In 2016, the Pokémon Go phenomenon took over worldwide, and in Singapore, we experienced the craze first hand. Leveraging the nostalgia of the Pokémon franchise with new Augmented Reality (AR) technology, the mobile game sent gamers from all walks of life on to the streets. They were intent on capturing Pokémon appearing on their phone displays via a Pokémon overlay video as if seen in a real-world environment.
The game brought AR into the mainstream showcasing the revolutionary impact of a technology deemed "difficult" and "expensive" on consumer experiences.
According to IDC, spending in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will reach USD 7.1 billion in 2019 – an increase of 75.2% from the previous year. On top of this, consumer and enterprise/commercial spend on AR and VR products and services is expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 70.7% between 2017 and 2022.
Today, the hype for Pokémon Go has faded, and we see Snapchat's latest gender swap AR face filter becoming a big hit overnight. Considering the benefits AR can potentially bring, this rapid growth in AR does not come as a surprise.' AR's use has hence extended outside of the gaming realm, with different sectors using it to enrich customer experience and gain competitive advantage.
AR in Action Across Asia-Pacific
AR can provide travelers with an idea of a potential travel destination so that they can better plan and prepare for trips. In fact, as part of the Passion Made Possible campaign, the Singapore Tourism Board launched a Facebook AR camera filter that transported people to party destinations in Singapore via AR, allowing them the chance to take selfies, record videos and wear props.
Education and Workforce Training
A picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to education, with lessons becoming more engaging when a student can see, touch, and interact with an object. AR has made its way into education and training programs, particularly in specialized industries where AR can provide simulated real-world environments without the risk or high costs.
The Singapore Air Force has experimented with AR training aids to improve realism and effectiveness in personnel training. These include lenses, which use holograms to simulate real-life situations such as aircraft emergency response scenarios.
AR has also been integrated into Operations to streamline workflow, with Changi Airport's largest ground handler SATS having deployed AR glasses across ramp handling operations to improve the safety, accuracy, and efficiency of baggage and cargo loading.
According to Worldpay, e-commerce across Asia-Pacific is forecasted to continue growing significantly in 2019 and beyond. With shifting consumer preferences, some retailers are turning to AR to spice up the shopping experience, allowing customers to "see" products through an AR-enabled catalog and "try on" products at home before placing an order.
For example, retailer behemoth Sephora has deployed their Sephora Virtual Artist in their native app across Singapore, allowing customers to virtually try on products anytime, anywhere. Fashion brand Zara also trialed an AR experience in Singapore, with the Zara AR app superimposing models posing in short sequences around the store.
AR is also a powerful technology for those in the healthcare sector, providing immersive training for surgical procedures and offering a way to practice without risk. Scans are a key diagnostic tool for today's doctors, but MRIs and CTs reports are one-dimensional. Using AR, a surgeon can layer virtual three-dimensional images of the same scans to produce an overview of the inside of the patient to understand any potential complications during surgery.
Interconnection: Speeding up AR
It is clear that AR potentially brings much to the table as a tool to improve experience and workflow across multiple industries. However, to reap those benefits, the successful applications of AR highly depend on the rapid transfer of real-time data generated from multiple touchpoints, such as customers, enterprises, and service providers. The increased use of mobile and IoT devices also demands the processing of big data to make AR apps feasible for practical use.
The data involved in these apps include images, visuals and audio, which need to be stored, analyzed and continuously transmitted and instantaneously to enable the user of an AR app to react and interact in real-time.
While cloud and network service providers play an essential role in supporting the use of AR, enterprises need scalable storage and high interconnectivity between multiple parties to ensure the seamless delivery of AR-enabled experiences to users and customers. They can achieve this via interconnection, also known as the private data exchange between businesses.
The second annual Global Interconnection Index, a market study published by Equinix, reveals Asia-Pacific's Interconnection Bandwidth is expected to grow at a 51% CAGR to 2,200 plus Tbps by 2021. It means that interconnection is becoming the de-facto method for companies to operate in today's digital world. Businesses need to adopt an interconnection-first approach to directly and securely interconnect partners and service providers as well as users, analyze data, and engage with customers in real-time.
AR is transforming the way different verticals work. With interconnection, the potential of AR can be fully unlocked to enhance customer experience further and offer more benefits to enterprises in the digital era.
Simon Lockington, director of Global Solutions Enablement, Equinix Asia-Pacific, authored this article.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends.