Augmented Reality (AR) – What Is It?

Augmented Reality (often abbreviated to ‘AR’) is a technology that combines the real world with virtual objects. It can be used to add elements to or hide elements from the real world. The most popular method to experience AR is to use a mobile phone or tablet and its camera.


AR – Viewing via an App or Web Browser

Historically the only way to view was via specific mobile apps. There are lots of these available – from simple demo apps to those from large brands such as Ikea. Recently Apple and Android have been adding functionality to enable AR to be experienced from within the web browser – by browsing a web page, with no need to download a separate app. To experience this in Safari on Apple devices you need to have iOS 12 or later (or macOS Mojava on Macs). For Android, the functionality is being built into Chrome and is not currently released but is accessible for developers to do testing.


Why Is AR in a Web Browser Good?

Having AR functionality within a web browser brings a lot of potential use cases. One of the most obvious ones is for e-commerce shops that are selling items. AR in the browser enables a user to simply click on the product image and then see an AR view of how that object would look in their home. For example, it might be to see how a piece of art would appear on the wall or it may be used to see how some furniture would look in the room. The main advantage of this being within the web browser is the speed and simplicity, which will result in greater usage.


What next for Browser-based AR?

The technology is still early stage and the key for success will be a) greater number of devices to support it and b) more websites to have it enabled. As more Apple owners upgrade to iOS 12 and when Android fully release in Chrome, the device support will improve. Some websites are starting to enable this, including some of the big platforms such as Shopify – as time goes on, more will.

One current potential sticking point is that the underlying file formats that power the technology differ between Apple and Android. It’s hoped that agreement can be made to both use one common format.


Next Steps

If you would like to discuss augmented reality (AR) in more detail and how it can be used for your website or in an app, please do contact us.