Home Centre's AR app allows shoppers to virtually place a piece of furniture in their home before buying. Home Centre.
Home Centre's AR app allows shoppers to virtually place a piece of furniture in their home before buying. Home Centre.

Forget Pokémon Go – Augmented Reality finds traction among business users

Gaming studio Niantic Labs announced in November the details of its newest game – Harry Potter: Wizards Unite – expected to be released this year. Based on augmented reality, the highly anticipated smartphone game will be overlaid on users’ real-world neighbourhoods, allowing players to discover and fight legendary beasts and take down powerful enemies, all while walking on the streets close to their homes.

The game is the latest to attempt to tap the potential of AR, defined as the integration of digital information and the physical environment in real time, where apps take the user’s existing surroundings and superimpose computer-generated information on top of it via a smartphone or other device. While AR has been around for some time, it shot to the mainstream with the hugely popular 2016 game Pokemon Go, also developed by Niantic.

Pokemon Go was a world-wide phenomenon, and the one of the first examples of mass adoption of AR. At its peak, the game had more users than Twitter in the US. It went on to earn more than US$600 million within three months of its launch, the fastest game to hit the landmark. 

The upcoming Harry Potter game will be Niantic’s follow-up to Pokemon Go, and will mark the start of a new chapter in the evolution of AR-based mobile entertainment.

But AR’s reach promises to extend far beyond gaming; the technology is also experiencing a gradual adoption in various business sectors.


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Google Glass, the search giant’s AR-equipped spectacles first announced in 2012, may have failed to catch on in the mass market, but are proving to be a useful ally for medical professionals conducting surgeries and other complicated medical procedures. Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset allows architects to move around large-scale projections of buildings to look out for safety issues. 

Technology start-up Meta is developing an AR-based headset that will allow users to completely shift their desktop-based computer usage to apps inside the headset – making the day-to-day office functions totally computer-free – and establishing the Meta 2 headset an effective replacement for the traditional desktop monitor. 

Retail is another area where AR is making headway. Ikea in September launched its Ikea Place App, which uses AR to allow users to see for themselves how their chosen pieces of furniture would fit and look in their own homes. Similar functionality has been introduced by the UAE retailer Home Centre.

Lego has introduced AR kiosks in some of its retail shops that allow potential customers to scan a toy of their choice and immediately get to see, in 3D, what the finished product will look like.

Based on such developments, the US research analysts Digi­Capital predict the global AR market will grow to reach $83 billion by 2021.

That said, it’s still early days for the mass adoption of AR outside games and entertainment, with several challenges facing the technology. The most important among these is the relative lack of availability of AR-powered hardware at affordable prices. Microsoft HoloLens or Google Glass are great at high-end visualisation, but at over $1,000 their costs remain high.

In spite of progress in a number of areas, very few apps and use cases have been launched in the AR space to make the domain anything other than a highly selective niche.

With limited developer support and lack of compelling business models, AR needs a big thrust from somewhere to reach the next level of adoption.

It helps that the collective might of tech powerhouses such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook is firmly behind the technology. Enhanced AR capabilities were among the key features highlighted by Apple in its iPhone 8 and X models, unveiled last year.

Governments and corporations in the Middle East are also increasingly experimenting with AR. 

Dubai Land Department in September launched Mashrooi, an AR-powered app that allows users to track the progress of real estate projects and compare actual construction against developer plans. Dubai Frame, which opened this month, features AR screens for visitors that allow them to identify nearby landmarks.

Emirates launched an interactive amenity kit in 2016, that used AR to unlock immersive content on travellers’ mob­iles via the Blippar app. Last month, the airline launched Noel the Polar Bear as part of its Fly With Me Animals range, complete with a gift card that unlocked 3D AR content via the Emirates Kids AR app.

Such examples hint at the possibilities that AR offers in both consumer and business segments. In the coming years there may well an explosion of these.

As the physical and digital worlds increasingly become intertwined, our sensory experiences are in for the ride of a lifetime. 

