The growing popularity of augmented reality (AR) apps like Snapchat and Pokémon GO has officially pushed AR into mainstream use. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality superimposes computer-generated images on top of your view of reality rather than taking you into a completely constructed world. While the first thing that comes to mind when you think of AR is probably entertainment and gaming technology, there are a broad range of businesses and industries that can use it to their advantage with exciting results.

AR applications range from geospatial overlays to simulated cosmetics applications to police firearm training. And with spending for AR/VR projected to increase 68 percent this year, the practical applications of AR are growing fast. Here are some of the industries that are making the most of AR technology and the apps that are helping them do it.

If you are interested in building your own AR apps, check out our full list of AR/VR courses and don’t miss our next term beginning January 13!


Students who have grown up using interactive apps are early and enthusiastic adopters of AR-enhanced lessons. AR apps let students experience the material in a more hands-on way than with traditional textbooks and lectures. They’re especially good for helping visual learners gain a better understanding of concepts. AR also helps teachers more accurately and thoroughly assess students’ progress and subject retention. For example, Fetch! Lunch Rush for iOS helps students practice math skills in a practical, real-world environment by challenging them to keep up with lunch orders.


Image source: IKEA
Image source: IKEA

Retailers in particular have proven the potential of AR apps, providing the ability for customers to try on clothes, jewelry, and other items in a 3D environment as if they’re actually trying them on in the store. AR also enables users to access a store’s full inventory from anywhere, making it easier for them to make purchases they’re happy with. Some retail applications include the Dressing Room by Gap app that lets buyers enter their body dimensions and virtually try on clothes while in their own homes. IKEA used Apple’s ARKit to create an app that lets customers virtually place furniture in their homes before deciding on a final purchase.

Marketing and Advertising

With interactive and immersive experiences, marketers and advertisers are using AR to connect people with their brands like never before. Interactive ads help companies forge a deeper and more positive connection with customers than traditional ads. Additionally, augmented reality marketing and advertising is often more cost effective than traditional print ads. AR enables customers to try out a product virtually before deciding to buy, increasing sales and revenue. OmniVirt AR apps for iOS and Android help marketers and advertisers in multiple industries create interactive and 360-degree ads that let customers interact with products in a way traditional ads cannot.


Image source: Appearition

With the ability to overlay location-specific information, augmented reality has added a whole new dimension to the travel industry. With the help of AR apps, you can virtually explore cities before you even arrive, allowing you to see data on hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, instant translations, and more. The Lonely Planet Compass City Guides Android app lets travelers access expert advice for 25 cities around the globe, with GPS-enabled maps and augmented reality camera views.


AR is being applied across multiple branches of the military and in the defense industries. While it can’t fully replace live or field training, it can augment it, allowing recruits to train in realistic simulation environments while saving money on updating expensive training equipment. Immersive training with AR also reduces risk, offering safe and effective ways to simulate high-danger environments like combat or aerospace scenarios. Augmented headgear for military training is widely used, from aerospace head-up displays with training overlays to virtual battlefield exercises.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement is using technology to train cadets in real-world simulated scenarios that replicate the audiovisual and physical stimuli that they might encounter in the field. This hands-on training can reproduce the actual stress responses officers would have, helping them to practice making the right judgment calls during high-stress situations. VirTra’s V-180™ app simulates decision-making and tactical firearms training. This 180-degree immersive app helps cadets learn real-world survival skills in a low-risk training environment.

Create Your Own AR Apps with Columbia Online

With mobile app development in full swing and AR app development growing at a fast pace, there are unlimited and untapped opportunities out there. Regardless of your technical background, we have online courses to go from an idea to a functioning app in just 8 weeks. Our Developing AR/VR Apps course will introduce you to Unity software and cover coding basics in ARKit that you can use to create your own apps. For those with a background in coding and programming, enroll in our Advanced Augmented Reality Apps course to work directly with a Google AR Software engineer and build a series of apps to add to your portfolio. For even more opportunities in AR/VR, explore out our full listing here.

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