Augmented reality is changing rapidly, and during the Covid pandemic this technology helped businesses adapt from an in-office setup to a work-from-home virtual connectivity.
This rise in virtual employment led to the demand for replicating an office at home. But it wasn’t just workers who had to embrace the virtual world. Schools across the country closed, too.
Socializing went virtual. When we look at the top augmented reality statistics of 2020, we have to zero in on the role of Covid.Because Covid changed everything this year.
Classrooms moved to living rooms or bedrooms. Those without desks at home likely had parents out hunting the stores for workspaces. The need for computers, tablets or laptops surged, too. Social lives changed. For children and for adults. There were no more group meet-ups. Even the dating world had to adapt.
After all, how do you date during a pandemic? Especially when bars and other entertainment venues were likely shut or had limited capacity. No one knew who could possibly be a Covid carrier. And this hesitancy, this fear, also likely shaped the way the world moved…or didn’t move.
Virtual interactions were safe, though. And, in the need for a reminder of old experiences, people had to find other options that didn’t involve in-person interactions. While virtual tours and other interactive experiences have been around for a while, Covid might have increased their popularity.
So what were the top augmented reality trends of 2020? We’ll break down statistics for social, education and the workplace, too.
Augmenting Our Social World in 2020
Augmented reality includes graphic overlays against a real life image, and augmented reality helped make our social world a bit more interesting when few of us could get out of the home. And many of us still may be only socializing with our nearest and dearest—think social pods! During Covid, many Americans augmented their social world. Or embraced virtual experiences.
Augmented Reality Gaming
Bored? Many of us were…and many still may be bored out of our minds. Life became pretty monotonous if we didn’t brainstorm new ways to have fun. Video gaming was likely a popular escape. Augmented reality video games could be played with friends, and many kids probably used gaming as a way to stay connected.
A study even looked at AR gaming’s effect on both physical and mental health. The study included more than 2,000 participants, and the results were interesting. The study concluded that, “AR games have the potential to promote physical and mental-health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Used by populations under isolation and distress, such games can potentially improve physical and mental health by providing virtual socialization, sustained exercise, temporal routine, and mental structure….” However, the study also noted that more research is needed.
While exact game downloads during Covid might not be available, stats taken from Sensor Tower Blog reveal that Pokemon GO has done quite well during 2020:
- $1 billion (during 2020)
- Player spending increased 11 percent over 2019
These stats were published in early November, so stats for the full year weren’t even available.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has some impressive stats as well; Niantic and WB Games revealed the game’s magical first year statistics as reported by Pocket Gamer:
- 10 million downloads on Google Play
- Players consumed 850 potions in the game
- Players sent 150 million gifts to their friends
- Players walked a total of 400 million kilometers
- Players took all the glory winning 275 Wizarding Challenges!
While many gamers are likely still dealing with limited social interactions, and, therefore, living in the virtual (or augmented) space, 2021 might see those AR gamers head outdoors to play their favorite games. That is, if they have a handheld device!
Virtually Augmenting Our Cultural Experiences
Forget museum visits. Exploring the vast spaces of artwork, science discoveries and history were likely not possible during the pandemic, although some areas didn’t have tight restrictions. Virtual museum tours also were an option (and still are an option). There were many videos on YouTube offering virtual tours of historic locations. Museums, though, were hit with a devastating blow during Covid. According to the United Nations:
- 90 percent of museums around the world closed during Covid
- 13 percent faced the reality that their doors would shut permanently.
In a report titled “Museums, Museum Professionals and Covid 19,” the International Council of Museums reported:
- 94.7 percent of museums were closed across the globe
- Only 1.1 percent remained open
- 92.6 percent of museums in North America were closed
- 84 percent reported that staff were working from home
- Only 26.1 percent had staff whose full-time job was dedicated to “digital activities.” These activities included virtual tours.
- 55.7 percent reported that they had staff for “digital activities,” but that focus wasn’t their full-time job.
