Will the Big Companies win AR or is there still Room for New Disrupting Startups?

Today all major tech companies are investing and betting heavily on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Some bet more on AR, other prioritize VR. Which companies joined the game so far? Is there still some room for new disrupting players?

Snap Inc. as an AR Company

As I already pointed out earlier, Snap Inc. might be an AR-communication company rather than a social media company. Snap went successfully public and since day zero it has been highly controversial whether the stock is highly overpriced or not. However, if you go to the first sentence you will read is: “Snap Inc. is a camera company”. Snapchat is a great communication tool which already uses today’s augmented reality technology. These include snapchat’s geo-filters, face masks, Spectacles, and music recognition by Shazam.
Communication is one of the most important and significant use-cases of AR technology. Snapchat is already a leader in innovative communication and with development efforts in AR, it might even overtake Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft – at least as an AR communication tool.

Alphabet, Google, and Tango

Google is already in the AR space since quite a long time. Do you remember the Google Glasses? The recent AR project of Google is called Tango. Tango seems to be a right-timed experiment to use rear-facing cameras in AR optimised devices to enhance the reality. Android, the world’s leading mobile operating system, is already a part of Google. If Google combines Android and Tango it might mean that Google is going create a winning Augmented Reality Operating System. And who knows if Google has a Google Glass 2.0 in their drawer ready to be announced?

Apple: Tim Cook loves AR

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook recently talked a lot about his love relationship with AR. Recent reports also state that Apple might be working with over 1000 employees on AR technology. If Apple is going to introduce AR into one of their next iPhones they will become the leader in smartphone based AR technology.

Facebook: Oculus, VR, and AR

Oculus is a VR company with a leading VR headset on the market. Facebook bought Oculus in 2014 and despite Oculus became a nightmare for Mark Zuckerberg Facebook insisted on pushing hard into the VR industry. The question is how big are Facebook’s efforts in AR? Facebook has a big advantage in both; VR and AR. Facebook is the world’s leading company when it comes to communication. In addition to Facebook they own WhatsApp and Instagram, they experiment a lot with their Messenger. Today it seems that Facebook focusses on VR only but this is unlikely as they probably wish to stay the number 1 when it comes to communications.

Microsoft the big Leader?

If you ask who is the leader in AR technology today the answer is Microsoft. They have two products which are already available : The Hololens and Windows Holographic OS. In addition Microsoft is holding a huge patent portfolio in AR and VR. Even if Microsoft misses the AR revolution they will still earn billions in licensing.

Building What Users Adopt First

The real question is who is going to build what users are going to adopt first. I think that smartphone-based solutions are user unfriendly and that user will not adopt using them in the first place. It does not matter if Apple or Google are going to present a leading AR operating system.

What matters is a product which will come up with a great AR glass which enables a smooth and great communication experience. I think that Snap has a real chance of exploiting exactly this niche. Snapchat’s Spectacles might only have been the first experiment if users are willing to use glasses to communicate. If their next step is are AR communication glasses they might be the big winner. No matter how we look at it, we cannot underestimate the power of Google, Apple, and the patent library of Microsoft. The current situation still leaves a lot of room for disrupting startups to come up with a winning product.

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