Today, augmented and virtual reality technologies have many applications, from business to entertainment. With the COVID-19 crisis, we have just witnessed a further boost in their use.

Not only will VR/AR continue to have an impact, but it’s projected that the number of AR active devices will grow from 598 million units at this moment to 1.73 billion by 2024.

We listed a few trends that you can expect to see in 2021. Let’s dive in.

Impact of 5G in VR/AR

Even though it will take some time for it to reach the whole globe – 5G technology has arrived. It brings with it a few factors that will have a significant impact on the way we use VR and AR.

5G means super-fast data transfer and minimal end-to-end latency (less than 20 milliseconds). Companies and developers are already working on new AR/VR devices and solutions with this in mind.

New technology will enhance the user experience by increasing the speed of the data transfer to the cloud, which means that the users will no longer be limited by the capabilities of a particular device. In short, with the implementation of 5G, we will have a much more realistic and smooth AR/VR experience.

The Role of AI

We can’t understate the role of AI in the development of AR/VR technologies. Currently, a lot of research is being done on their integration. 

A technology like real-time face-swapping, now routinely integrated with our phones, can lead to further evolution of the highly interactive work-space. For these purposes, AI can analyze not only the user’s facial features but also the rest of their body if needed. 

For example, automatic suggestions driven by natural language processing technologies could be given to a shopper in a virtual fitting room using AR tech on their phone. 

Development of Mobile AR/VR

AR technology in our mobile devices has been around for a long time. Very common examples are the augmented filters used by Instagram and Snapchat or the very popular ‘Pokemon Go’ game. Today companies such as Apple and Google are competing in the expansion of open-source augmented reality development tools. Apple has ARKit (with the ARKit 4 being the latest update) and Google has ARCore.

Since they were introduced four years ago, these tools led to a dramatic increase in AR-capable devices and their users. In 2020 there were 633 million ARCore devices, while there were more than a billion of ARKit devices. On the other hand, ARCore has only 122 million active users, compared to 950 million active users of ARKit.

New Applications in Gaming and iGaming

Gaming has been and will remain the most relevant driver of the AR/VR tech – It has the highest share of the industry’s revenue. But today this technology is presented in gaming in new ways as well – besides Pokemon Go, or Half Life, also think VR/AR online casino games. 

As virtual and augmented reality tech is gaining momentum, it’s also becoming one of the biggest trends among many new online casinos. Many new operators are seeking to implement VR/AR tech into their game lobby and attract players who are looking for that kind of modern-edge gaming.

Getting Closer to AR Glasses

Smart glasses are nothing new, as we know from examples such as Google Glass or Microsoft HoloLens. But we still don’t have massively produced augmented reality glasses and it sometimes seems that this technology is still in its infancy.

Still, there is some good news from Facebook. This company recently announced they will release their first smart glasses in 2021. While not having augmented reality features and not being for sale (they will be used by employees), from what the CEO of the company said himself, it seems we are getting very close:

“I can’t go into full product details yet, but they’re really the next step on the road to augmented reality glasses,” Zuckerberg said. “And they look pretty good too.”

AR in Cars

One of the most useful applications of augmented reality technologies by automobile manufacturers is through the use of heads-up displays (HUDs). HUDs are transparent displays that present data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. The advantage of such technology for drivers is obvious. They will allow drivers to process useful information without obstructing their view of the road.

Such technology is already implemented by Nissan. Their Invisible-to-Visible (I2V) technology uses AR and AI to make drivers aware of potential hazards, such as nearby objects. It uses a 3D, augmented reality interface that merges the real world and virtual world to make information visible which the driver would not otherwise see.

The unprecedented growth of AR and VR technologies in 2020, the diversification of their application, as well as projections of future growth, are all proof that we are about to witness a huge (almost Sci-Fi) technological revolution. From shopping to driving or just having a quiet walk down the street, the way we perceive reality will be fundamentally changed.

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