In the next seven years, true AR will likely not become mainstream anywhere, except the automotive industry. By true AR we mean AR that shows virtual objects to be actually integrated with the real environment and visible on various depths, not only on a screen’s surface. Despite explosive growth, AR software and content is now mostly created for small-screen devices like smartphones and tablets. True AR remains out of reach, but cars will reach it first. The industry needs a rich app and content ecosystem and hero device(s) capable of handling it. That hardware is nowhere near ready. Developers rely on the smartphone screen as the main means to deliver AR. Wearables are not really an option either, as it’s almost impossible to shove the high rendering performance, convenience, and good quality wide-angled picture into a small form factor. Platforms like Apple’s iOS-centered ARKit only demonstrate the lack of advanced hardware for the true AR.
Cars already have enough transparent surface to become a hardware platform for the true AR in the windshield, and the rise of driverless cars will create the demand. Sooner or later, the global automotive industry will be dominated by MaaS (mobility-as-a-service) companies. Uber, Lyft, Didi, and others are already making money on transportation rather than car sales. With driverless solutions on the way, we predict car manufacturers will continue to lose ground as they are able to offer nothing more than commodity. Thousands of developers are already committed to deliver rich and immersive AR experiences through the Apple App Store and Google Play. However, many of those applications aren’t applicable in real-life situations, serving as entertainment for its own sake. In the automotive industry, AR can open unlimited opportunities for location-based content serving specific business purposes.