Augmented reality (AR) has come a long way since its early beginnings. In 2024, AR experiences are more immersive, interactive, and integrated into daily life. Let’s explore some key examples of augmented reality today and where the technology could head in the near future.
How Augmented Reality Works
Before diving into specific examples, a quick refresher on what defines augmented reality can be helpful. Augmented reality overlays digital information and objects onto the real, physical world in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which fully replaces reality with a simulated one, AR supplements reality.
AR integrates contextual digital content with the user’s environment on devices like smartphones, tablets, and AR headsets. This content includes things like images, video, audio, graphics, GPS data, and more. AR leverages the device’s camera, sensors, GPS, accelerometer and more to anchor the digital content properly so it tracks with the real world.
Current Consumer AR Examples
Consumer AR use cases have expanded tremendously in recent years. Here are some leading examples of augmented reality that everyday people interact with in 2024.
Retail and eCommerce
Online and brick and mortar retailers lead the charge with implementing augmented reality technology. Virtual try-on capabilities and in-store navigation are two major retail AR uses today. When shopping online, shoppers can visually see products in their own home with virtual try-on for makeup, accessories, eyewear, and some clothing items. This reduces returns and builds confidence in buying choices. Amazon, Instagram, and brand apps like Warby Parker offer these try-on experiences.
In physical stores, AR wayfinding helps shoppers navigate large locations to find the products they want faster. Apps like Lowe’s and Ikea Place provide in-store navigation and product previews at home.
Various social media platforms incorporate AR effects and filters into their apps. Snapchat and Instagram (owned by Meta) have led the way. Users can overlay fun effects like animal masks, makeup looks, hats/accessories on themselves in photos or videos. Some effects use facial tracking for better integration. Brands also sponsor custom filters for events or campaigns. As AR content creation becomes more accessible, we’ll likely see adoption spreading to apps like TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and others competing for engagement.
The gaming industry, especially on mobile, also continues to expand AR gameplay opportunities. Iconic franchise Pokémon GO remains a popular AR gaming app using real-world locations and mapping. Players explore physical spaces to catch Pokémon through their device camera.
Newer gaming apps blending AR include Jurassic World Alive, Knightfall AR, and The Walking Dead: Our World. These overlay gameplay onto the real world with more integration than the basic Pokémon GO map interface. As AR headsets arrive, gaming will likely drive a lot of the initial consumer enthusiasm and adoption similar to standard virtual reality.
Emerging Consumer AR Examples
While the above examples focus on established consumer AR use cases, emerging augmented reality technology points to some exciting possibilities ahead in 2024.
Apple AR Headset
Rumors continue swirling around an Apple AR headset expected to launch sometime in 2024. This would take their device ecosystem into more immersive AR experiences beyond just smartphone/tablet apps. Apple always brings sophisticated consumer polish when entering new product categories. Their AR headset promises advanced sensors for precise tracking, two ultra high res displays for crisp visuals, and a custom processor allowing more robust apps not possible only on an iPhone.
AR Smart Glasses
While AR headsets offer cutting edge experiences, many everyday users still await augmented reality smart glasses as the ultimate goal. Glasses provide an accessible form factor basically adding an AR overlay to your vision while remaining present in the real world.
Companies like Snap, Vuzix, Nreal, and others now slowly ship more fashionable AR glasses aiming for this mass appeal vision. However most remain either bulky or rely on tethering to a smartphone limiting standalone capability. Truly consumer ready AR glasses likely still remain several years away in 2024 and beyond. But incremental progress continues. As the technology miniaturizes and industrial design advances, AR glasses eventually emerge as the next must have wearable augmenting our reality nearly everywhere we go.
Spatial Computing Environments
Early AR relied on surface recognition like flat tables, floors, or walls to anchor content. The latest advancements establish more intricate spatial computing environments detecting objects and mapping spaces in 3D accurately.
This foundational shift allows for persistent digital content pinned to objects or locations through better understanding of physical environments. Spatial computing builds a digital twin reflecting rooms, products, furniture pieces, appliances and more for next level AR interaction. Companies pioneering these spatial computing foundations critical to immersive augmented reality include Niantic, Scandit, EchoAR and Apple again with its ARKit.
Emerging Enterprise AR Applications
Consumer AR garners lots of attention with fun effects, games, and eventual headsets/glasses. However, many impactful augmented reality advancements fly under the radar in enterprise.
