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Although the mobile augmented reality (AR) market is in its infancy, mobile AR sales will reach $732 million by 2014, according to Juniper Research.

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In its recent report “Mobile Augmented Reality: Forecasts, Applications & Opportunity Appraisal 2009-2014,” Juniper defines mobile AR applications as devices that use cameras, GPS finders, broadband connectivity, tilt sensors, and a digital compass to provide layers of metadata about a user’s surroundings. The devices detect physical objects which have been geotagged, either by 2-D barcode or markerless tracker/image recognition, and provides a digital overlay with a link to metadata.

Consumer Mobile AR Apps Become a Reality
AR technology has been used by the aircraft industry since the 1990s, but a recognizable consumer market has only existed since 2009. Juniper estimates about 20 consumer-facing mobile AR applications currently exist, with sales this year expected to reach only about $2 million.

Why Mobile AR Will Grow
Mobile AR capability alone will not spur sales of mobile AR devices, Juniper advises they also must offer other valuable features and functions. However, Juniper expects mobile AR applications will have seven primary uses:

  • Location-based search
  • Games
  • Lifestyle/Healthcare
  • Education/Reference
  • Multimedia/Entertainment
  • Social Networking
  • Enterprise

Juniper predicts these seven mobile AR niches will produce three primary revenue streams: pay-per-download, incremental revenues (including subscriptions and preinstalled apps and browsers), and advertising. Incremental revenues are predicted to provide the largest share of revenues and pay-per-download the smallest share.

In addition, Juniper forecasts a significant increase in the availability of mobile AR-enabled devices starting in mid-2010, aided by increased adoption of Android handsets and iPhones.

Advanced Mobile Device Popularity Surges
The popularity of smartphones, 3G devices and other advanced mobile applications that could have AR capabilities added to them surged in the US during 2009, according to comScore mobiLens data. Between December 2008 and December 2009, the percentage of US mobile phone subscribers with unlimited data plans increased from 16% to 21%, with several phones now requiring an unlimited data plan subscription at the time of purchase. During the same period, smartphone ownership increased from 11% to 17%, while 3G phone ownership increased from 32% to 43%.

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