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3 Predictions on What’s Next for Augmented and Mixed Reality in 2017

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Earlier this year, I predicted that augmented reality (AR) would go mainstream in the enterprise before our consumer lives. I continue to believe that this is the case, particularly for AR experiences that are enabled through the use of smart glasses or head-mounted displays. AR still isn’t mainstream in either worlds, but based on early indicators, the enterprise market for AR devices is developing much faster and expected to be a much larger return in terms of hardware, software and services revenue.

What else is next for AR in 2017? Here are three more predictions on the future of the emerging technology.

Prediction 1: The AR ecosystem will expand.

Most AR and mixed reality (MR) devices are standalone, running on Android (Microsoft HoloLens runs a version of Windows 10). To deploy AR at scale, businesses need an enterprise mobility management (EMM) or unified endpoint management (UEM) solution to secure, deliver, update and manage these new endpoints.

This year, the VMware AirWatch EMM/UEM platform announced support for wearables like AR devices. With AirWatch, IT can manage apps and content on AR devices, set up access to the corporate network and perform an enterprise wipe on the devices. In addition, AirWatch partnered with top AR software and hardware manufacturers to configure apps and devices with these capabilities. In 2017, we’ll continue to see this type of AR ecosystem expand to increase interoperability between AR software, hardware and services.

In the consumer space, the success of Pokémon GO will inspire other developers to release apps with AR experiences. Thanks to APIs and SDKs made available to developers, these are easier to create. For instance, Google released Project Tango to developers earlier this year to create the next generation of AR experiences on Android phones and tablets.

Prediction 2: Businesses will focus on immersive tech, and consumers will focus on mobile apps with AR experiences.

Consumers will adopt AR-enabled apps on mobile devices. Businesses will test more immersive AR devices, like smart glasses, and MR headsets, like HoloLens.

This is because AR and MR devices are still a novelty for consumers. Businesses, on the other hand, can afford to invest in these expensive devices and see ROI right away in terms of faster build time and decreased errors, for example. Enterprises will be further motivated by success stories from early adopters.

Though virtual reality (VR) creates an even deeper level of immersion, it’s currently marketed more towards consumers for gaming and entertainment. We’ll continue to see these types of VR headsets launch for consumer buyers next year. But if AR and MR continue evolving at the current rates, we’re not far from creating the Sci-Fi worlds we watch in movies with these technologies.

Prediction 3: AR/MR won’t go mainstream.

Most businesses will be in the early adopter phase through 2017. Some have already put major AR investments into production, and we’ll continue to see new pioneers roll out the technology.

But most enterprise IT organizations will continue piloting the technology, figuring out how to automate tracking, putting security policies in place and testing the use cases. It might be five years before AR will be mainstream for those specific use cases.

But 10-15 years from now, who’s to say we won’t all be reading this blog from an AR device? It’s an exciting time to be a techie and to work at a company that’s part of the AR revolution!

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Bhavesh Kumar

Bhavesh Kumar is the Senior Product Manager for Android Enterprise and ChromeOS at VMware AirWatch.

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