Manufacturing and Warehousing
AR wearables like smart glasses create safer, more accurate, and efficient workflows for frontline workers in manufacturing plants and warehouses. Hands free AR displays provide real time guidance by overlaying custom graphics, notifications, and instructions directly in a worker’s field of vision. Companies equipping workers with devices like Microsoft HoloLens 2 or RealWear headsets report 30-50% productivity gains across numerous metrics. This transformation rapidly digitizes manual tasks while reducing costly errors.
Augmented reality also aids doctors and nurses to enhance various medical procedures and training. Specialized AR headsets allow remote collaboration during complex surgery. And simplified mobile apps help explain conditions to patients or guide central line placement. The AR healthcare market continues growing at a 35% CAGR through 2030 indicating plenty of remaining room for life altering (and saving) innovation.
Finally, augmented reality bolsters productivity and expertise for field technicians across industries like telecom, utilities, and oil/gas companies managing distributed infrastructure.
Hands free AR wearables enable remote assist allowing an expert to see the field environment via video and sensor streams. The expert can annotate directly in the technician’s view guiding next steps to resolve issues quicker without travel or miscommunication. This transforms employee onboarding and training while error proofing complex maintenance. Technicians gain instant access to decades of tribal knowledge further distributing institutional expertise.
The Future of Augmented Reality
As highlighted by the examples in this article, augmented reality continues permeating into both consumer and enterprise technology applications in 2024. But in many ways, today’s AR usage still represents just the tip of the iceberg regarding future potential.
Advancements in software, device hardware, and connectivity pave the way for more immersive and integrated AR experiences in everyday life. As spatial computing reinforces environmental understanding, expect AR interactions leveraging precise context for next level usefulness and realism.
Apple’s eventual AR headset likely accelerates things further with its polish and distribution launching new consumer expectations and opportunities. However, we still remain a few years away from AR glasses reaching critical mass replacing the smartphone itself as our go-to computing interface with the world.
But as augmented reality technology and creative innovation intertwine, we move persistently closer unlocking life changing implications across learning, work, healthcare, design, and human connection itself.
The promise of augmented reality persists not as an end itself, but as a means to transform how we interface with information and each other enabling profound new ways to create, explore, communicate, learn and thrive as abundantly enhanced global citizens through unprecedented technological symbiosis with our environments both digital and physical.
The future remains unwritten and eagerly awaits our collaborative imagination as we shape emergent augmented worlds layered upon our own crafting newfound dimensions of understanding, empathy and possibility that liberate human potential beyond present constraints. Our shared augmented reality journey has only just begun.
In reviewing the landscape today and potential future, augmented reality continues making tremendous progress integrating digital capabilities into the real world for consumers and enterprises alike. Applications span entertainment, retail, work, medicine, design, and beyond with immersive spatial computing foundations now accelerating more seamless and realistic AR experiences. As hardware, software, connectivity advance in tandem, augmented reality nears an inflection point augmenting life across almost every sector imaginable in the coming years. Our augmented reality journey has only just started with the most transformational applications likely still unimagined waiting to be created leveraging the limitless promise of enhancing reality itself through technology symbiosis.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some key examples of how consumers use AR apps?
Everyday users interact with augmented reality for things like virtual product try-on when shopping online, fun face filters in social media apps, and location gameplay like Pokémon GO. Retail and social media apps lead consumer AR usage.
What emerging augmented reality technologies appear most promising?
Upcoming Apple AR headsets, continued improvements to AR smart glasses form factors by companies like Snap and Vuzix, and new spatial computing software development platforms from Niantic, Scandit, and EchoAR point toward more advanced consumer and enterprise AR ahead.
How does augmented reality create value in manufacturing?
AR headsets like Microsoft HoloLens allow manufacturing workers and technicians to view holographic instructions and guides hands free. This boosts training, productivity, quality, and safety with huge cost savings.
Does AR offer any benefits for medical uses?
Yes, augmented reality aids complex surgery through remote expert collaboration while also helping explain patient conditions at the bedside. It further assists physicians with precise overlays for potential life saving procedures.
What does the long term future look like for AR technology?
Over time, augmented reality nears an inflection point with devices, software, networks, and processors enabling digital enhancements atop the real world nearly everywhere we look. AR promises to transform life across practically every consumer and enterprise sector in revolutionary ways we have only begun to glimpse.
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