Has Augmented Reality Peaked?

Sorry for the attention grabbing title, but remember how we all celebrated when augmented reality passed virtual reality on Google trends, showing an exponential growth rate?

Well, it sure looked promising back last September, but since then, the interest in AR has stopped increasing, at least when measured is search volumes and news references

The current trend is even more obvious when compare with Foursquare (in red in the graph below), which really does show exponential growth:

so, what's going on? there are a couple of possible explanations:
(a) Augmented reality has peaked. I can't really believe that's the case.
(b) Google trends was never an adequate tool to measure the popularity of augmented reality. Other measures, such as investments, acquisitions and actual downloads are much better indicators. All of those show positive trends.
(c) We have entered a new, uncharted area in Gartner's hype cycle, one that I call the Plateau of immature technology. Simply put, the iPhone is not the optimal AR device, and it's not even the best currently out there. However, most of us limit ourselves to developing AR applications on the iPhone (or even worse, in Flash), and thus the solution space is really limited. We see the same ideas rehashed time after time (though, some pleasant surprises do happen), and people loose interest. The trend line seems pretty constant (for now) because there are still some users who discover AR for the first time.

If you'll ask me, augmented reality is not dying, but stalling, waiting for a breakthrough either technological or conceptual that will bring new type of applications to the market (much like Foursquare was for location based services). Would it come for one of the incumbents companies, a giant like Google, or maybe a stealthy startup? only time will tell.


wonderwhy-er said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wonderwhy-er said...

I agree to C scenario. Smartphones are best option available but far from being usable. We do need AR glasses (or similar technology to output information above what we see without need of hands + one that probably only we will see) in daily life + hand free input technology similar to Microsoft Natal(gesture + voice) that comes this year to control it. This way we can have some Terminator vision. Small window in your hand to peak in to this world is not that good user experience.

On other hand iPhone like devices are first platforms to start play testing AR ideas.

Joey1058 said...

I tend to agree with wonderwhy-er. The novelty phase of AR has really topped out. We seem to be in a "wait and see" limbo. Natal really shows some true promise here, but it can't be the only platform, or strings are going to start unraveling and set the tech back by any number of years. As it is, VR is grasping at AR's coattails, trying to be anything more than a gaming niche.

Chris Grayson - Minister of Propaganda, GigantiCo said...

Hi Rouli,

With iPhone SDK now opening APIs for video feed analysis, QderoPateo licensing PTAM from Oxford, and Microsoft hiring the fellow who developed it, I think the next 60 to 90 days are going to be quite interesting in mobile. We're finally going to see "real" Augmented Reality in mobile. And as much as it may irk a lot of people to read me say it: the iPhone will continue to be the platform where most people are exposed to it first.

I think Gartner's graph is useful, but the map is not the territory. AR is a unique bird, as it has various manifestations. Desktop AR and Mobile AR are in some ways very different animals. Think what a single hype cycle for "video" would look like. Then consider TV, online video, outdoor billboards, mobile phone displays, that is to say -- moving images are a very big idea. Different implementations are adopted in different ways at different rates… AR is also a very big idea that has many manifestations. Even the various component-technologies whose convergence makes mobile AR possible have their own individual rates of adoption and therefore their own hype cycles -- mobile voice, data, GPS, camera phone, mobile video, accelerometers, digital compass, etc. I think that different variations of AR will have their own hype cycles and lumping them all together under the AR umbrella, while convenient for us, is also what causes the noise in the signal.

That said, you are asking the same question as a lot of people, so it's certainly valid, and up for debate. I'm as eager to see how it plays out as everyone else!


Gianmarco said...

Hi Rouli,
I am GianMarco, a student of CS University of Bologna (Italy).
I would like to say that is a very nice article, I have translated it in Italian for my blog.
The blog is a tool for my thesis which have as main argument AR in marketing application.
If this bother to you, I will immediately, delete it.
I hope that AR will grow again, because is so cool! :)


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