2008 Wrap Up: If the Augmented Reality Industry Got a Report Card

From the authors of “Top 10 Milestones in Augmented Reality“, here comes a second installment in the 2008 Wrap Up series.

This time, Games Alfresco rates the progress of the Augmented Reality industry in 2008, using some self-invented, non-partisan, and mostly-gloomy key performance indicators.

But don’t be dispirited.

According to the proven 5 stage transition model below, AR has left the “Desperation” stage, and is entering the “Pacification” stage. We are not looking back.


Here is the 2008 progress report of AR’s 10 key performance indicators:

(for info about mentioned people, products, companies -
refer to the previous post)

1. Public awareness ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (2/10)

Yes, the buzz around AR is building, but in an anecdotal survey – none of my acquaintances has ever heard about AR (until I started raving about it)

2. Influencers ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (3/10)

Will Wright and Bruce Sterling made headlines on this blog when they highlighted augmented reality as the future of gaming. Otellini (Intel CEO) demoed AR during his CES keynote as the future of mobile. Not bad for a technology no one has heard about.

3. Awards ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (5/10)

Wow. 2008 was a year of AR awards and acclaim. From the Nokia Mobile Innovation Challenge Winner through the Crunch50 and Android top 50 finalists – augmented reality was a big winner this year.

4. Online Dialogue ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (2/10)

An industry can be measured by the intensity of the online dialog among its constituencies. Apart from one great annual event,  sparse blogs, and a handful of largely passive forums – AR enthusiasts behave like introverts when it comes to tackling major issues online (emails and hallway conversations don’t count…). Despite growing buzz and awards, online AR dialog is dismal.

5. Aesthetics ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (2/10)

Aesthetics was not a conspicuous quality of the augmented reality industry this year. Except for a few isolated cases (e.g. LevelHead, Better Than Reality, The Hunted House, Tagged in Motion) AR still looks pretty geeky. Got artists?

6. Hardware ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (4/10)

The excuses are over. Powerful, mobile, affordable and cool devices are here and ready to take you on an augmented reality experience. You can leave your backpacks at home. Sure, AR experts are not yet satisfied and are waiting for next year’s gadgeteria – but the potential is palpable – you can almost taste it .

7. Tools and engines ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (3/10)

Tools and platforms are the irrigation required to grow a healthy industry. 2008 was marked with more releases of new AR tools and engines than ever before. Not sure how many are being used, though.

8. Applications ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (2/10)

Wikitude and Tonchidot hinted at the flavor of what’s in store. The masses are not using such apps yet. Heck, they don’t even believe in their existence…

9. Market Size $$$$$$$$$$ (2/10)

It’s always challenging to estimate the size of a market occupied by mostly small private companies, especially when no analyst firm has picked up the glove. An educated guess would put it at no more than $50M. A miniature industry, for now. One day it will overshadow the gaming, movies, TV, tourism, and the advertising industries.

10. Business models ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (1/10)

Non-existent. Unlike AR’s revolutionary technology, the lion’s share of its business models are very traditional: AR companies get paid for delivering projects for clients.

AR has the potential to nurture new business models and growth that will take advantage of its world changing capabilities. What would you pay if we could deliver the world’s information into your personal field of view?


Not on the list:
I purposely left out typically important industry indicators such as R&D expenditures, registered patents, published papers, etc.

You may ask why. If you did, here is my reasoning: the AR industry has been very strong on research in the past 10 years but very weak on adoption and commerce. That’s exactly why we should focus on what drives the latter.


Despite important milestones reached by the AR industry in 2008, its key performance indicators seem quite somber.

I give it an overall 3/10 (Pacification stage).

But cheer up, keep in mind the kid’s evolving smile (above): the AR industry is in its embryonic stage. Companies in the space are still laying the groundwork for a soon-to-come major leap forward.

After all, in 10 years everyone will use augmented reality, right?

One Response

  1. A fair assessment really.
    The only people head-over-hills into AR at the moment seems to be the advertising people. Cars, Sunglass’s, even the BBC are using it with online premotions.

    A quick check of google trends shows virtual reality still wins out in the activity stake;


    Interestingly virtual reality has gone down, rather then AR going up.

    However, despite all this gloom, 10 years is still quite possible to me.
    The internet itself only took about that long between people not knowing what it was and it hitting mainstream. Hell, the web was only just made at the start of the 90s, so things progressed very quickly there.

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