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Augmented Reality Booming Worldwide, Thanks in Part to Pikachu

Nearly 20% of gaming industry professionals were working on such apps in 2015, up from 2014’s 7%

The past few weeks have been dominated by Pokémon Go, not just in parks that double as Poké Stops or on sidewalks filled with eager trainers gazing into their smartphones, but online, too. And while the internet is rife with thinkpieces and forecasts about the app signaling the oncoming era of augmented reality (AR), the technology was already becoming a big trend in the media world.

Number of Deals and Amount Invested in Virtual/Augmented Reality Companies Worldwide, Q1 2015-Q1 2016

A June 2016 report from CB Insights tracks the investment in virtual reality (VR) and AR companies worldwide from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016, and it’s immediately apparent that, even before Pokémon Go, such companies saw a massive upgrade in investment—from Q4 2015’s $238 million to a whopping $1.08 billion in Q1 of this year.

Pokémon Go, however, didn’t hit the market until Q2 2016, so the increased investment in AR predated the hit mobile game.

Game Industry Professionals Worldwide Who Are Interested in vs. Currently Developing Games for Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality, 2014 & 2015 (% of respondents)

A January 2016 report by UBM Game Network, meanwhile, reveals that while just 7% of gaming industry professionals worldwide were developing VR or AR games in 2014, nearly 20% said the same just one year later.

This, again, suggests that far before Pokémon Go arrived, AR was gaining quickly in popularity, especially within the gaming industry itself. A July eMarketer webinar covered the field of AR in depth, noting that while Pokémon Go might be dominating the cultural zeitgeist, the field of AR is far larger—and has been gaining momentum for some time.

That said, there’s little question that the new app has brought the appeal of AR to the masses, and rapidly. Whether that appeal lasts beyond the novelty period, or extends to other applications with less of a pre-existing base of fans, remains to be seen.

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