launchpads for passthrough (as opposed to optical see-through) spatially- and location-aware applications. This was possible due to investments from OEMs into sophisticated sensor arrays and image capture software and hardware. 

2020 is certain to see continued major improvements in mobile AR, and Greenlight Insights has identified key developmental milestones that will act as significant drivers for both spatial and mobile computing.

New components (faster SoCs and more cameras) to supercharge rendering

Semiconductor manufacturers are among the most ardent supporters of high-quality augmented reality as a killer app for incoming flagship systems-on-chip (SoC), which will power the next generation of premium smartphones. As processing power ceilings continue to climb, major stakeholders such as Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Apple, have centered around immersive 3D experiences as an ideal value proposition for end-users, who have seen relatively little use for increasingly powerful rendering capabilities outside of enthusiast gaming. 

On a related note, the addition of more dedicated lenses into flagship camera systems has become table stakes for nearly all major mobile hardware manufacturers, and new hardware such as time-of-flight sensors will bring cheaper and more reliable approaches to depth mapping. This data is critical to providing realistic AR physics effects, path and surface detection, and universal dynamic occlusion.

ML-driven computer vision to supercharge quality

Silicon components with dedicated AI coprocessors will also give rise to a new crop of robust deep learning models running entirely on-device. Thanks to these new algorithms, mobile AR will be able to benefit from unprecedented image and tracking accuracy killer features (such as the aforementioned occlusion), even without the aid of high-end camera arrays and new sensors. These AI-driven features represent extremely important business opportunities for AI powerhouses such as Google, as the global Android smartphone market continues to negotiate slowdowns, competition, and hardware fragmentation. 

Content to supercharge general adoption and enable new business models

As foundational software updates bring improvements to the backend, however, the 2020 mobile AR market will also see the ongoing development of AAA mobile entertainment titles, hoping to grow recognition and demand for quality AR experiences in the vein of blockbuster hits from Niantic. Notably, Microsoft has leveraged its considerable experience and knowledge in computer entertainment to bring strong IPs such as Minecraft into augmented reality, resulting in additional competition. In addition, while native 5G connectivity has yet to reach the market for current SoCs, mmWave data transfer capabilities are certain to influence design practices for AR apps and games in 2020, bringing improvements in both end-user quality and functionality, as well as facilitating improved networking capability between other users and network-connected IoT devices.

Want to know what will happen in 2020? Visit Greenlight Insights' Trends VR/AR/XR 2020 Hub, where you can read what's coming next in virtual reality, augmented reality, technology, innovation, and more.