As a marketer for Salsita Software, I’m always searching for new trends that will shed light on short and long-term opportunities. In general, all the signs are pointing at an upcoming evolution of user experience involving augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). This has led me to ponder the use of AR and VR in the web and mobile app development industry.

What’s the definition of AR and VR? (skip if you know)

Augmented Reality (AR) adds digital elements to a real-world environment, where the objects in the real world are enhanced by a computer-generated overlay. This live view can be achieved by using the camera on a smartphone. A great example of this is the popular 2016 game Pokémon Go.

Virtual Reality (VR) is a completely immersive experience that shuts out the physical world. The first head-mounted display system for use in immersive applications was invented in 1968. Currently there are numerous VR headsets targeting consumers, such as the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and the Samsung Gear VR.

Which will be victorious?

AR has been outpacing VR because of its easy accessibility via mobile devices. According to G2 Crowd, the AR market has been outpacing VR for the last couple of years and will continue to do so by an accelerating rate.

Image via G2 Crowd

So, which will be victorious? The answer to this question is simple: neither.

Mixed Reality (MR)

As I see it, the one that will eventually come out on top is mixed reality. MR shares many aspects of AR but lets users interact with the digital objects. These might be digital objects displayed using an overlay (as in classic AR) or even objects projected onto a real-world scheme. The latter eliminates the need for any special equipment like goggles in order to view the mixed reality scene.

MR technology is still somewhat in the research and development phase, but the technology has great potential for many fields including medicine and manufacturing.

AR is also popular in these fields, but MR products like Microsoft’s HoloLens allows its users to combine hands-free capability with more apps and solutions that involve manipulating digital objects on top of a real-world scene.

Image via Microsoft

Digital Reality Pipeline

What about mobile devices? Are we going to continue to use them or will we all start wearing HoloLens instead? Maybe we’ll be wearing slick, high-tech glasses like Tony Stark. 3D holographic projections could become an everyday occurrence, especially since Japanese scientists are already working on touchable holograms. Or we could get our brains chipped, which is what Elon Musk is trying to do with the company Neuralink. The idea is a bit scary to say the least but it’s fun to imagine what kind of apps would be mainstream after brain chips become widespread.

Mixed Reality is happening, and it’s becoming a valuable industry. Most likely it will become mainstream in the near future. Mixed doesn’t just mean a mix of AR and VR, but it could also be a cocktail of AR, VR, holograms, and brain enhancement.

Here is an AR example with a projection rather than a mobile device

Video by Getz Taiwan

Web & Mobile’s Future

We are going to continue using mobile phones for the next 10 years for sure. They are going to evolve as well; maybe we will rely more on wearable technologies or maybe the projected 3D holograms that we’ve seen in many sci-fi movies will go mainstream sooner than expected. Or we might even plug our devices into our brains... who knows? We can speculate about the future, yet in the short run, it is a safe bet that we will see many more AR apps but with our current smartphones as the dominant devices for using them.

Now the question is: Web AR or Mobile AR?

The recent advancements in web technologies has unleashed a variety of options when it comes to developing AR-based solutions. The latest web-browser updates started a new debate in the web and mobile app development industry. Should we use web or native app solutions to build better AR experiences?

Advertising agencies, retail, entertainment, pharmaceutical and others are demanding to interact with users without making them install an app. Downloading an app means extra steps between the learning about an app and actually using it. It’s not a big deal when it comes to games, but native web is most likely better in uniting the user experience across all platforms, devices, and OS.

The light continues to shine on both Native and Web AR, but for long-run opportunities keep it pointed at Web AR.