Technology that once seemed confined to the theoretics of science fiction is starting to become common. This trend bears watching by investors.
Consider this summer's obsession, Pokemon Go. The record-breaking mobile phone game uses augmented reality technology (AR) to superimpose Nintendo's fictional characters over the real world as seen through a cellphone's camera lens.
Demand for AR technology is likely to grow significantly. Goldman Sachs estimates that the market for AR and its sister technology VR (virtual realty) will reach $80 billion by 2025, with the potential for that figure to rocket higher, to more than $180 billion.
To be sure, it's not always clear how far programmers can take AR technology, and that has raised controversy. The company Magic Leap was recently the subject of a critical report on technology Web site The Information that challenged the company's claims of being on the cusp of releasing an AR headset that blends fantasy with reality.
So far, the privately held company has raised nearly $1.5 billion, thanks largely to a dense fog of hype and some impressive promotional videos. However, sources have pointed out that these videos weren't made using Magic Leap's technology but the work of a special effects studio.
That said, the buzz generated by both good and bad news about Magic Leap is serving to work in the entire AR industry's favor. Despite its magical- and futuristic-seeming nature, augmented reality has arrived and will only grow in usage.
Microsoft recently debuted its HoloLens "smart glasses" that incorporate AR for both playing games and exploring space with NASA. In addition, Microsoft's strong cloud computing and software portfolios make it a diversified and appealing investment.
Apple, always one for innovation, is also experimenting with AR applications, as is Alphabet. Clearly, now is the time to get into this breakthrough technology.