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Augmented Reality – the Next Wave in the Digital Revolution

Imagine this.

You’re visiting a city for the first time, let’s say Portland, Oregon. You’re in the Pearl District, and you’re wanting to find a good place to eat.

Normally, you’d pull out your phone, pull up Yelp, put in your location, and try to find something with a lot of 5 star reviews. At the same time, you’re trying to judge if those reviews are legitimate or fake, how far 0.7 miles really is, and whether or not the setting is interesting.

Now imagine instead of all that, you just hold your phone up like you’re taking a picture. Your phone’s camera comes on, and you see Yelp reviews overlaying every restaurant. Now, judging by how close they are, how many locals are hanging around outside, you quickly choose a highly reviewed Thai place with an amazing smell coming from it.

That’s Augmented Reality.

The Future Is Augmented

We have all heard of virtual reality, or VR. Virtual reality, which first became available in the late 1970s involved the use of technology to create an artificial world, which we first got a glimpse of in the gaming and entertainment industries. However, a new “reality” revolution is now upon us: augmented reality. Augmented reality, or AR involves technology that now alters our existing environment with the use of text, imagery, and information overlays.

Believe it or not, we have already begun to experience AR—and not solely in the world of gaming, film, and entertainment. The “reality” is that emerging AR technology is slowly finding its way into education, social media, and even in our very own hand-held “smart” devices.

A Brief History of AR

AR has grown significantly in the last decade. Although various industries have only begun to explore and research AR technology, the truth is AR has been around since the late 1960s; but it wasn’t until the late 1990s into the early 2000s when we began to see AR take shape, particularly in entertainment. For example, during the 2003 NFL season, Sportsvision released the first computer graphic system that connected with Skycam, the NFL’s mobile camera that provides aerial views of games. You know that yellow line marker for the first down? That’s an early form of augmented reality.

Today we are beginning to see AR technology in our daily lives, such as car manufacturers, Google’s eyewear, Facebook and Apple. In fact, 2016 was the first year that AR technology reached $1.1 billion.

By 2020, virtual reality and augmented reality combined are expected to generate approximately $150 billion in sales by the year 2020. Furthermore, reports also suggest that the majority of sales is likely to come from hardware, such as headsets and eCommerce; film and TV projects; education; software platforms, such as data and analytics and file hosting; and retail.

Facebook’s Camera Effects Platform

The social media giant, Facebook, for example, is using AR image filters and interactive experiences in its new Camera Effects platform. Not only will the Camera Effects platform be compatible with smartphones, it will also be compatible with future AR technology and hardware, such as eyeglasses. Although AR eyeglasses still require some “finishing touches”, and as a result, may be years away from becoming a part of everyday lives, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that the first AR platform used among consumers will be cameras.

Facebook’s Camera Effects platform will allow users to take pictures of recognizable objects, such as a coffee cup, for example, and creatively add effects to the image, such as adding steam, bubbles or even a shark swimming inside the cup. Zuckerberg also envisions that Facebook’s new platform will become a paid-advertising tool for businesses in the not-too-distant future.

When asked about his vision for Facebook’s Camera Effects platform and the future of AR technology, he categorizes AR experiences as augmenting objects in the physical world, layering new virtual objects into reality or enhancing existing objects. Zuckerberg claims, “we definitely see ourselves as more on the software and services side… We don’t need to build the phones because the phones are already there.”

Apple’s Next iPhone

Although camping out in front of Apple’s storefronts, anxiously awaiting the release of the next iPhone version has become a tradition, many believe that this new version of the iPhone will include AR technologies, which is expected to be released in September or October 2017 will no doubt supercharge the AR market.

Although we saw a glimpse of 3-D mapping capabilities with Pokémon Go, an app that seemed to take over the world in July 2016, many believe that the iPhone is still years away from this built-in capability. For example, 3-D mapping will allow consumers to digitally place new furniture in their homes simply by using an image overlay on the screens of their smartphones. That way, you can see how that apothecary table looks in your living room before you lug it home.

When asked about his thoughts and viewpoints on AR technology, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple told The Independent newspaper in February 2017, “The smartphone is for everyone. We don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic or country or vertical market. It’s for everyone. I think AR is that big. It’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives.”

According to a survey published by Loup Ventures in March 2017, 34 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 29 years old) are looking forward to the 10th anniversary edition of iPhone, which is expected to include AR capabilities. Furthermore, a smartphone with built-in AR technology and capabilities will likely gain more speed and traction with this particular age group that others.

The Role of AR in Retail—Now and in the Future

At the close of the 2016 holiday season, brick-and-mortar retailers quickly realized the gravity of their challenges to compete with eCommerce sales. As a result, many retailers began researching, developing, and investing in innovative solutions in an effort to boost the in-store customer experience.

