According to a new report from market research firm eMarketer, much of the growth in the AR market, which melds real world images with digital ones, will be driven by Snapchat Lenses and Facebook Stories. Snapchat lenses is a tool that lets users add real-time special effects and sounds while the Stories feature of Facebook enables members to post photo and video collections that are viewed twice and then disappear after 24 hours.
“Users of Snapchat Lenses comprise the vast majority of our AR estimates,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Chris Bendtsen in the report. “Snapchat growth will continue to contribute to AR users in the future," but in the next several years eMarketer also expects Facebook Stories to be a significant growth driver of AR usage, since it is now widely available to Facebook’s user base.
According to the research firm, this year 40 million people in the U.S., or 12.3% of the population in America, will use AR at least once a month, marking a 30.2% increase from 2016. By the end of 2019, that number is expected to jump to 54.4 million people, or 16.4% of the U.S. population. Put it another way, close to one in five internet users will engage in AR. Augmented reality blasted into the mainstream last year with Nintendo’s Pokémon Go mobile game, but more recently social media operators have been going after the burgeoning technology.
In April, at Facebook’s F8 annual developer conference, the company effectively declared war on Snap and its Snapchat disappearing-message app by calling out AR as its next big project. In his speech, CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared that he wants the camera in your phone or other smart device to deliver the first mainstream AR platform, putting aside his initial plan to use glasses. To achieve this, Facebook launched several AR updates for its camera, including 3D effects, object recognition and a tool that enables users to add virtual objects to everyday locations. Frames Studio, an online editor that makes frames for pictures, will be the first product within the platform.
While eMarketer is expecting robust growth in AR the same can’t be said of virtual reality. The research firm found that technology is taking longer to catch on in the U.S. and isn’t likely to reach mass adoption anytime soon. eMarketer is forecasting that 2.9% of the U.S. population will use a VR headset at least once a month. By 2019 that will reach 5.2% of the population. The problem: the headsets are often cost prohibitive for ordinary consumers.