As AR/VR market is expected to reach $162 Billion in 2020, we can see numerous factors that contribute to its prosperity. Along with success components that include performance and design, there are also a few big challenges that augmented reality industry is facing and which it needs to overcome. Those fall into two main categories: social and technical. While social challenges involve the issues that aren’t directly tied to a technical support, but rather some of the potentially negative side effects of using AR apps, technical challenges are associated with things like the object or face recognition problem/issue and sensory accuracy.

Although the augmented reality is a hot topic that sounds very appealing on paper, it’s gonna be some time before the technology goes mainstream. Many different AR app development technologies and implementations were recently discussed, among them-Augmented Reality in healthcare and education, its influence on businesses, and predictions on its further development. Clearly, the interest in this topic is off the charts. But let’s have a look at the biggest social and technical risk factors for the near-term augmented reality adoption.

Technical challenges of AR

As with any complex system, one requires a lot of components to make the system function properly. The Augmented Reality app development process is no different. While many of the challenges with the technical components of AR are continually being tackled (e.g. Unity 3D engine), the biggest technical challenges affecting AR (hardware, content, public awareness, and education) still remain.

Augmented Reality Devices

Yes, we can run regular AR apps on almost any smartphone or tablet. They are omnipresent and have basic crucial hardware ingredients for augmented reality: processors, motion sensors, cameras, screens, and, of course, connectivity. And if today’s mobile devices are not quite up to the task, tomorrow’s will surely be.

But there are also some special AR devices like Hololens, Google Glass, Meta 2, etc. that are able to give a deeper feeling of what augmented reality can do. Glasses and goggles are predicted to be the utmost eventual hardware platform for AR as soon as technology advances enough to enable it on a broad scale. Hardware capable of dipping users into the augmented world has numerous features that take consumers far from the common understanding of AR.

Microsoft is working on their HoloLens, yet it will be quite some time (months, if not years) before their AR technology becomes both accessible and affordable for mass adoption. Along with Meta 2, Microsoft HoloLens have recently released developer versions of their products, but with no announcement of when their devices will be available to consumers. Moreover, both of these AR devices have the price tags of $3,000 and $949 respectively.

Recently, some advancements have also been made by the Osterhout Design Group (ODG), which is world known for producing headsets for enterprise and military use. At the beginning of 2017, at CES show in Las Vegas, the company unveiled R-8 and R-9, two models of their AR/VR smart glasses for consumers. These are aimed at a wider range of consumers and small business users, or “glasses for the masses,” as the founder and CEO of ODG says.

Despite the announcement, their mass sale date hasn’t been confirmed yet. And we can only see the R-7 model of smart glasses available for customers for just $2,750.00. Not for the masses. You would agree, wouldn’t you? Their hefty price tags make augmented reality hardware some of the most consumer-unfriendly devices of all.

The AR headsets, like Google Glasses, came out at a tremendous price of $1,5K which was also far beyond the grasp of a regular consumer. In accordance with recent Google Glass review by Techradar, Explorer Edition has ceased production in 2015.

Google created the most trendy and top-notch-looking gadget, but its everyday uses were limited and privacy remained a concern. When available for purchase, Google Glasses featured slick and comfortable design, cool head tracking navigation and conversation starter; yet they were extremely expensive, had a very limited number of apps and a terribly short battery life.

To make a long story short, dedicated augmented reality devices are not consumer-ready yet. Alongside that, there is still the issue of device interoperability and authoring limitations based on specific platforms. We’ve been waiting for smart augmented reality headsets to hit the consumer market for quite some time now, but they are still a few years away. This means our mobile devices remain the only viable tools able to stimulate AR adoption.Yet, most of current mobile devices are not well-suited for this purpose. The issue with most of our smartphones/tabs/whatever is that they are not featured with technologies like room mapping or depth sensing.

Augmented Reality Accessibility and Education

One of the most difficult challenges faced by the AR technology lies in educating the wider audience – the broader market. Despite the fact that consumers do not observe AR’s wide-reaching applications in their everyday lives, there are a lot of AR experiences available these days. The thing is that the general public lacks exposure to those experiences in the market.

“At present Augmented Reality is still being used primarily for entertainment and advertising, as this changes and it expands into education, medicine, maintenance, and other fields that are always looking for more effective methods or solutions it’s likely that AR will become a regular option in our lives.” – Augmented Reality: An Emerging Technologies Guide to AR by Gregory Kipper and Joseph Rampolla.

Since very few people are actively exposed to augmented reality technologies, it is difficult for them to see the wide range of use cases. There are merely not so many ways for regular consumers to learn about what AR does and how it actually works. People are looking up experiences, not technologies. That’s why AR app development companies have to change the way they think about UX and UI in augmented reality. To become really successful, AR technology must have a short learning curve, which has to be almost built in.

Augmented Reality Content

Another big challenge for Augmented Reality app development is its content. The unavailability of AR content can be compared to a smartphone with no apps on it. It’s like smartphone users not being able to install anything on their devices unless they fork out a huge sum of money for every single app. A bit frustrating, isn’t it?

The object recognition challenge is one of the key problems that are currently limiting AR apps. If objects in the real and virtual worlds are not aligned with each other, the illusion of two coexisting worlds is hardly affected. Without accurate object recognition, AR technology can not be used in a wide range of apps that could be greatly enhanced by having this component. That’s the reason why AR app development companies try to take care of content in advance, before shipping their AR wearables to the end users.

 Face detection for AR cosmetics app by Vakoms

Organizations that aim to use augmented reality widely for their internal and external needs require 3D modeling. For example, if a retailer wants to develop an AR eCommerce app, there definitely must be included 3D models of all products.

Meanwhile, creating and storing a big amount of 3D content is not that easy and requires a lot of time and money investments. Thus, companies tend to outsource 3D modeling and AR app development to offshore software development firms, for example, in Ukraine.

Social challenges of AR

The social challenges of AR can take much longer to overcome than the majority of technical challenges. And the reason is simple: if people don’t like or are afraid of something they don’t use it.

The risk of physical safety

The primary social challenge is that a regular mobile phone is currently a serious distraction for motorists during driving, accounting for numerous road accidents each year. And AR applications that provide drivers with directions have both clear benefits and drawbacks as well. When dealing with a mixed reality, accidents are bound to happen.

Displaying the relevant traffic-monitoring cam feeds and all sorts of additional information, the AR app requires drivers to pay attention to their mobile devices instead of the road ahead. Considering the effect mobile phone usage has on driving, it is not hard to imagine a driver becoming overwhelmed with information in this instance. This is how AR can easily distract you from reality.

Public Unawareness

Augmented Reality is still at its nascent stage, though some major brands have begun to realize and leverage its potential as a mass media platform. However, the public unawareness of augmented reality is still one of the biggest challenges faced by this technology.

“Using other tech-savvy nations as a baseline, such as Japan, it is very likely Augmented Reality will grow quite popular, especially considering new technology adoption is part of their culture. Other countries like United States, Europe, and the UK may have a slower adoption but the eventual integration of AR (to some degree) is probably inevitable particularly as younger generations grow up with this technology.” – An Emerging Technologies Guide to AR by Gregory Kipper and Joseph Rampolla.

Currently, Augmented Reality remains widely unknown to the general public and in order to change this, an AR app development company has to create a rich variety of user experiences that are functional, reasonable, and have an easy learning curve.