Of all the tantalizing possibilities for the future suggested by science fiction, the Star Trek franchise's Holodeck technology is perhaps the most appealing. Imagine a room that projects anything you desire -- transforming into a relaxing island idyll, a challenging ski course or the prow of a Royal Navy ship.
Scientists are predicting we will have the technological capabilities to create our own Holodecks by 2024. And we're already more than halfway there, especially when looking at augmented reality (AR) technology. Below, we mention six companies you can invest in now that are working on this technology -- and two below that are closest to pure plays.
AR technology hit the technology and investing spotlight this year with the release of Niantic's Pokemon Go mobile game. The popular game, which uses characters licensed from Nintendo, harnesses a user's cellphone camera to overlay fantasy characters onto real environments. This is basically what the Holodeck from Star Trek did -- project fantasy settings and characters onto the walls of an existing room.
But the crew of the Enterprise didn't use the Holodeck only for just rest and relaxation; rather they role-played critical scenarios and conducted forensic investigations. AR has a growing list of practical uses for real-life enterprise with a lower-case "E."
That includes doctors practicing surgery and conducting examinations, homeowners trying out potential furniture purchases and businesses conducting remote meetings with the opportunity to turn walls into whiteboards. AR will be a big development for corporate America.
There are big profits in AR, as well. Goldman Sachs estimates that the market for AR and its sister technology VR (virtual realty) will reach $80 billion by 2025, with the potential for that figure to reach $180 billion.
Many of the companies developing augmented reality hardware and software are among the biggest names in technology: Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Report , Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report , Facebook (FB) - Get Report , and Apple (AAPL) - Get Report , to name four.
There are plenty of smaller players working on AR technology, especially when it comes to applications for enterprise organizations. That's where some of the biggest profits are going to be made. Get in on these small-cap stocks now and watch your wallet expand as they either turn into large caps themselves or are gobbled up by the big boys.
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One of the hottest AR-for-enterprise companies on the market today is Vuzix (VUZI) - Get Report . This tech firm, with a market cap of $144.75 million, has been around for nearly 20 years. Until 2012, most of its endeavors were in the defense space, but then it sold off that division to focus on commercial applications for its AR products.
The M100 was its first successful release, an augmented reality headset that has become popular among airline pilots. Now the company is beginning to ship its next model, the M300, to its VIP customers and partners for early application and testing.
Yesterday, Vuzix announced that VMware (VMW) - Get Report , a leader in cloud and business mobility infrastructure, will incorporate the M300's "smart glasses" management features to its AirWatch platform. This will enable corporate users to synchronize and incorporate their Vuzix smart glasses with a whole network of productivity software.
The potential here is huge, as more companies look to get into using smart glasses technology on a daily basis. It makes Vuzix one of the most exciting up-and-coming names in AR. Today, the stock is priced below $8.50 per share, but some analysts are calling for it to reach $30.
Augmented reality will transform the way enterprises conduct their business. Savvy investors should start peering into the reality of AR smart glasses and prepare to make profits from companies about to hit it big.
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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.