Is Real-world Fragmentation Holding Back Augmented Reality?

Although I find Augmented Reality (AR) interesting, it’s not something I use on a daily basis. The concept actually reminds me of Twitter in its early stages — an occasional fun distraction at first, but the practical uses of it as a tool took time to develop. Today, I use Twitter daily for many purposes, so if my thought trend applies to AR, it could be that I use it, too, on a future daily basis. For now, it’s simply not as ubiquitous a platform as Twitter is and it appears to me that different players in this space are trying to create their own leading AR platform.

Over at GigaOM, we’re sharing a visual representation of eight such platforms, which exemplifies this fragmentation, but also shows the promise of AR on a mobile device. Each of the four screens tackles a different potential usage area for AR: Navigation, Location Overlay, Geo-Informational Services and Gaming. And in each area, you’ll see that there are two providers — I’m sure additional services exist in each category, as well.

Many of the different mobile AR services add similar, or even the same, categories of information in the form of layers. And when I think of layers, my mind immediately turns to Google Maps (s goog). One basic but very solid application becomes infinitely more valuable with the addition of informational layers — traffic, location of friends, and different views. I wouldn’t suggest that Google Maps become the end-all, be-all platform for AR layers, but it’s an application that’s already on or readily available for the hundreds of millions of mobile devices out there. Until an augmented reality service can claim the same footprint, it’s likely that each AR app will become a niche add-on and face slow adoption rates.

Are you using any mobile AR apps on a regular basis? More importantly, how did you choose one over the other and would you prefer these AR layers bundled into a more widespread application?

Related Research: “Mobile Augmented Reality Today and Tomorrow