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A Year in AR: Unifying a Fractured Ecosystem

This is part three of series reviewing the lessons we learned during a year building and shipping augmented reality apps and experiences. Read part one A Year in AR: User Insights That Will Shape 2019 or part two A Year in AR: Reducing the Cost of Failure.

The first integrated AR design-to-production ecosystem

Through our conversations with augmented reality early-adopters, it became clear that companies wanted something that wasn’t yet in the market–a clear path from ideation through production. The first inklings we would need to expand beyond our prototyping tool came even before we launched in September. Canny beta users, already seeing the potential, asked about export formats and how to share their Torch projects.

First, we heard “What do we do next?” when designers completed a prototype. As teams began iterating and understanding the power of AR (and the painful complexities of shipping it), the conversations changed. “Designing in Torch was great. Can you also help us do what’s next?” We had always considered these “beyond prototyping” paths in our roadmap, but our users were pushing us in this direction quite sooner than we anticipated.

Filling a gap between AR content creation and distribution

In 2019 Torch will offer more than just our design tool. We will provide creative teams the full suite of tools they need to design, test, and deploy augmented reality, either as standalone iOS and Android apps or as part of existing mobile applications.

In the short time since our App Store launch, we established Torch AR as the easiest way for designers to import their existing work into augmented reality–giving creatives easy paths to use assets from Sketch, Adobe, Sketchfab, or Poly in 3D designs. We further demonstrated how seamlessly Torch fits into the prototyping workflows of tools like InVision and Figma

Our 2019 roadmap will continue to build on content-side integrations, but our biggest plans are on the publishing side. Teams will soon be able to deploy Torch projects as production apps that run on both iOS and Android. Additionally, we will enable companies to reach users where AR is already valued, launching the tools they need to publish on existing platforms–Snap, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, along with whatever else arises along the way.

This unified platform will prioritize third-party integrations that increase the utility of AR apps–AR cloud systems that are poised to deliver on the promise of persistent anchors mapping, data inputs for IoT and personalization, and analytical tools. As we integrate the best third party functionality, we will continue to develop some core technologies ourselves, especially our interaction system, asset processing, performance optimization, and content distribution.

Our vision for 2019: design once, deploy everywhere with Torch

Torch will serve as the hub connecting content creators to the distribution channels best suited to their goals. An agency will be able to develop an experience that runs across all the social channels (Snapchat, Facebook, etc.) while a manufacturing enterprise will be able to stream live data and step-by-step maintenance instructions to a custom Android device.

Will these examples be the killer apps immersive designers and developers are looking for? Maybe. Maybe not. But with Torch they will find out a lot faster and for a lot less money than they could before. By expanding our offerings to meet the demands of a full AR application workflow, we are poised to very quickly unlock the value of augmented reality on a very broad range of industries.

Meeting the pace of innovation

A massive shift in how we interact with and apply digital technologies is underway. Bets are being placed, the ecosystem is coming together, and early adopters are beginning to understand what works and what doesn’t. New careers and businesses will be launched on top of augmented reality. Imagine having insight into the graphical web browser or the smartphone just before the masses realized what was possible.

Imagine catching a wave bigger than the one that was forming in 2007

If you aren’t in the game, gathering data, placing bets, learning, refining your premises, and formulating strategies around the early wins–you will enter 2020 behind those who are doing just that. Teams that use Torch will avoid the high-cost barriers that previously held back the AR application development cycle–uncovering opportunity and value along the way.

Torch’s mobile AR design app was our bid to break down the wall of pain that stymies mobile product teams who want to build 3D apps. Where before the friction born of complexity and high costs ensured only a handful of ideas saw the light of day, now anyone with a smartphone or tablet can experiment, iterate, create, and collaborate, using the tools they already know. 

A great experiment is underway as people, freed finally to explore, begin to push immersive experiences in unexpected directions. This human-centered testing is key for uncovering the most unique and powerful aspects of AR. And the Torch AR design environment will be there, adding the features people need to keep testing the boundaries.

In 2019, the ever-growing mobile phone and tablet ecosystem will consume businesses, ready or not, in an era of augmented reality and spatial computing. This expansion has been incremental to date, but as the early returns on AR innovation become apparent, 2019 will become the year of widespread adoption by both creatives and brands. 

As our early successes and growth have shown, Torch is working to deliver the AR tools teams need to realize the potential of augmented reality (and the whole of spatial computing). In 2019, Torch users will see first-hand benefits of rapid AR iteration and ideation, uncovering their own best practices and eliminating fluff-cases with previously unheard of ease and speed.

And if the last year is any indication, the impacts of these developments will register just in time for the next cycle of New Year think pieces.

If you have questions about your AR workflows or want to learn more about our integrated services, get in touch with us.