With the use of AR technology, retailers can provide customers with interesting interactions between visual environments and products that they can’t get from an in-store experience, such as in fitting rooms. Customers can take items they wish to purchase in the fitting room, try them on, and use a “digital mirror” in the fitting room to look up other colors and/ or sizes of a particular item and even select complementary accessories that go along with their selected items. This allows retailers to “showroom” their online inventory.

Although this is just one example of how retailers are using AR technology to enhance the customer experience, the goal for retailers is to use digital technology and AR technology to reach consumers at the shelf and in fitting rooms, and to improve the otherwise dated or unsatisfactory customer shopping experience.

With the use of a smartphone, customers can easily interact with brands, combining non-physical products with real life.

AR Career Growth

As mentioned above, AR is expected to reach $150 billion in revenue by the year 2020. Additionally, AR has already begun to emerge in various industries, such as film and entertainment, healthcare, education and retail.

For example, Google announced the release of Expeditions, a virtual reality built for classrooms in 2015. The New York Times Outside Magazine also announced the acquisition of 360-degree videos for journalism and storytelling. Ford Motor Company also adopted technology that allows designers to create a “virtual” vehicle, allowing them to walk around the vehicle and sit inside it as if they were customers, all before building a physical prototype.

So what types of skills and education are needed for a career in AR?

User Experience (UX) Design is the number one skill required for entering an AR technology-related field. UX is expected to see a 30 percent job growth in the coming years, 13 percent of which is expected to increase by the year 2020.

As a result, companies and employers will be looking for individuals with a certificate or degree in graphic design or related field. The average annual salary for a UX designer is approximately $116,000 nationwide.

3-D Software Development and Modeling is another highly important skill in AR, which is crucial for building the foundation of UX design. Most companies will require a certificate or degree in graphic design or related field.

The majority of 3-D software developers, multimedia artists, designers and modelers are self-employed, which means their salaries vary. However, the median annual salary reported for these types of professionals was approximately $64,000.

Project Management is in high demand today. Project management stems throughout various industries, and the basic project management principles and methodologies can be applied in various roles. The basic project management functions, responsibilities, and skills include managing teams and talent, budgets, reports and project deadlines.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), nearly 10,000 project managers in various roles throughout the U.S. earned a median annual salary of $109,000. Project management jobs are expected to increase by more than 12 percent through the year 2020.

Videography is another incredibly important skill today and for the future of AR. For example, video makes up approximately 70 percent of all Internet traffic to date. Therefore, video isn’t going away anytime soon. Most videographers acquire a high-level degree, such as a Bachelor’s degree in Film, Broadcasting or another related field.

The median annual salary for videographers was approximately $99,000. This field is expected to grow by approximately 11 percent by the year 2024.

It is clear that employment opportunities in these areas are rapidly expanding. Of course, these are just some examples of highly valuable skillsets and positions available in the AR space. As mentioned above, more and more professionals are self-employed, which means their average work day is spent telecommuting.

In fact, according to statistics reported by Global Workplace Analytics, more than 50 percent of jobs allow employees to commute a minimum of 25 percent of the time. On top of that, 80% to 90% of the U.S. workforce claims that they work at least two to three days per week, which allows for a balance between independent, focused at-home work and collaborative work with team members at the office.

As millennials continue to progress and grow into more executive-level positions in their careers, and as digital natives enter the workforce, telecommuting is expected to grow exponentially, potentially without the need to ever step foot into an office.

AR in 2020 and Beyond

AR technology is growing fast.

Within the next few years, AR technology will likely become a part of everyday use. We are already beginning to see glimpses of this in some retail stores, at football games, social media and even with our smartphones. In our digitally driven era that is powered by visual content, Facebook’s Camera Effects platform is expected to take off, allowing users the ease, flexibility, and creativity to enhance images and photos, creating more visual content.

Although we aren’t 100 percent sure if Apple’s next iPhone release will be equipped with AR capabilities, we can assume it will be utilized in the near future. On top of that, because 9 out of 10 adults use a smartphone on a daily basis, even multiple times per day, it’s no doubt that AR technology is expected to surge and gain even more momentum after the next release of Apple’s iPhone.

Within the next few years, we can expect to see huge breakthroughs in AR technology usage and availability and accessibility, again changing how we communicate with one another, interact with our environments, make purchases and maybe even grow in various employment and career opportunities. AR is expected to be the next wave of the digital revolution, creating a new “reality”.

Interested in a Career in AR?

If you are you interested in learning more about a career in AR, then check out Paysa for jobs and salaries.

Author: Paysa