My Photo

Ordering Information

Tomi on Twitter is @tomiahonen

  • Follow Tomi on Twitter as @tomiahonen
    Follow Tomi's Twitterfloods on all matters mobile, tech and media. Tomi has over 8,000 followers and was rated by Forbes as the most influential writer on mobile related topics

Book Tomi T Ahonen to Speak at Your Event

  • Contact Tomi T Ahonen for Speaking and Consulting Events
    Please write email to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com and indicate "Speaking Event" or "Consulting Work" or "Expert Witness" or whatever type of work you would like to offer. Tomi works regularly on all continents

Tomi on Video including his TED Talk

  • Tomi on Video including his TED Talk
    See Tomi on video from several recent keynote presentations and interviews, including his TED Talk in Hong Kong about Augmented Reality as the 8th Mass Media


Blog powered by Typepad

« Twenty Years of Digital Convergence Around Mobile: What can we learn from the Cannibal of Cannibals? | Main | Migration of Digital Services to Mobile: in Gaming, mobile becomes largest sector this year »

April 20, 2017



There was a documentary about the release of "Horizon Zero Dawn" by an Amsterdam game developer:

All in the game (mostly in Dutch)

That was a mega-game release. When asked about the future, the head of the company talks about AR and Pokemon Go. He too shares your vision of the future.

The site also has a few longreads about gaming and VR.

This one is interesting:

‘We’re running with scissors’: Why some experts worry about VR dangers
Virtual gaslighting, augmented torture

What they write holds too for AR.

Facebook's entry into AR has caused the same kind of warnings:

Climbing out of Facebook's reality hole

Wayne Brady

I'm a skeptic. Not in the inevitable potential, but the timeline. Still, I'm enthusiastic of the effect of the push for AR on smartphone technology.

As in PC's before, gaming often drives the tech forward. And while gamers are a small part of the overall market, we all benefit from the improved tech.

Smartphones have reached the "over serving the market" probably a couple years back. That's why the mid-range, good enough Android phones have demolished the premium end of Android's market. As wonderful and sexy as the new Galaxy S8 Infinity screen is....the price of that phone is eye-watering.

Enter mobile AR/VR to drive demand for even faster processors and high rez screens. I'm more than satisfied with my iPhone's resolution, though it has lagged the premium Android phones for years. But for "looking at my device to see pictures and watch movies" - there is no need for "more than photo quality" (Apple calls it "Retina") pixel density. But - but the phone on your face, split in two for stereoscopic VR....and even Samsung's best screens are really "low rez" at this point.

But 3 years from now we are to have a billion user's? Maybe of Pokemon Go type apps - not of Facebook spaces kind.


I am skeptic too. AR/VR is nice but it will not be big in next 20 years. Not even close. AR/VR will be big in some niche fields, like for example, cars, architecture, and some specific games but that's it.

It is ludricous to fall on the back that Facebook is now pushing AR/VR and that AR/VR will take off. Facebook has pushed many things which failed.


"AR/VR is nice but it will not be big in next 20 years. Not even close. AR/VR will be big in some niche fields, like for example, cars, architecture, and some specific games but that's it."

This makes me going down memory lane(s): Mobile phones/the Internet/Personal Computers are a niche product. Who really needs them?

Maybe, we should learn from the past? I know it is a new concept, but we could give it a try.

If we look down in history, what did really, really catch on, always? a) Transport and b) Communication.
a) Roads, trains, bicycles, cars, planes.
b) Printing press, mail, newspapers, telegraph, telephone, movies, radio, TV, internet, mobile phones

What are the main purposes of all of these: Moving people and talking to others (or singing ;-) ). Note that a lot of the people move around to get to talk to other people.

How does AR fit in. It does not move people. But it does allow to communicate with other people.

With AR, you can share your presence and share your experiences, as well as talk, even face to face. In this view, joint gaming is a lot like talking and sharing experiences. AR helps to extend this from artificial worlds to the real world. If movies and games are an evolution of story telling, AR is just the next step, blending stories into real life. Any cultural anthropologist can tell you that "real life" is just a shared story.

