The Rapid Rise of Augmented Reality in Southeast Asia


Augmented reality is technology that enriches your view of the real world by superimposing digital information such as sound, video, and text.

It is used to offer enhanced perceptual experiences and typically employs high-tech software which can perform object recognition and artificial intelligence in order to make information about a user’s real-world become more interactive.

First developed in the early 1990s at the U.S. Air Force’s Armstrong Laboratory, the first augmented reality software was developed primarily to offer an immersive digital technology experience for the military.

The original software, called Virtual Fixtures, included spatially-registered visual overlays which were shown to improve manual dexterity in Virtual Fixtures users.

The main benefit of augmented reality, also known as AR, is that it integrates aspects of the digital world into an individual’s perception, making the user’s environment easily changeable and highly interactive.

How We Use Augmented Reality in Everyday Life

While this technology may sound very complicated, we actually use augmented reality daily in messages to friends and family on social media.

A popular example of augmented reality can be seen on social media channels — the image filters on the widely-used social media app Snapchat are an excellent use of augmented reality.

Snapchat’s image and so-called ‘lens’ filters enable users to take photos of themselves which use artificial intelligence technology to add dog ears or a flower crown to their head, obtain a doe-eyed appearance, or even switch faces with a friend.

Snapchat’s use of augmented reality in their Snapchat lens feature has become so popular that the competing social media website Instagram has added selfie filters to their photo editing offerings.

While augmented reality can enhance the visual features of a Snapchat or Instagram post, it can be extremely powerful in other applications as well.

For example, AR can be used in mobile marketing to improve engagement with an ad and develop realistic, virtual experiences with products.

According to the Bangkok Post, augmented reality has three times the market size of virtual reality, indicating that the evolving augmented reality market segment will continue to expand and rapidly outpace the more-established VR industry.

Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality

Augmented reality is primarily concerned with modifying and enhancing a user’s view of the real world, by somehow manipulating the perception of the environment.

On the other hand, virtual reality deals with developing an immersive, but novel, 3D experience which may not closely resemble the real world at all. While AR can be accessed on a smartphone or other mobile device, VR requires high-tech gadgets such as goggles or a headset.


Despite the differences between VR and AR, they can both be used to develop unique and cool marketing.

AR could help fashion designers develop software that enables shoppers to play in a fitting room outfitted with the designers’ latest styles. VR could be used to develop a 3D fashion show of the most recent collections.

While AR can even be used when shopping to research new makeup looks, see whether an Ikea couch would look good in one’s house, or even virtually try on clothes in a shopping mall. Augmented reality has many applications for recreational gaming, as well as shopping and helping improve worker productivity and operational efficiency.

Augmented Reality & Pokemon Go in Thailand

Pokemon Go is a popular game driven primarily by augmented reality. The game, which launched in 2016, is estimated to be worth more than $15 billion dollars in 2022.  In Pokemon Go, players traverse their natural environment—the real word—looking for Pokemon which are strategically located in various places.

When players near a Pokemon, it will appear on the player’s smartphone or tablet screen, and they will be able to capture the Pokemon. The goal of Pokemon Go is to collect as many Pokemon as possible.

Pokemon are located near their “natural” habitats, so water Pokemon such as Squirtle are located near lakes and rivers, while quarries and parking lots are where players would be most likely to find a ground type Pokemon, and shopping malls and railways are ideal sites to locate an electric Pokemon.

5 million people around the world play Pokemon Go every day.


Southeast Asia remains fanatic over Pokemon Go, and countries have even used it to improve tourism. Thailand’s tourism board, for example, became embroiled in controversy when it sought to use Pokemon Go to boost tourism by adding more Pokemon stops and gyms in the country.

Niantic, the makers of Pokemon Go, responded to Thailand’s request for more rare Pokemon to catch within its borders with concerns that a number of Pokemon which could be found in Thailand are located in what could be called ‘sensitive areas.’

In a move that was in direct conflict with the national tourism agency, Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission asked Niantic to avoid placing Pokemon Stops at four types of places in the southeast Asian country: government property, religious places, private buildings, and places like roads and canals which could pose a hazard to players.

Despite this controversy, Pokemon Go remains popular in Southeast Asia, and two years after the app’s launch, it has a leading place on the app store rankings today.

