How Augmented Reality Works

The Mobile AR Revolution

We could go on and on with examples of smartphone-driven AR apps, but these programs come and fade rather quickly. It's perhaps more notable to point out that manufacturers are so certain of AR's success that they're actually building devices meant to accentuate the AR experience. ASUS, for example, made the Zenfone AR in hopes of making an early splash in the AR-specific market [source: ASUS].

Two powerful tech leaders – Apple and Google – continue to tweak their mobile devices to handle the demands of AR-specific software. With ever-faster processors for the iPhone, iPad, and the entire galaxy of Android-driven smartphones, these pocket-sized computers are now powerful enough to run data-intensive apps of all kinds, including those that feature AR. Paired with the inevitable rollout of faster 5G data networks, those devices will be able to send and receive mind-boggling amounts of data that will make AR faster and better than ever before, and it will work whether you're in an office building or rolling down a country highway [source: Tardiloli].

You can bet that social media networks will try to capitalize on the coming AR trends. Facebook has its own AR Studio, which helps developers create AR apps meant specifically to work within Facebook's framework, and it is working on AR glasses, too. In the meantime, Google is touting its Tango AR platform, which sports visual search capabilities through Google Lens, a range of camera-enabled AR tools. Apple is in the middle of the race, too, with an ARKit that arms programmers with the code they need to dive into AR app creation for iPhones and other iOS-driven devices [source: Kahney].

The start-stop-start history of the famous Google Glass project might be a fitting way to sum up the nature of AR these days. In 2013, Google unveiled its AR-capable Google Glasses, which essentially provided an AR-type heads-up display of the world around the wearer. But the project lost momentum and stalled in 2015, only to find new hope in 2017, as the company resurrected the Glasses for business purposes. And in 2018, a company called Brain Power began selling the Google Glass as part of a program to help people with autism, improving their social skills and rewarding them for slowly but surely learning to interact in positive ways with the world around them [source: Kronk].