The augmented reality app market is growing at a rapid pace. While it was worth 725 million dollars in 2016, the sum is expected to swell up to 15.497 billion dollars in 2022. There’s a reason why AR mobile apps are so popular – they create immersive personalized experiences that are based on the user’s surroundings. A hybrid world is put into existence, taking a person beyond the mundane aspects of everyday life.
So many fields – from gaming to marketing and even the treatment for mental health issues have been affected by AR. Developing successful AR apps, however, isn’t always a simple task. Developers face an array of challenges, some of them more difficult to overcome than others.
Limited hardware capabilities
Mobile AR is all about the superimposition of quality visual data on the surroundings that have been captured by the user’s camera. Smartphone cameras have different capabilities. Most of them capture 2D images, which isn’t optimal for the creation of a 3D hybrid reality.
Another problem stems from the accuracy of GPS sensors. A high degree of precision is required, thus apps can run into problems with the accuracy of information display.
Developers are already attempting to overcome these problems in several ways.
Camera performance can be enhanced through the use of 2D QR and barcode markers. Big landmarks offer a viable option in the case of poor GPS accuracy. When the capabilities of the hardware being utilized to access the AR app are limited, however, there’s only so much that developers can do.
Optimizing the hardware could lead to bigger, heavier devices in the very beginning. Luckily, work is being done in the field. Compact AR glasses prototypes are just one example. They look streamline and minimalist instead of being bulky, showing that their creators have been thinking about the accessibility of the technology.
Multi-user experience limitations
As the AR development industry is still evolving, problems with usability tend to arise.
AR solutions and apps at the time being are developed for use on smartphones, tablets, or other portable/wearable gadgets. As a result, people who download such apps can benefit from a single-user experience alone.
As AR becomes more accessible, the need for multi-user, uniform, and streamlined experiences will grow. Developers will have to come up with ways to enable multi-user experiences that are optimized enough to perform, regardless of the number of participants and the load.
Just like in the case of hardware with AR capabilities, companies are working on this problem and they have already achieved some progress.
The Invisible Train is an AR game developed by a team at the Institute of Computer Graphics and Vison at Graz University of Technology. Its performance is optimal for up to 4 players. The team that worked on this AR app has described the technical challenges and hardware malfunctions they had to overcome in detail.
Hardware challenges are just one side of the story. Developers also face software-related interoperability issues.
Many of the solutions created for the needs of developers have emerged only recently. Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore are two examples. While they seem to be quite promising and capable of simplifying app development, it’s still too early to proclaim them to be winning solutions.
Developers are mainly being challenged by having to adapt the new kits to recently launched devices. Many of the devices that have emerged recently feature their own kit. As a result, developers are left with building AR apps for a single platform or having to master different kits, each one with its specifics.
Current app infrastructure that developers rely on is missing the mark in a couple of other ways. There is no integration of social media with AR browsers, for example. Such problems are nothing but normal in the case of technology that’s still in its infancy. While the situation is expected to improve significantly in the years to come, developers are still being impeded by framework and software-related challenges.
Legal issues and regulations: it’s only a matter of time
The legal issues related to augmented reality have long been a topic of discussion that’s expected to become even more complex as the adoption of the technology grows in scale.
Privacy and safety concerns have been the center of discussion lately, especially with new regulations like GDPR emerging. Legal professionals have also been discussing copyright and ownership rights. Who owns the right over the information that’s been superimposed on an actual real image in an AR app? Currently, there are no regulatory frameworks and standards that apply to the development of AR and virtual reality (VR) apps. Owners of landmark buildings could potentially come in conflict with AR developers, wanting ownership over the information that an app presents to the user.
App users can also “build” their own reality when engaging with the program. If an awesome idea comes into existence, who’s going to be its owner? Will it be the property of the user or the company that developed the AR app? While some of these concerns may seem far-fetched at the time being, they could lead to lengthy and complex legal battles in the future.
As AR becomes more and more common, governments and local authorities will be forced to pay special attention to it. The death and damages caused by Pokémon Go are just one example of why regulatory guidance is needed in the field. There’s even been a Pokémon Go Death Tracker set up for the purpose of providing more information about people who have died while engaging with the AR app.
Eventually, these legal issues will be addressed and worked out. In the process, however, developers may lose some of their rights and freedoms. Having to stick to a specific limiting regulatory framework may curb the growth, applicability, and development of the sector.
The future is bright
Most experts in the field are confident that augmented reality will overcome the challenges and the risk of social rejection – another fear that developers have today. Still, this technology has the potential to be incredibly useful. The fact has been recognized by many of the tech giants, including Apple. When the big players are on board, the common challenges will eventually be overcome. It’s only a matter of time. In a few years, the augmented reality app problems of today will seem like a bad dream that lasted mere minutes in the grand scheme of things.