The Augmented Reality (AR) cloud will play a catalytic role in the way that users engage and search for information, simultaneously transforming the way businesses operate and communicate with customers and employees in both physical and digital forms. It has the potential to directly impact most of the AR value chain, which ABI Research forecasts to reach nearly US$102 billion by 2024.
What is the AR Cloud?
The AR cloud is often described as the world’s digital twin, a digital copy of the real world that is accessible by any user from any device, from any location and at any time. It’s been defined as a real-time Three-Dimensional (3D)/spatial map of the world, overlaid onto the real world, enabling all the information that exists in an AR app and tied with a geographical location to be persistent, shared, and accessed by multiple users and different AR devices. This spatial memory allows users to collaborate, engage, and share AR experiences across different locations and AR-enabled devices in real time.
The AR cloud is a continuously updated collection of different types of data: machine-readable datasets, point clouds, 3D environment scans, and more, which can be used to accurately localize and determine the position of an AR user, and overlay the right virtual content. The data is consistently updated to keep the most relevant digital copy of the real world, and accurately recognize space and localize AR devices in rapidly changing conditions and environments. Moreover, the AR cloud can assist the AR content with better “understanding” and being better aligned with the physical environment, offer users more accurate and realistic experiences.
Prominent Use Cases
One of the most advanced AR cloud-based apps is Google’s AR navigation, which leverages Google’s Visual Positioning Service (VPS) and the AR cloud to enable device localization in the environment with a higher accuracy than that of GPS. AR indoor and outdoor navigation are among the most promising cloud-based use cases, requiring large scale mapping and persistent localization and digital content. One company, Sturfee, utilizes VPS and the AR Cloud for AR city navigation, while 6D.ai is a prime example of indoor navigation leveraging the AR Cloud. Scape Technologies, Visualix, YOUAR, and Ubiquity6 are also active in the space, offering SDKs for building cloud-based 3D maps of the physical world by utilizing mobile devices. Constantly updated environments and shareable and persistent AR experiences will revolutionize numerous industries and applications, from product design with collaboration to retail and gaming.
Overcoming Limits to Widespread Adoption
The hardware landscape is significantly richer, and the new devices are more technologically capable, more affordable, and significantly lighter in weight. Also, the software and platform providers tend to be cloud/hardware agnostic, offering more flexibility and freedom in application development. The AR ecosystem is more mature and better prepared to meet consumer and business needs by offering more accurate, realistic, and immersive experiences; however, there are still some limitations that need to be addressed to accelerate massive consumer adoption and enable users/businesses to reach their full potential by leveraging AR solutions.
The journey toward scaled deployment of AR cloud has begun, and numerous companies—tech giants and startups—are now building “mini AR clouds,” and contributing to developing a cloud-based 3D map of the real world. The AR cloud requires the synergy and contribution of multiple technologies to reach performance and footprint requirements for widespread adoption.
5G connectivity, improved AR devices, and the further growth of connected devices will all contribute to the development and the wider adoption of AR cloud-based applications. However, the digital twin of the real-world generates questions about user safety, security, and privacy. In response, both policymakers and providers need to apply new legal frameworks that will ensure user privacy as well.
ABI Research's application analysis report, AR Cloud: Enabling Technologies, Use Cases, and Market Dynamics, takes a deeper dive into the emergence of AR Cloud and is part of the Augmented & Virtual Reality research service, focusing on the technologies that provide value through data visualization and immersive experiences.