- As for budgeting for online or digital activities (including communication), more than 35 percent reported that they didn’t know how much of their budget was allocated for this purpose, while more than 23 percent said only between one percent and five percent of the budget was reserved for digital.
- More than 33 percent of museums reported they didn’t have online collections
- More than 43 percent reported that their online collections remained the same during Covid as before.
- Almost 18 percent reported that they offered more online collections after the lockdown
- A little more than 4 percent reported that online collections only began after lockdowns
- More than 18 percent also reported that offered more live events after lockdown
- More than 16 percent reported that they expanded online exhibitions after lockdown
Augmenting Our Communication: Work, School & Beyond
Our social communication dovetails into our work and school communication, too. Why? Many were used to socializing with coworkers on a daily basis. Children socialized with friends at school, during extracurricular activities like sports and in their neighborhoods.
Of course, before Covid, most of us took socializing with friends, family and co-workers for granted. During the worst of the pandemic—and perhaps even now—many Americans are still limiting their social face-to-face interactions. The mask is the norm. So is social distancing.
What kept students, teachers, co-workers, friends and families communicating during this crazy time? What helped replicate face-to-face interactions without the worry of spreading a virus? The screen! Most importantly, and most prominently, digital conferencing platforms like Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Marco Polo and so many more!
The choices of platforms were plentiful, but so were all the fun options. Who wanted to look like they were actually at home? That was too boring! Instead, many embraced augmented reality. All those cool background choices like the beach? And those quirky crazy filters? Yes, that was augmented reality in your day-to-day communications.
How much did American use these platforms during Covid? Here’s some stats from Statista:
- In March, Skype had more than 59 million daily users
- Zoom had more than 27 million downloads in March
Back in May, Ipsos surveyed more than 1,000 adults (over age 18) for the Mozilla Foundation and offered even more data related to our videoconferencing habits related to lockdown:
- Almost 60 percent use these virtual conferencing either for their job or just to socialize
- Almost ¾ of young adults (defined as 18-34) use these platforms
- 85 percent reported that they will use videoconferencing after the lockdowns
- 54 percent expressed concerns about their home being on view (privacy issues)
- Zoom was the favorite platform (66 percent!)
Those who were unpartnered or who didn’t feel comfortable quarantining with a partner might have had to rely on virtual dates, too. If those meet-ups happened via platforms like Zoom or Skype, maybe couples had unique backgrounds to make those dates a bit more adventurous. Set the mood with a beach or maybe a romantic forest! Or choose something quirky? Virtual dates were a reality in 2020, and augmented reality likely played a part, too.
A New Year: Augmented Reality in 2021
In March, lockdowns began in many parts of the U.S. Since that time, many have remained working from home and using teleconferencing platforms to stay in touch with colleagues, managers, friends, relatives and, of course, teachers. Students may have started back to in-person learning only to head back home, some might have never returned to school. Others may be enjoying life in the classroom again. Others might be using even more augmented reality in the classroom…or at home for the classroom.
Covid threw our lives into a completely different world. Looking ahead, will augmented reality continue to be a part of our lives? Or will we once again go back to the face-to-face normal? Ipsos’ survey revealed that most people would continue using virtual platforms. And some businesses could embrace work-from-home as the standard. While the pivot to a virtual workplace may have been strange for many, it did perhaps start to feel normal. Could businesses keep workers at the home office? Perhaps.
Augmented reality gaming has been around for years; Pokemon GO has been popular since its release several years ago. The rise of AR gaming during the pandemic may actually have had benefits, too. When socialization wasn’t an option, the augmented world allowed gamers to experience something different. Maybe they mixed potions, found Pokemon, built augmented worlds or ran from zombies. But they could socialize. And get moving.
Museums will once again open up. Although when that happens may be the big question mark. Some may be open now…depending on the area and the restrictions. Looking ahead, though, there will be a day when the old normal becomes the new normal once again. But what that looks like is really the greatest unknown of the post-pandemic future. Who knows what trends will stay, what ones will be left in the dust and what new technology could emerge.