The Augmented Reality Future is here

Around the world, the long-anticipated 5G rollout is starting to take shape. Already the 5G network has more than half a billion subscriptions, the vast majority in the North East Asian region. By 2026, that figure is expected to top 3.4 billion1, primarily driven by expansion of the North East Asian and the opening up of the North American and Western European markets. 

Meanwhile, Gartner forecasts that infrastructure spending required to support the transition from 4G to 5G could increase 22% this year, to reach $23 billion worldwide2

The transition from 4G to 5G for mobile communications alone makes 5G stocks an attractive proposition as customers and businesses upgrade to the latest devices. But the real potential for growth lies in the possibilities that 5G unlocks. 

Augmented reality and 5G go hand in hand

Augmented reality is the merging of digital virtual realities with the real world. At the moment, augmented realities are most often viewed on a smartphone or tablet, by overlaying a digital image over whatever the camera is pointed at, in real time. 

However, there is no real reason to confine augmented realities to screens. Already smart glasses and other wearable devices have been developed, freeing up users’ hands to allow them to fully interact with the augmented images. And as the technology leaves screens behind, other sensory input such as sound and texture will more commonly be overlaid onto real life, allowing for a more immersive experience. 

Until now, augmented reality (AR) has mostly been viewed as a novelty rather than a truly transformative technology. In part, this is down to 5G networks not yet having matured enough to fully support AR applications, which require ultra-low latency and high bandwidth to support a seamless AR experience. 

But that’s changing. In America, the Federal Communications Commission has already released the mmWave spectrum, and has been supporting the development of Open RAN, a Radio Access Network standard, allowing for interoperability between different networks, hardware, software and other devices. On the industry’s side, AT&T and Verizon aim to bring mid wave coverage to 100 million Americans within this year3, potentially making them two very compelling 5G companies to consider investing in. 

China, too, aims to significantly increase coverage: the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s action plan 2021-23 calls for 5G user penetration to reach 40%, and in big enterprises, for penetration to reach 35%. Although they have not yet released the mmWave spectrum, the Winter Olympics this year will be used as a test case for the mmWave rollout. 

Augmented reality is already with us

Perhaps the best known example of augmented reality in the west is the 2016 game Pokémon Go, in which players could find Pokémon in their neighborhoods when viewing their surroundings on their smartphone. 

In fact, Pokémon was not the first AR game on the scene. 2014 saw the launch of Hado by Meleap, an AR game played on a court in which teams of three wearing head-mounted displays and armband sensors battle it out by throwing energy balls and defending themselves with shields. Hado is now played in 37 countries worldwide  and has just reached the USA. Leagues are also streamed for viewers over the internet. 

In retail, AR is already making an impact. IKEA has been an early player in the retail setting, launching the IKEA Place app back in 2017. Place allowed Apple users to see how IKEA’s furniture items would look in their homes by projecting a digital image of the pieces over their surroundings, when viewed on their iPhones. 

Last year, IKEA moved on to launch IKEA Studio, an upgraded version of Place, which allowed users to design whole roomson their iPhone, including changing the wall color, and placing digital objects such as a lamp on top of another4. There are some drawbacks – neither Place nor Studio are connected to the IKEA website, so users have to exit the app before placing their orders, but seamless integration is in the works. 

Meanwhile, other companies have been developing their own AR solutions. Holo-light, which bills itself as the “Netflix” of extended reality applications, has already released three products which aim to support designers and engineers. 

Their AR3S engineering space allows engineers to visualize and manipulate 3D CAD data, and even to collaborate remotely on designs projected into the real world setting, while their Stylus AR, works in conjunction with AR3S to allow engineers to make annotations and sketches which other workers can then access in situ.

As companies look to save time and resources by pulling back on travel, AR is being utilized to fill the gap, making collaboration possible across huge geographical reaches. Arvizio, for example, has developed an extended reality software platform which supports collaborative working, with attendees joining sessions using smartphones, smart glasses, or headsets. 

And the possibilities don’t stop there. From education to logistics, medicine to social media, augmented reality is on the cusp of radically changing the way people live, learn and interact. 

The future of 5G

As exciting as augmented reality is, it’s just one of the cutting edge technologies made possible by the rollout of 5G. The increase in bandwidth, in concert with the precision afforded by short wave transmission on the mmWave spectrum means that automated technologies will soon become a normal part of our everyday lives – and all of it dependent on the underlying 5G infrastructure. 

“5G is an absolute gamechanger that’s going to further foster the growth of other revolutionary technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), self-driving cars, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) – just to name a few,” leading investor Louis Navellier commented recently5

In fact, Navellier sees 5G as so important that he’s advised: “If I had to put every penny of my life savings into one sector right now, 5G would be it.”6

If you’d like to invest in 5G yourself but are unsure where to start, take a look at Defiance’s FIVG ETF, which covers a range of 5G stocks across the 5G ecosystem, to provide diversified and balanced exposure to this epoch defining industry. 

1 “Forecast number of mobile 5G subscriptions worldwide by region from 2020 to 2026”, Statistica, accessed 14 January, 2022. 

1 Investing in 5G Stocks, Nicholas Rossolillo, January 10, 2022. 

1 “The 5G market is about to take off: What to expect in 2022 and beyond?” December 2, 2021. 

1 “IKEA’s Revamped AR App Lets You Design Entire Rooms”, Jeremy White, April 20, 2021. 

1 “Why 5G Is a Major Gamechanger in the Tech Space”. Louis Navellier, January 13, 2022. 

1 “What Comes Next Now That I’ve Revealed My Big Bet”, Louis Navellier, January 12, 2022.