The specs: 2018 Renault Koleos

Price, base: From Dh77,900
Engine: 2.5L, in-line four-cylinder
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Power: 170hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 233Nm @ 4,000rpm
Fuel economy, combined: 8.3L / 100km

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

If you go...

Etihad Airways flies from Abu Dhabi to Kuala Lumpur, from about Dh3,600. Air Asia currently flies from Kuala Lumpur to Terengganu, with Berjaya Hotels & Resorts planning to launch direct chartered flights to Redang Island in the near future. Rooms at The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort start from 680RM (Dh597).

Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Swollen glands

The specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo

Power: 217hp at 5,750rpm

Torque: 300Nm at 1,900rpm

Transmission: eight-speed auto

Price: from Dh130,000

On sale: now


Created by: Jesse Armstrong

Stars: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Nicholas Braun

Rating: 4/5


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

The years Ramadan fell in May





Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now


Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

How The Debt Panel's advice helped readers in 2019

December 11: 'My husband died, so what happens to the Dh240,000 he owes in the UAE?'

JL, a housewife from India, wrote to us about her husband, who died earlier this month. He left behind an outstanding loan of Dh240,000 and she was hoping to pay it off with an insurance policy he had taken out. She also wanted to recover some of her husband’s end-of-service liabilities to help support her and her son.

“I have no words to thank you for helping me out,” she wrote to The Debt Panel after receiving the panellists' comments. “The advice has given me an idea of the present status of the loan and how to take it up further. I will draft a letter and send it to the email ID on the bank’s website along with the death certificate. I hope and pray to find a way out of this.”

November 26:  ‘I owe Dh100,000 because my employer has not paid me for a year’

SL, a financial services employee from India, left the UAE in June after quitting his job because his employer had not paid him since November 2018. He owes Dh103,800 on four debts and was told by the panellists he may be able to use the insolvency law to solve his issue. 

SL thanked the panellists for their efforts. "Indeed, I have some clarity on the consequence of the case and the next steps to take regarding my situation," he says. "Hopefully, I will be able to provide a positive testimony soon."

October 15: 'I lost my job and left the UAE owing Dh71,000. Can I return?'

MS, an energy sector employee from South Africa, left the UAE in August after losing his Dh12,000 job. He was struggling to meet the repayments while securing a new position in the UAE and feared he would be detained if he returned. He has now secured a new job and will return to the Emirates this month.

“The insolvency law is indeed a relief to hear,” he says. "I will not apply for insolvency at this stage. I have been able to pay something towards my loan and credit card. As it stands, I only have a one-month deficit, which I will be able to recover by the end of December." 


Uber is ridiculously cheap and, as Diego Saez discovered, mush safer. A 45-minute taxi from Pulova airport to Saint Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospect can cost as little as 500 roubles (Dh30).

Uber policy in Russia is that they can start the fare as soon as they arrive at the pick-up point — and oftentimes they start it even before arriving, or worse never arrive yet charge you anyway.

It’s amazing how active Russians are on social media and your accounts will surge should you post while in the country. Throw in a few Cyrillic hashtags and watch your account numbers rocket.

With cold soups, bland dumplings and dried fish, Russian cuisine is not to everybody’s tastebuds. Fortunately, there are plenty Georgian restaurants to choose from, which are both excellent and economical.

The World Cup will take place during St Petersburg's White Nights Festival, which means perpetual daylight in a city that genuinely never sleeps. (Think toddlers walking the streets with their grandmothers at 4am.)

The walk from Krestovsky Ostrov metro station to Saint Petersburg Arena on a rainy day makes you wonder why some of the $1.7 billion was not spent on a weather-protected walkway.


Date started: January 2017
Founder: Khaled Zaatarah 
Based: Dubai and Los Angeles
Sector: Technology 
Size: 21 employees
Funding: $7 million 
Investors: Shorooq Partners, KBW Ventures, Vision Ventures, Hala Ventures, 500Startups, Plug and Play, Magnus Olsson, Samih Toukan, Jonathan Labin


Male 51kg Round 1

Dias Karmanov (KAZ) beat Mabrook Rasea (YEM) by points 2-1.