Research conducted in July 2016 indicated that In Vietnam and the Philippines, 4% of all Android devices were reported to have Pokemon Go installed.

Beyond its applications in games played for enjoyment, augmented reality is already used in many applications – for example, in the workplace, augmented reality can be used in bottling plants to put soda into bottles and cans and help employees stay informed about problems on the production line. In the aerospace industry, augmented reality can be used to increase the accuracy of parts manufacturing.  

While it may seem highly ultramodern and therefore complicated to deploy, AR technology is actually very simple to use. Large tech companies such as Apple are working to develop augmented reality toolkits which can make AR more accessible to companies, consumers, and others seeking to incorporate AR technology into their ventures.

The Future of Augmented Reality in Southeast Asia

Asia is predicted to lead the augmented and virtual reality markets by 2020, which are estimated to be worth $120 billion by 2020, according to Tech in Asia. Some of this market explosion will be driven by apps such as Pokemon Go, while other growth could be driven by the use of augmented reality in the workplace and in the retail sector.

Augmented reality has played a leading role in Southeast Asia’s burgeoning tech industry. AR is attractive around the world and in Southeast Asian countries because it enables humans to better interact with and improve employee productivity by implementing high-quality control standards, such as on a production line.

Therefore, the future of augmented reality could be potentially very beneficial for those seeking to improve employee capabilities and the operational efficiency of their company.

This can be accomplished with AR by integrating performance support with common tools and software in the workplace, and by utilizing precise computer vision based tools which can update the employees in real-time to help solve problems and assist in critical thinking required for the production line or other workplace environments.

Additionally, AR can offer expert video support in a given industry or anywhere around the world, and offer a rich source of “on the ground” performance data which can be analyzed and mined to obtain insights to improve worker efficiency.

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Tech Giants Play a Huge Role in Development

The most important software and hardware components for continued improvements to augmented reality technology are the computer’s central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU), which act as the ‘brains’ of the computer.

Innovations in these technologies – e.g., by Asian tech companies such as South Korean tech giant Samsung, who is known for its sophisticated state-of-the-art CPU and GPU hardware. Hardware innovations are therefore expected to be the most significant drivers of the AR and VR market.

VR remains an entertainment-focused market primarily comprised of video games and theme parks, and computer hardware; non-entertainment VR apps are a very small portion of the overall VR market.

It is projected that AR will follow a similar market sector mix, driven primarily by innovations in hardware that can support AR technology, with commerce, voice, video, marketing, and revenues from apps contributing slightly less to the mix.

Thailand’s Digital Natives Will Help Drive AR Boom

According to the website Tech in Asia, Asia could become the main driver of AR/VR revenue by 2020, which has attracted investors’ attention to participate in this lucrative market. So-called “digital natives” will likely be a main demographic for AR technology advancements as they have grown up using their cell phone.

Asia has a high percentage of these “digital natives,” and in Thailand, there are currently more mobile phones than people. Over 5 million digital natives live in the country, amounting to 6.3% of the whole population and 42.3% of Thais between the ages of 15 and 24.

Southeast Asia Tech Companies Set to Be Major VR & AR Players

All the major tech companies are currently exploring AR technology: Samsung and Facebook are working together to develop mobile VR, with Facebook having acquired VR giant Oculus back in 2014 for $2 billion, and Google and collaborators Magic Leap are also exploring AR and VR.

Google, HTC, Samsung, and Sony have developed consumer VR headsets, while Apple and other large tech companies are also pushing forward on AR and VR research with hopes that high-end AR and VR can be within reach of the average consumer in the next decade.

Southeast Asian companies are also harnessing VR and AR technology with hopes to become market leaders.

Philippines-based ZipMatch helps users buy a home, matching brokers with potential homebuyers.

Indonesia’s Octagon Studio is a multimedia educational company using AR and VR tech to create mobile and wearable devices such as flash cards, 3D animations, and panoramic images of scenic places around the world.

Malaysia’s EXA VR Park is a next-generation theme park, the first of its kind, in which players wear a VR headset and engage in various tasks such as saving the planet from an alien invasion.

Singapore also represents a major hub for VR and AR content creation, with companies TaKanto, Hiverlab, and VizioFly offering opportunities for video production, mobile app development, among other features.

To further understand how AR might benefit your business, check out this article by Mobile Marketing company CleverTap.


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