The hot topic at the moment seems to be mobile AR. Google’s Goggles is a recent example of how augmented reality seems to be taking off. According a this piece in MobiAd News, we may have already reached the tipping point. There’s lots of interesting stuff in the article, and I agree that AR is likely to be brand led. However, I have a problem with AR. I’m just not that sure if there is a broad appeal to users. Yes, it is innovative. Yes it can be fun and interesting. It can even be useful.
However, we have seen time and again that it is not the technology that drives the channel, but the users. Take video calling. Seems like a nice idea, but who uses it? No one I know, that’s for sure. Perhaps it has a niche use, but will never move beyond that. Similarly look at MMS. Has it replaced SMS? No, far from it. There were over 7.7 billion text messages sent in the UK last month, and less than 50 million multimedia messages. So MMS represents less than 1% of the total messages sent in the UK. So, for most users, sending a picture is not an enhancement they particularly needed. SMS did the job just fine thanks.
It’s the same for augmented reality on mobile. Does it offer something sufficiently useful, beneficial? Would I bother to turn my camera on and point it at something, when my mobile maps give me the same information BEFORE I even reach my destination? And ultimately, how well will it work? Many of the AR developments will require a good, reliable data connection. Something that is not always easy to find. So if the AR function doesn’t work, I will simply get the information through a simpler, less band-width heavy application that I know will work.
Juniper Research has stated that AR already has broad adoption, and that the market will be worth $730 by 2014. I find these predictions surprising to say the least.
I believe that AR is a nice, fun concept, but just as MMS, it will remain niche.