Is American Augmented Reality Lagging Behind?

I've been covering augmented reality on this blog for the last six months, and have been following the industry for much longer than that, and I can shake the feeling that while European and Japanese companies are constantly innovating and making AR headlines the US companies are lagging behind. This 4th of July, I wanted to examine if my intuition is true. However, since my resources are limited, and I only considered writing a post about it two days ago, I'm far from having a definite answer. What I'm about to present are mere anecdotes. I urge you to reply and share your thoughts either here as a comment, on your own blog or on twitter.

Mobile AR
Let's first take a look at the sizzling world of mobile AR browsers. These browsers are the closest we've ever gotten to augmented vision ("terminator vision"). In the last year we've seen a lot of development in that area, led by Mobilizy's Wikitude (Austria), SPRXMobile's Layar (The Netherlands), and Tonchidot's Sekai Camera (Japan). The only American companies I've heard of involved in that area are the giants, IBM, Microsoft and Google, though IBM did it in cooperation with Mobilizy, and the last two don't have a real product out there.

Stationary AR
However, as Brian Selzer correctly states, the "U.S. has typically trailed Europe/Japan/Korea with mobile innovation in general". So, let us examine the "immobile" augmented reality world. It seems that there, the European superiority is even more obvious with companies like Total Immersion (France), Metaio (Germany) and YDreams (Portugal) are very prominent (and lest us forget the Australian Boffswana).

As a matter of fact, if one examines the signees on the recent open-letter to Apple to open up the iPhone's camera API, there are only two and a half American companies there (Neogence, Ogmento, and ARToolWorks). If you go through the list of accepted papers to ISMAR08, you'll find out that there are 12 papers authored by European researchers, and only 6 by American researchers (5 papers came from the far-east). Though the conference was held in Britain, and it would be interesting to examine the statistics of ISMAR09, this "research gap" might help to partly explain the "industrial gap".

The Good Points
So, where does it leave the USA? American companies are on top when it comes to utilizing the existing technology in marketing and advertisement, as we have all seen in the last couple of months. Moreover, the US is still leading when it comes to the number of patents issued that deal with AR. US companies, such as SnapTell and GetFugu, are also leading when it comes to augmented shopping. And we shouldn't forget about the American GeoVector, which once held a trademark on the term "Augmented Reality", and was one of the first companies in this area.

Yet, I'm pretty sure the US companies can contribute much more to the world of augmented reality (especially when we see the US contribution to the web). Do you think the same?


Thomas K Carpenter said...

Good breakdown of the current situation, Rouli. I think the answer is a hard one to answer right now, because so much of AR is in its infancy. Real AR products and marketing campaigns are only now hitting the streets.

Anonymous said...

Europe ans SE Asia has strong Image Processing/Computer Vision scientific schools. Late years most of job ads for IP/CV researchers originated from Europe. I have impression that most of groundbreaking methods of tracking and feature detection also originate outside of US - SURF - Europe, SIFT - Canada etc. It could be somehow connected with High-Tech bubble burst...

Haz Tan said...

it does seem that Europe and Japan have more universities and companies working on developing AR technology than the US. I think a large part of slow AR development is the handicapping of cellphones in the US ..

n said...

Maybe the reason of economic environment in US at the tough period.

Kjeld said...

There is an extra AR iPhone 3GS player in the market. Check the openAR blog:
A company called "acrossair" from the UK made an application to find the "Nearest Tube" for the iPhone 3GS

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