Male 54kg Round 1

Yelaman Sayassatov (KAZ) beat Chen Huang (TPE) TKO Round 1; Huynh Hoang Phi (VIE) beat Fahad Anakkayi (IND) RSC Round 2; ​​​​​​​Qais Al Jamal (JOR) beat Man Long Ng (MAC) by points 3-0; ​​​​​​​Ayad Albadr (IRQ) beat Yashar Yazdani (IRI) by points 2-1.

Male 57kg Round 1

Natthawat Suzikong (THA) beat Abdallah Ondash (LBN) by points 3-0; Almaz Sarsembekov (KAZ) beat Ahmed Al Jubainawi (IRQ) by points 2-1; Hamed Almatari (YEM) beat Nasser Al Rugheeb (KUW) by points 3-0; Zakaria El Jamari (UAE) beat Yu Xi Chen (TPE) by points 3-0.

Men 86kg Round 1

Ahmad Bahman (UAE) beat Mohammad Al Khatib (PAL) by points 2-1

​​​​​​​Men 63.5kg Round 1

Noureddin Samir (UAE) beat Polash Chakma (BAN) RSC Round 1.

Female 45kg quarter finals

Narges Mohammadpour (IRI) beat Yuen Wai Chan (HKG) by points.

Female 48kg quarter finals

Szi Ki Wong (HKG) beat Dimple Vaishnav (IND) RSC round 2; Thanawan Thongduang (THA) beat Nastaran Soori (IRI) by points; Shabnam Hussain Zada (AFG) beat Tzu Ching Lin (TPE) by points.

Female 57kg quarter finals

Nguyen Thi Nguyet (VIE) beat Anisha Shetty (IND) by points 2-1; Areeya Sahot (THA) beat Dana Al Mayyal (KUW) RSC Round 1; Sara Idriss (LBN) beat Ching Yee Tsang (HKG) by points 3-0.

Expert advice

“Join in with a group like Cycle Safe Dubai or TrainYAS, where you’ll meet like-minded people and always have support on hand.”

Stewart Howison, co-founder of Cycle Safe Dubai and owner of Revolution Cycles

“When you sweat a lot, you lose a lot of salt and other electrolytes from your body. If your electrolytes drop enough, you will be at risk of cramping. To prevent salt deficiency, simply add an electrolyte mix to your water.”

Cornelia Gloor, head of RAK Hospital’s Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy Centre 

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can ride as fast or as far during the summer as you do in cooler weather. The heat will make you expend more energy to maintain a speed that might normally be comfortable, so pace yourself when riding during the hotter parts of the day.”

Chandrashekar Nandi, physiotherapist at Burjeel Hospital in Dubai


Android Alpha

Android Beta

Android Cupcake

Android Donut

Android Eclair

Android Froyo

Android Gingerbread

Android Honeycomb

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Android Jelly Bean

Android KitKat

Android Lollipop

Android Marshmallow

Android Nougat

Android Oreo

Android Pie

Android 10 (Quince Tart*)

Android 11 (Red Velvet Cake*)

Android 12 (Snow Cone*)

Android 13 (Tiramisu*)

Android 14 (Upside Down Cake*)

Android 15 (Vanilla Ice Cream*)

* internal codenames


Director: Rajkumar Hirani 

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover

Rating: 4/5

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

The specs: 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy

Price, base / as tested Dh97,600
Engine 1,745cc Milwaukee-Eight v-twin engine
Transmission Six-speed gearbox
Power 78hp @ 5,250rpm
Torque 145Nm @ 3,000rpm
Fuel economy, combined 5.0L / 100km (estimate)


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Places to go for free coffee
  • Cherish Cafe Dubai, Dubai Investment Park, are giving away free coffees all day. 
  • La Terrace, Four Points by Sheraton Bur Dubai, are serving their first 50 guests one coffee and four bite-sized cakes
  • Wild & The Moon will be giving away a free espresso with every purchase on International Coffee Day
  • Orange Wheels welcome parents are to sit, relax and enjoy goodies at ‘Café O’ along with a free coffee