Augmented reality is reaching a mature state according to Gartner

According to the very famous market analysis company Gartner, Augmented Reality is no more an “emerging” technology, but it has graduated as a mature one.

This news comes one year later than a similar one regarding Virtual Reality: in a popular post of mine of 2018, I highlighted how in that year VR had disappeared from the Gartner Hype Cycle (the curve showing the current maturity status of all emerging technologies). This meant that for Gartner, VR was not an emerging and experimental technology anymore, but it had already become something usable and useful. I think that Gartner was not referring to the consumer market, where VR is still unripe (even if devices like the Oculus Quest and the Vive Focus Plus are helping it in becoming more widespread), but at the B2B one, where VR is already helping companies to spare money (e.g. with more efficient prototyping procedures) and improve their productive processes (e.g. thanks to a better training).

Some days ago, the new Gartner Hype Cycle has been released and this time, as you can see here below, not only there is no mention of VR, but there are also no references to AR and MR (Thanks Kevin Williams and Sam Watts for having made me notice that).

gartner  hype cycle 2019
Gartner Hype Cycle 2019. It shows the current status of emerging technologies according to Gartner, from when they become visible to the market to when they become usable and profitable. As you can see, there is no mention of AR (Image by Gartner)

This means that for Gartner, AR and VR are now both mature technologies, and that’s great. You may believe them or not, but for sure Gartner is a very important company upon which many business people base their decisions. The fact that all immersive technologies have been flagged as mature by it means that many more companies will believe in their potential and will want to implement them. It’s an important validation for our market.

Personally, I think that for the enterprise, VR is already usable and used, and so belongs to the plateau of productivity (the rightmost part of the hype curve) while AR should be in the graph on the slope of enlightenment. As an AR/VR consultant and developer (contact me in case you need my help!), I’m noticing that many companies are started becoming interested in augmented reality and its possible integrations inside their business, especially for maintenance or for marketing. This means that AR is taking foot in the enterprise.

Regarding the consumer market, instead, in my opinion, VR has just exited the trough of disillusionment (do you remember when in 2018 all people were saying that VR was dead? Pepperidge Farm remembers…), and AR is probably entering it (do you remember the big hype about mobile AR that was going to revolutionize everything and now almost no one uses mobile AR apps, if not for applying face filters?).

I think that Gartner is considering especially businesses for its graph, and that’s why AR and VR may be considered mature. It is also very interesting to compare the hype cycles of the last three years, and observe how AR and VR have moved across time.

gartner hype cycle 2017-2019
Gartner Hype Cycle in the last three years (Image by Gartner)

It’s a bit weird that AR has been in the trough of disillusionment for 2 years and then it has become mature immediately. I asked Gartner some explanations, and this has been the answer I received from a spokesperson.

Because this Hype Cycle pulls from such a broad spectrum of topics and is intended to be dynamic, many technologies are featured in a specific year or two, but are not tracked over a longer period of time. This is not intended to imply that they are unimportant — quite the opposite. In some cases, these technologies are no longer “emerging,” but rather are becoming more integral to business and IT. In other cases, technologies that have been highlighted in this Hype Cycle for three years have been removed from the Hype Cycle in order to highlight other new emerging technologies.

Augmented reality — While continuing to be an important technology, augmented reality is rapidly approaching a much more mature state, which moves it off the emerging technology class of innovation profiles.

Gartner

Here the key excerpts are “augmented reality is rapidly approaching a much more mature state” and “becoming more integral to business and IT”. Basically, AR is already being used by companies, and will be even more used thanks to devices like the HoloLens 2, so it is not an “emerging” technology anymore.

I have also noticed that actually there is still something AR-related in the hype cycle, and it is the AR cloud, the system to create a complete worldwide mapping between the real and the virtual world. Considering that companies like 6d.ai are already doing an amazing job regarding it, I thought it was far ahead in the graph, while it is just in its beginning, with an estimated time to maturity of 5 to 10 years.

6d.ai mesh reconstruction of an environment from multiple cell phones

Gartner has been very kind with me and has also provided a very long statement about the AR Cloud, extracted from its paper:

Definition: The augmented reality (AR) cloud is the underlying, persistent, digital content layer mapped to objects and locations in the physical world. It provides a digital legend in the form of a point cloud to annotate (augment) objects and places in the physical world. It is a key infrastructure component that will be required to enable a ubiquitous, scalable, spatial web experience.

Position and Adoption Speed Justification: Similar to AR, aspects of the AR cloud have existed for decades, but the emergence of the AR cloud as a concept has re-emerged as recently as 2017. Many startups (see vendor list below) are developing revolutionary platforms and systems to bring the AR cloud to fruition. A simple (but misleading) view is that this is a database that will “feed” AR and mixed reality (MR) experiences. The AR cloud is much more rich and complex than a simple database. Numerous, underlying elements will need to be created (such as edge networking, high bandwidth and low-latency communications, standardized tools and content types for publishing into the AR cloud, management and delivery of content, and interoperability to ensure seamless and ubiquitous [rather than siloed] experiences) to enable this shift in how we organize and interact with digital content. Traditionally, leading tech vendors have invested in distributed network infrastructure, but many of them (such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft) are adapting to a new paradigm to support localized, persistent, collaborative, shared, multiuser interactions. Some of this infrastructure and requirements will be ushered in by the arrival of low-latency, wireless networking (5G will serve as an enabling tech), while others are still being developed.

User Advice: In the next decade, the AR cloud could form the multilayer digital twin of the physical world. This will enable new interactions and in term new business models and ways to monetize the physical world. The AR cloud will change the way that enterprises think of physical assets, how they interact with customers and the associated risks.

Business Impact: The AR cloud, let alone standards governing its infrastructure, is a work in progress. The best way to prepare is to evaluate potential areas of impact of business outcomes — areas that can be exploited or affected by the AR cloud. There are broad possibilities here. For example, in city management, this includes collaborative, dynamic and contextualized maps of cities to highlight details such as public restrooms, public transit locations, traffic issues, wayfinding as well as public utility maintenance records, log fix-it requests, and government office locations. Following are the areas that will be affected by the AR cloud:
· Privacy — defining what should be captured by sensors (image and others) and how it will be stored.
· Security — establishing hierarchies for data capture and protection.
· Compliance — the impact of massive physical data collection on regulations such as GDPR.
· Digital ethics — guidelines to manage and capture content as well as segregating data into public and private realms.
Benefit Rating: Transformational

Market Penetration: Less than 1% of target audience

Maturity: Emerging

So, according to Gartner, the AR Cloud will be disruptive, but it will require still a lot of work to be developed and exploited completely, also because this technology depends on various other technologies (e.g. 5G) and there are extra-technological concerns about it (e.g. privacy).

Last year I interviewed John Gaeta, that is building the Magicverse at Magic Leap and I asked him how much time we’ll need to get there, to have a fully persistent and shared mixed reality that is completely blended with the real world. He answered that the required time is 5 to 10 years: this is a confirmation of the timeline estimated by Gartner.

The road in front of AR and VR is still very long and many years are needed to make immersive realities mainstream like cell phones. But for now, it’s great to see that such an important company like Gartner estimates that these technologies are already useful, and not just some hype that will become a fad, as someone suggests 😉

(P.S. If you want to know more about the predictions of Gartner on these technologies, you can buy the full report on Gartner website. There, you will find all the details on the reasonings that lead Gartner to design the hype cycle for this year)

(Header image by Leap Motion)


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Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I'm not giving up: I've started an AR/VR agency called New Technology Walkers with which help you in realizing your XR dreams with our consultancies (Contact us if you need a project done!)