My prediction is that there will be a kind of threshold of technology for acceptance. After that threshold is crossed, AR will explode into everyday life just like texting, facebook, youtube, and instagram did. AR will be a social medium about community, chatting, playing, and sharing experiences.

And maybe the threshold has already been crossed with Pokemon Go. Because the threshold is not so much about ultra HiRes quality, but one of convenience and immediacy.


Why is everyone using Pokemon Go as an AR example? Most users turn off AR because it drains the battery.

Regarding looking at history, I can also find some examples: In the 60'es 3D movies in the cinema was a big thing. A decade ago it started again. It's now going away. Same for TVs: No-one sells TVs with 3D anymore.

In the 90'es VR was a big thing. It didn't catch on. I'll give you that underperforming computers had a big influence on the failure.

Yet, I still don't see VR going to kick off. Who wants to carry a mask for long periods?

AR? We already had a great AR product: Google Glass. It flopped big time.

I'm really curious. With 1B users, what use cases do you see for AR?

Wayne Brady

@Michael brings up a nice counter example - 3D movies. Avatar launched the REVIVAL of the old concept and many people were sold on the concept. Lots of TV's added 3D ability. Many 3D movies released since Avatar, but I don't believe any have been a great experience (at least not the one's I've tried). Avatar was amazing, the rest have not been (of the 3 or 4 I tried).

On phone AR is going to increase. If you count Snapchat filters (and the fb knockoff) - and the like, you may get many hundreds of millions.

That AR chews up battery on modern phones is just technology - time will take care of that. Pokemon Go demonstrates the user acceptance and adoption.

Those are the two big use cases I can imagine...AR games like Pokemon Go and AI/AR filters for selfies and movies.

Some minor ones in auto-sign translate - I just don't see huge numbers for that one.

Nothing that fits on your face, though. That's not happening (again) in the near future for anything that can be considered "mass adoption". Not Hololens, Not Google Glass.

I just think when people speak glowingly of AR, they are thinking of the power of something like a Hololens....not Snapchat filters and PokemonGo. And I don't think we will be anything like mass adoption outside those two use cases.



you didn't read carefully my post. I wrote that AR/VR will be a niche. I didn't write that AR/VR is a niche. Therefore you starting assumption is totally wrong and also your conclusions.

We have had AR/VR in one form or another for some time now. AR/VR is a big hype right now, driven by Tommi, Facebook and Pokemon.

Mark my words, AR/VR will still be a hype in 10 years from now and also in 20 years from now.


Like with everything else, the technology itself has no meaning. If it can be put to good use, it will find some acceptance, if not, Pokemon Go will be where it ends.

@Winter: Your reasoning sounds a lot like wishful thinking.

Taking your examples for travel, each one made travel faster and/or more convenient. But we have hit the threshold where the cost/benefit ratio turned bad: Supersonic travel was a failure, despite being technologically feasible and manageable. It was just too expensive

Regarding communication, the same holds true. Each new development made it either easier to reach a wider audience or made it easier for a single person to communicate with others. Again, what was driving development was mostly increased efficiency, not better technology.
Where does AR fit in here? It neither increases the reach of communication methods nor the ease of communicating with others. Both will still be limited by the same thing, i.e. the availability of some piece of technology on both ends to initiate some form of communication.

I think the 3D movie example is telling us a lot of things here: People want to see movies. They do not want to be inconvenienced by some technology that doesn't seamlessly integrate into their experience.
So how is AR supposed to overcome the same thing? If it is supposed to blend some virtual elements into the real world, it is inevitable that some invasive form of technology is needed, and that plain and simply contradicts the essence of most successful technologies.

As for the remaining use cases, it looks like toys and gimmicks to me so far.
So far there is nothing really compelling out there yet that'd make it a winner by default.


"Where does AR fit in here?"

What makes online gaming such a hit? Because you can share the experience of the game.

