The time frame for a technology to go from entering the market to becoming a household name among the mass consumer base is a very sticky subject, and normally depends on a wide variety of factors. Even leveraging prior knowledge and market trends, predicting such a curve can be difficult for even the most talented and seasoned of analysts and corporate strategists. The numbers can be all over the place, depending on how you look at things and what technology you're dealing with. Things like value proposition, price trends, early adoption figures, and even the indirect influence of analysts and the media on the market and the manufacturers all have to be taken into consideration. Of course, with some technologies, the usual cycle gets turned on its head and the normal rules just don't apply.
When it comes to augmented reality, it's not so much that the cat isn't out of the bag; Pokemon GO and the hype behind Magic Leap and Microsoft's HoloLens, as well as the publicity of Google Glass all made sure of that. According to Creative Strategies president Tim Bajarin, it's Pokemon GO that has really thrown a wrench into the cycle. Now, AR in some form is extremely widespread, but may only be a teaser. According to Bajarin, a new technology normally takes between 10 and 15 years to mature to the point of mass consumer adoption. For AR, he says that we are in the absolute earliest stages. A high-end niche has been carved out and people are flocking to it in the tech sector and among the usual early adopters, so it should typically take a year or so from here for so-called vertical markets, where a technology finds its land legs, to catch on to the trend. From there, it should be another four to eight years, depending on a number of factors, before AR truly catches on at a mass consumer level.
Bajarin predicts that gaming is going to be the first big found value for AR, and for good reason; Pokemon GO has put AR technology into the hands of the masses, bolstered interest in AR in a big way, and generally thrown a wrench into the whole thing. People who otherwise wouldn't even know about things like Magic Leap, HoloLens, and AR gaming are suddenly watching the technology and the industry around it. This means that the new market has an interested segment that creators and advertisers can appeal to, a segment that, under normal circumstances, would never even see their promotions. This means more AR games and apps could pop up soon. While there have been fledgling AR apps in the Play Store for quite some time, none have quite approached the sheer scale and scope of Pokemon GO. The next big thing may be an AR MMORPG, or AR entertainment.
According to Bajarin, though, AR will still end up going through the same paces as any other new technology for one simple reason; experiences beyond gaming, and pure power. Bajarin thinks that much more comprehensive, cohesive, and compelling experiences in the AR market are on the way, and early interest in early applications of the technology will likely have little effect on the mass market. Instead, creators spurred on by the trend may end up getting their stuff into the hands of early adopters faster and in larger numbers than normal, which may accelerate the cycle a little bit. Still, AR will go through the process at a mostly unchanged speed, just with a bit of extra gusto. VR, instead, is set to hog the spotlight. Indeed, with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive already competing hard in the high-end segment, and PlayStation VR set to bring the tech to the mainstream, the days of enthusiasts getting strange looks over their Cardboard setups seem to be well over. This is marked by the success of Samsung's Gear VR, and the upcoming rollout of Google's Daydream platform. VR seems poised to make itself the next frontier in interaction between humans and computers, but AR may crank out compelling experiences in the coming years that leave it not very far behind.