If you’re an avid gamer, you’ll know only too well of the phenomenal capabilities of augmented reality (AR). AR technologies are spreading like wildfire, and it’s easy to see why.

Last year, Pokémon Go took the world by storm. Offering keen Pokémon hunters an immersive experience, it rapidly gained traction, and it wasn’t long until the news was full of the latest shenanigans of avid Pokémon hunters. Following rapidly in its footsteps and adopting a very similar platform and concept, Zombie Go was launched. Yet again, thousands of people took to the streets, this time in search of post-apocalyptic zombies.

But can augmented reality really add value outside the gaming world? It can, and it is.

Following Apple’s ARKit launch in June, developers rushed to release a host of exciting apps that could construct portals to far-off realms or fill virtual rooms with 3D planets. However, it was the developers who created the simpler, practical apps that stole the show.

Much to the dismay of the developers who had invested serious time and bucks in all-signing, all-dancing AR apps, it was a simple video that demonstrated how AR could be quickly and easily used to measure the dimensions of a room that got the most attention. In fact, this basic YouTube video attracted 140,000 views, significantly more than the much-lauded Zombie Go trailer.

It’s events such as these that have led tech gurus to conclude that AR is destined to head far beyond the realm of entertainment.

So, what exactly can we expect from AR? How will it ultimately impact our day-to-day lives?

Augmented Reality E-Commerce Apps

At first glance, E-commerce and AR don’t appear to be particularly compatible. However, retailers and developers have scratched much deeper below the surface and are already investing significant effort in developing AR apps that can help customers buy more.

Although the popularity of online shopping is certainly growing at an exponential rate, the majority of people still prefer the physical shopping experience. Shopping online means that customers miss out on a chance to experience many sensory elements associated with the product such as the touch, feel, or sound.

In a bid to try and provide customers with the physical shopping experience in an online setting, Warby Parker introduced a novel program that allows online shoppers to try on a virtual pair of glasses before hitting the purchase button. Using the iPhone X’s face-scanning technology, the Warby Parker website shows potential buyers exactly what they will look like wearing the glasses they are interested in, and will even recommend the frames that best suit the user’s face shape.

Augmented Reality E-Commerce Apps

Warby Parker was by no means the first to offer customers the ability to try on virtual products. As far back as 2010, Converse dabbled in AR with The Sampler app, which allowed people to try on virtual sneakers by pointing a phone camera at their feet. An overlay of the shoe would subsequently be positioned over the user’s foot. The app was linked with the Converse retail platform to make it quick and easy for customers to try on their virtual shoes before progressing to purchase the physical item; however, The Sampler wasn’t the huge success Converse had hoped for, and it was removed from the app store.

As Converse’s furor into the world AR demonstrates, retailers have long been keen to offer customers an AR experience, but it is perhaps only recently that things have started to take off.

In March this year, cosmetics retailer Sephora rolled out an AR feature as part of an iOS update. The app scans the user’s face to identify prominent features before allowing the customer to try on different makeup products to see how they look.

Sephora is not the only one to jump on the bandwagon. Following the launch of ARKit and the ensuing attention it has garnered, many tech experts are heralding AR as the future of E-commerce.

Not ones to miss out, Amazon recently joined the party. On November 1st, Amazon launched a new feature that showcases thousands of products. According to Entrepreneur writer Eden Chen, the future is looking pretty clear:

AR may well up-end and upgrade the shopping experience as we know it.

Augmented Reality Apps for Education

The potential of AR is not limited to retail.

Many experts are predicting that AR and ARKits will become a basic component of future educational experiences as part of an immersive and interactive curriculum that allows students to enjoy a more sensory learning experience.

According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a number of prominent research studies have found that AR can enhance learning outcomes and improve classroom interaction. Best of all, unlike VR, augmented reality is much more affordable and accessible. In fact, most teachers already have access to the resources they need to introduce AR into the classroom.

Here in Mentalstack, we think that AR offers a wide variety of ways through which educators can improve students’ comprehension and level of engagement. In essence, AR applications can totally transform a learning experience. Be it by animating a diagram of the human heart, transforming pictures into 3D images, or projecting the galaxy onto the classroom wall, augmented reality can add a whole new dimension to learning material that takes children beyond the physical limitation of the real world.

Augmented Reality Apps for Education

A great example of the power of AR in action is that of Popar Toys’ interactive books. On first glance, the images and pictures in the books look pretty standard; however, plug in the AR app, and suddenly the AR images take on a life all of their own, allowing students to interact with life-like dynamic graphics that quite literally rise out of the page… Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map has nothing on this stuff!

Daqri, a startup that specializes in AR technologies, have taken science lessons to a whole new level with their “element” blocks, physical wooden pieces that each correspond to an element of the Periodic Table. When students look at the blocks through a tablet-based AR app, they can observe a virtual chemical reaction on the screen. For example, placing two hydrogen cubes with an oxygen cube will create water.

Although the novelty of educational AR technologies entail that usage statistics have yet to be gathered in-depth, initial studies have found that the use of augmented reality in the classroom setting can enhance learning, increase student motivation, and help students to work together better. What’s not to like?

While AR technologies are very much in the early phases, it is clear to see that the classrooms of the future will have AR learning experiences at their core.

Augmented Reality Apps for Healthcare Services

We believe that AR may also play a key role in saving lives in the future. Many AR developers have set their sights on producing systems that can make healthcare smarter and safer. Let’s take Microsoft’s HoloLens as an example. HoloLens projects a visual overlay over a patient to help surgeons perform intricate procedures such as spinal or heart surgery. Through the use of AR technologies like these, surgeons can perform operations more precisely, quickly, and safely. Similar technologies are in the pipeline that aims to help doctors access the vital information they need to treat patients in the most effective manner.

Augmented Reality Apps for Healthcare Services

Zombies, Pokémon, and interactive pets are all great, but look beyond these novelty entertainment systems and you’ll see that augmented reality could well transform life as we know it in the future. Although gaining widespread universal acceptance will represent a major challenge, experts anticipate that AR technologies will generate $120 billion in revenue by the year 2020. That’s some serious bucks!

Brace yourself for an augmented, yet much more dynamic, future reality.

AR is clearly going places.

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