Do you know their are people who will have meals together over Skype when they are away from each other? That sometimes, people will go to sleep together with a Skype connection open on their pillow (the sleeping kind, I assume)?

There are quite a number of romances started in some social media sphere, be it gaming or facebook.
How about have a stroll through a foreign town with a friend over VR/AR? Or the zoo with a grand child?

When doing video conferences, we know there is something missing. It is better than voice only, but still, we want more. VR would probably be overkill, but AR could very well be the next step.

Any kind of technological obstacles can arise that could kill this off. 3D in a movie theater is spectacular, but only up to a point. It is not necessary for the story. In AR, it might be a definite plus (or not).

My point is that AR can improve communication. As such, it has a very good chance of becoming popular.



All stuff you mention is either fringe use or needs some serious change in how this technology works.
Yes, if we can develop a Star Trek-like holodeck, I see some future here, but as things stand it very much depends on clumsy workarounds. And as long as these workarounds are the limiting factor I really do not see this gaining thrust. It's the same as the Concorde: No speed advantage could counter the high cost, the extreme noise and all the other problems that came with it.


"All stuff you mention is either fringe use or needs some serious change in how this technology works."

Anything Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram do were fringe uses 15 years ago. Facebook literally was developed specifically for college kids.

I have had visitors running onto the street to catch pokemons four blocks away. I was returning from a workshop dinner in a foreign country when one of the group dashed out to catch a pokemon. That is an AR game (real street + imaginary object = AR), whether they have the VR part on or off.



> I have had visitors running onto the street to catch pokemons four blocks away. I was returning from a workshop dinner in a foreign country when one of the group dashed out to catch a pokemon.

Now this is one example. And it will stay this way at this level even in 10 years from now. This one example does not mean that AR/VR will be big. Not even close.


AR/VR will start to be big only and only when technology would make it easy to use, like for example to have it in your contact lenses.


"This one example does not mean that AR/VR will be big."

1B users? Sounds big on any scale.

"AR/VR will start to be big only and only when technology would make it easy to use, like for example to have it in your contact lenses."

If you delve into the history of "accessibility", you will see that there is a trade-off between usefulness and usability. If a service is considered useful enough, any usability issues will be ignored.

Blind people have put up with absolutely the worst UIX to get at written content. And SMS texting is the text-book example that even the worst, utterly miserable, interface cannot stop teenagers from communicating with their peers.

So, it all depends on whether there will be an enticing AR service. If there is, users will put up with whatever technological hurdles there are.

But if I knew what it was, I would not be here but at a start-up implementing it and getting rich.

Wayne Brady

You folks seem to be conflating AR with VR. They are not the same thing. If PokemonGo counts as AR (it certainly doesn't as VR), then it is a form of AR delivered on smartphones - no visor/Google Glass type googles needed.

This is the ONLY type of AR that can reach a billion users in any near time frame. But when people speak of the amazing potential of AR/VR, I believe it is the "visor/glasses" kind that Google Glass was a pioneering effort and Hololens is...and VR are the Oculus and other "cover your eyes/face" types.

Even with Samsung, LG and Google all having mobile visors - I do not believe we will come even close to "millions" for this type of AR/VR, let alone billions


@Wayne Brady:

Yes, that's indeed the case here. That VR stuff will never go mainstream unless actual holodeck technology gets invented - and even if it did it's be a product not aimed at regular customers.

But that leaves the question what can be done with mobile AR. No matter how hard I put my mind to it, I absolutely cannot come up with any ideas that go beyond the toy factor. Certainly nothing that can revolutionize communication.

Pokemon Go may have been cool, but I happen to know someone who did a (obviously far more primitive) mobile game using the camera and motion detection on Symbian 12 years ago. So for me it's nothing new there I haven't seen a long time ago.


"No matter how hard I put my mind to it, I absolutely cannot come up with any ideas that go beyond the toy factor. Certainly nothing that can revolutionize communication."

That is not particularly helpful, as the same can be said about the Internet and smartphones, as well as facebook and twittee.

