If you used one of these facial filters on Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook Messenger, you used an augmented reality (RA) instance. Simply put, RA allows us to augment or modify our reality through the mobile camera. Of course, AR glasses represent the North Star in terms of hands-free AR experiences, although for India the smartphone remains the most powerful computing device accessible to everyone.
Visual computing has always found an accelerated adoption in our daily lives. For example, how computers started to be so relevant to us when they went from text-based operations to graphical user interfaces (GUIs), and how mobile usage has skyrocketed when we moved from functional phones to smartphones. Similarly, AR is fundamentally a visual platform and I hope it has wider acceptance as it begins to generate utility in our daily activities, whether it’s communications, commerce or content consumption.
As with any new technology, mobile RA also includes a set of challenges of its own. Some are technological, which guarantees better device capabilities, good data speeds, multiple cameras or powerful processors. Although, from a user experience standpoint, current mobile RA experiences require the user to hold the phone in a certain position, which becomes physically uncomfortable after a while. . These challenges, however, are solvable and solutions will begin to emerge as adoption matures.
The opportunity of India
Mobile AR is gaining strength in sectors that combine the digital and physical worlds. Companies and brands want to attract users with RA to improve their product experiences, increase sales, and save costs.
For example, a global brand like IKEA leverages RA to allow potential buyers to virtually visualize and place furniture directly in their living room, helping them make an informed purchasing decision. Cosmetic brands like L’Oreal and MAC are now helping shoppers try on lipstick shades with AR filters to help them choose the right product without even visiting a store or using demo lipsticks. Chinese e-commerce giants Taobao and JD.com have already integrated AR-based purchases in recent years.
Similarly, Lenskart.com of India, the largest eyewear retailer, has implemented virtual testing to help its customers choose the right frames.
Mobile RA use cases are being adopted in all companies around the world, with India dipping its feet into this digital space transformation. These use cases include remote assistance, training for front-line workers, preventive maintenance of expensive machines using digital twins, optimization of logistics, and creation of interactive business experiences.
Mobile AR also offers other strategic and functional aspects of ROI for businesses. India could benefit greatly from a climate change perspective by adopting RA. A simple example is e-commerce platforms that face a costly “return-shipping” problem. Sending goods and accepting returns across India can consume a lot of resources and leave behind a substantial carbon footprint. Platforms could offer an easier way to check the actual sizes and shape factor of items via RA before the actual purchase. This could reduce the number of returns, save time, packaging material, fuel and optimize supply chains.
In education, mobile AR makes learning more fun by providing interactivity and visualization to static learning materials. Brands like OSMO from Byju, PlayShifu and others are driving this segment. Watch out for this space, as we see players like Google, Jio, Apple, and major OEMs double the RA and amplify camera experiences.
India in a unique position
India has immense market potential with over half a million smartphone users and over 650 million internet users. This is still 50% of the current population, which shows a huge opportunity for growth and scale for the entire value chain. In addition, the average phone update period for Indians is 22 months compared to 30 months worldwide.
Young Indians, even in levels II and III of socio-economic categories, have relatively higher technological literacy when it comes to mobile applications and devices. These young users are smart on social media, which demonstrates the degree of penetration of these platforms in the Indian mobile market and already drive social RA experiences through fun, advertising or commerce.
Therefore, the Indian demographic population is ready and powerful to adopt RA over the next few years.
In addition to social applications, mobile computer manufacturers have a great opportunity to integrate RA capabilities natively into their mobile cameras, thus reducing the friction points of RA discovery and use. However, these RA experiences should be designed with the local context of mobile technology, bandwidth, language, and cost constraints in mind.
In light of these facts, my hypothesis is that webAR will be the most appropriate means to catalyze and engage Indian users; as it is platform independent, works on mobile browsers and does not require any application installation. Let’s call it “Augmented Reality-Lite” or ARLite. ARLite could end up helping RA experiences at scale and speed, which will be ideal for India. For example, while browsing a mobile blog, if you click on an ad for a bike that will be launched soon, it will open the camera of the mobile and users will be able to place the 3D model of this bike in the room. to be and explore various functions. Close.
OEMs, developers and brands will be key to adopting such efficient technologies and democratizing RA experiences.
In the next five years, will Indian users learn, buy and interact with the physical world using a mobile camera?
It keeps me bullish.
(The author is a co-founder of BigCycl Labs)