How augmented reality goes mainstream

Virtual reality podcast host Jason McDowall and Niantic head of AR Ross Finman at the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver discuss how augmented reality can become a more widely adopted technology | Submitted

When the Pokémon Go craze was at its peak in 2016, it seemed augmented reality (AR) had finally gone mainstream.

Flash forward more than three years and Ross Finman, the head of AR at software firm and Pokémon Go developer Niantic Inc., acknowledged there is still a way to go before the technology becomes more widely adopted.

Augmented reality refers to using technology to enhance the experience of real-world settings, such as activating a smartphone camera to reveal previously invisible Pokémon creatures right in front of a player.

Speaking at the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver on November 1, Finman said the mobile experience can still be cumbersome because it relies on a smaller screen.

“We’re going to see more everyday adoption as we move into headsets,” he told a standing-room-only crowd at a downtown hotel ballroom.

But he said AR still has the advantage over more traditional practices, especially when it comes to enterprise applications.

“It’s an easier instruction tool.… It’s an easier visualization tool,” Finman said, contrasting it to the instructional manuals people often struggle through following a purchase from Ikea Ltd. “That bookcase goes down in sad misery.”

But in the case of AR, developers have the advantage of using the technology to drive engagement through emotions – such as the thrill of uncovering Pokémon creatures.

Finman said developers should seize on things people love and avoid “building AR tech for AR tech’s sake.”