Augmeted Reality (AR) Without Barriers
In 2019 the Augmented Reality (AR) industry turned a key corner in its trajectory towards democratisation. As with native apps back in 2010, there’s been both excitement about the potential but also confusion about the possibilities of WebAR. The reach and accessibility that WebAR can deliver opens up many new possibilities for brands and businesses who are excited about the notion of AR but have had reservations surrounding app downloads.
What is Web-AR?
Simply, Web-AR refers to Augmented Reality that can be accessed from a web browser, rather than a native app, enabling a much more seamless user journey from scan to experience, that said as with any emerging technology there are both opportunities and limitations when compared to standard AR apps deployment.
Advantages of Web-AR
Frictionless Augmented Reality
Removing the need to search for and download an app reduces the number of steps a user has to take between awareness and experience. Fundamentally, Web-AR means less friction and more effective AR experiences, customers can simply enjoy the in-the-moment experience.
Broader Audience Reach
Compared to traditional AR campaigns with native apps, Web-AR offers wider reach and scale. With 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide, the distribution opportunity alone has been enough to turn brands’ heads as they look to free themselves from apps.
How it works
A user through the mobile device camera scanning an image, text or QR code, is sent to a URL that loads an associated experience via the mobile device browser.
But as with all things technical, the fact remains that WebAR, while possible, is not a good enough reason to simply execute AR unless it delivers a genuine end user experience and that is where current limitations means WebAR at the time of writing has too many limiting features that is hampering wide acceptance.
Limitations of WebAR
A Common Standard
The biggest challenge and one that is proving to be its major barrier to success over an Apps based solution is a globally acceptable standard that all suppliers will adhere to. The reality is there are several standards based on operating system or supplier such s Chrome (Google), Safari (Apple) or Microsoft as examples. This means that developers face immediate limitations in that any solution delivery will tend to function well on one browser but not another, limiting its reach and application.
No Control Over A Browser
A further imitation is that a developer has zero control over a browser update that may render part or even all of a WebAR experience ineffective. Furthermore, browsers vary device to device in terms of version applied and the settings of a browser and device may impact the resulting experience due to limitations set for resolution, refresh rates etc.
Bandwidth Limitations for Experience Download
A third major obstacle are the limitations of the data bandwidth WebAR relies upon to download a related experience, especially where an end-user is using mobile data plans and accessibility is limited due to limited subscribed data plans or low signal strength that inevitably leads to dropouts during download.
The bandwidth limitations stand to disappoint many end-users, especially if an AR experience is quite detailed or animated and thus further renders WebAR experiences to lower resolution responses.
The reality at the time of writing is that AR Apps will continue to be the dominant force at least in the foreseeable future until a global standard is agreed, that all developers can follow for a true cross-platform and cross-browser solution delivery. Furthermore, until the advent of 5G as an example i.e. a technology that promises virtually unhampered deliver of an AR experience, WebAR is still yet to find its place outside of niche applications to a selected audience.
App based solutions are designed to maximise device usage for the optimum result, furthermore for detailed 3D animations, the animations can form part of the app delivery meaning totally independent of any Internet connection and therefore more appealing on a larger scale.
That said, what we know from our experience is that the AR landscape, especially as it pertains to WebAR, will continue to evolve and improve at pace. Dreemar are committed to ensuring that our products and services are able to deliver all types of AR experiences as the industry continuously evolves.