Augmented reality (AR) may be the next widespread technology breakthrough for consumers, and it’s closer than you may think. AR capabilities are already on most smartphones, and stand-alone headsets are starting to be developed for consumer and industrial uses.
Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Hololens 2 headset is the leading device for industrial applications, and Magic Leap has started shipping a headset it thinks will wow consumers. But the companies I think investors should keep an eye on in AR are Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Snapchat (NYSE:SNAP), and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Here’s why they may already be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
Augmented reality hasn’t been at the forefront of investors’ minds when it comes to Facebook, but the company has been spending a lot of time building AR capability in the background. It has launched AR filters for Instagram, and build development tools like the Camera Effects Platform and Spark AR Studio for developers.
With the Facebook app and Instagram, Facebook has both the ability to reach billions of people with AR technology and the incentive to use these new tools to keep people engaged. Facebook could either develop new functionalities itself or serve as a platform distributor for others through its popular apps. Either way, Facebook has a lot of opportunities in AR.
Arguably the leader in augmented reality today is Snapchat, which pioneered filters and interactions using its facial recognition technology. I recently covered their $1 billion capital raise, which they said would go partly to developing AR technology.
Unlike Facebook, Snapchat is interested in getting into the hardware business, and that’s where I find the company very intriguing. Spectacles 3 are now able to capture depth in images with two cameras. The depth capability now being included in smartphones could be great for AR capture.
What would really change the game is if Snapchat started to build an AR display onto Spectacles. It could give a live image of the playful tools it has created, which could be used for myriad applications from consumer uses to advertising to industrial applications. Snapchat is quietly building some of the best AR technology in the world, and I wouldn’t sleep on it long-term…
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