Wayne Brady

I disagree, Winter. If one wants to make the claim that a billion people will be using AR in the next 3 should have SOME idea of what people will use AR for.

If it's just games and snapchat filters - fine. Those are certainly clever enough as it is. I have trouble seeing that add up to a billion users, though.


> I have had visitors running onto the street to catch pokemons four blocks away. I was returning from a workshop dinner in a foreign country when one of the group dashed out to catch a pokemon.

That's an excellent example on why the Pokemon go is not AR but LBS (location based service, Google it up). We are still waiting for a breakthrough AR case.


"That's an excellent example on why the Pokemon go is not AR but LBS (location based service, Google it up)."

But reality itself is location based. How can we augment reality without involving location?


Nice article from IEEE Spectrum:

Augmented Reality: Forget the Glasses

And the investment angle:


You are talking against the AR&VR like you do not want to move from black and white movies to technicolor or that you don´t like the idea of sound in the movies. AR and VR are coming and sooner than you think. Apple is already greating a 3D-model of the world (Apple Maps) and as you can already see they are very far already (current version of Apple Maps). At some state they will ad AR to this VR.



Can you please explain where AR - not to mention VR - is in the scenario you try to lay out?


All that article confirms to me is that the whole thing is deadlocked in the toy corner. Where's the revolution in there?

My main problem with this discussion is that the whole thing screams "solution in search for a problem". There's simply nothing here that will fundamentally affect or improve the lives of people - which is one of the prerequisites for revolutionary technology.
I'm not saying that this won't find any customers or won't make any profit. But in the end it's just a toy. Games are also toys. They still are being produced because people buy and play them. Would anyone consider games more than entertainment? They are nowhere near close to altering people's lives on a fundamental level.

@Wayne Brady:

"If one wants to make the claim that a billion people will be using AR in the next 3 should have SOME idea of what people will use AR for."

Touché. It seems to me that Winter doesn't have the faintest clue, aside from the unbroken belief in the mantra of "AR will be the next level of communication" or whatever. For something like that one has to know a little bit about how that future is going to look - and again - how this is supposed to be beneficial to non-tech-geeks.


"a solution in search of a problem"

Like Lasers were the hype of the 1960s, really a solution in search of a problem. I remember the Internet being called that too. So I know those. But there are people who have a clear vision of how to use AR. Not all of them will be world changing hits. Most applications will be like lasers, they are everywhere, but you hardly ever really see them.

Here are some thoughts about applications of AR (note, this is just a small selection, more is available if desired):

Augmented reality: The past, present and future

Augmented Reality Brings New Dimensions to Learning

Augmented Reality In Healthcare Will Be Revolutionary
Augmented reality is one of the most promising digital technologies at present – look at the success of Pokémon Go – and it has the potential to change healthcare and everyday medicine completely for physicians and patients alike.

6 ways augmented reality can help governments see more clearly

3D Government: How Will Augmented Reality (AR) Disrupt the Future of Technology?
Bold claims are again being made by hot new startups and the technology giants about the coming age of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications. While most of the focus has been on gaming, retail and travel, the impact for governments could be huge. Here’s why.

Why SLAM 3D maps for Augmented Reality and Robotics will be worth more than Google Maps

How Will Augmented Reality Lead to a Revolution in Retail

And a company:

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi everybody

Wow 24 comments on AR? You guys must be desperately waiting for Q1 smartphone numbers... :-). I'll do some replies and comments

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Available for Consulting and Speakerships

  • Available for Consulting & Speaking
    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Hong Kong but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

Tomi's eBooks on Mobile Pearls

  • Pearls Vol 1: Mobile Advertising
    Tomi's first eBook is 171 pages with 50 case studies of real cases of mobile advertising and marketing in 19 countries on four continents. See this link for the only place where you can order the eBook for download

Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009

  • Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009
    A comprehensive statistical review of the total mobile industry, in 171 pages, has 70 tables and charts, and fits on your smartphone to carry in your pocket every day.

Alan's Third Book: No Straight Lines

Tomi's Fave Twitterati