How Augmented Reality will Sneak Up On You

A couple of interesting trends are emerging I believe will bring augmented reality experiences to the masses only, they will probably not recognize them as Augmented Reality.

As smartphone cameras get better and get more local processing and as machine learning advances, it is clear the biggest trend coming to smartphones is the camera sensor as a platform. This could come as companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and even Apple build up core experiences around the smartphone camera. This could mean giving developers access to create stores to sell lenses, filters, or effects. Or it could show up in standalone apps which is the case today. But, looking at a number of apps utilizing some early technology from both the camera sensor and server side machine learning, we have a few examples I believe point the way.

First, Snapchat. While some may want to argue with me, the reality is hundreds of millions of millennials using Snapchat every day are having an augmented reality experience. Snapchat’s lenses already fit the description of AR and do so in a fun and entertaining way. This, for example, is augmented reality.

That is not just a digital overlay of glasses or hat on my head and face. The digital overlays recognize aspects of my face and react digitally, in real time, as I talk, move, or make facial expressions. This lens also adds elements to my face to make me look older to fit the character. All done digitally, both locally on the device and on Snapchat’s backend server side processing.

This is augmented reality but in a way most never associate or think about. It’s just entertaining and AR just happens to enable this fun.

Next, Memoji. There is an app called Facetune which uses machine learning to let people completely change how they look in the app. You can give yourself a new nose, chin, cheeks, teeth, etc. It’s a powerful app that uses a great deal of machine learning to deliver fascinating digital tweaks to a simple photograph. The company behind Facetune launched an app called Memoji that turns any selfie into an animated emoji. Here is an example.

Facetune launched this app for free to highlight some of the face manipulation technologies their app/service include. Both apps provide an augmented reality experience by definition but are disguised as a service to alter your appearance or express yourself by turning a selfie into an emoji.

Another app getting some exposure lately is Faceapp. This app uses any selfie and can alter it into several different modifications digitally. You can add a smile, change genders, make yourself look younger or older. While not perfect, it is another great example of an augmented reality experience in disguise.

These are a few simple examples but you can see where this can go. As both myself and Carolina have mentioned, imagine how this can impact commerce when you can take a picture or video of yourself and see how clothes or complete outfits look on you with extreme accuracy. Paint companies, and even Home Depot and Lowes, all offer experiences where you can use your smartphone to take a picture of a room in your house and test different paint colors in real time without ever having to leave your home.

All of these experiences show up as useful, or fun, and won’t be sold or positioned as “augmented reality.” Instead, their value will sneak up on consumers and the adoption of these technologies will be quite natural. But the commonality here is how consumers’ first experiences with AR will happen through the smartphone camera. As these cameras become more capable and do full depth sensing and 3D scanning of physical space, developers and services providers will be able to go farther using the camera to extend AR experiences into new areas.

The camera sensor is emerging as a platform and smart companies will take advantage of that in big ways over the next few years.

Published by

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

One thought on “How Augmented Reality will Sneak Up On You”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *