The Augmented Reality Revolution
The Augmented Reality Revolution
It’s difficult to predict the movements and shifts of technology. We live in a world now where new developments are constantly emerging and as consumers we’ve grown accustomed to seeing products rapidly grow and swiftly become obsolete within a very short time span.
But will that be the case with augmented reality? It certainly doesn’t seem so.
Being specialists in the industry for over half a decade we’ve watched AR hang excitedly in the wings of the tech theatre for several years and are finally getting excited that it is becoming more widely available and gaining investment from the technology giants.
We believe that AR holds a lot of capability to enhance existing technology platforms, and if successful, it may one day revolutionise the way we use our devices to view our real world.
The principle benefit of AR is interactive visualisation – the ability to see things in direct relation and context to the user’s surroundings. This means that there is a whole world of opportunity for AR to be used in existing industries to more effectively visualise, communicate and simulate ideas. We’re seeing AR spread into many different markets – industrial, consumer, medical, architecture, military and travel to name a few, but this is surely set to increase as more industries come to terms with the fact that AR can provide a useful solution for improving idea communications whilst reducing costs in regards to human resources, time and space.
AR uses combinations of input devices (RGB cameras, GPS, gyroscopes, compass and depth/infra-red cameras) to interpret the users immediate environment. Each of these provide details of the user, or their location to allow 3D content to be overlaid with it. By combining the inputs, highly accurate, live calculations can be made relating to very specific elements of the user and the environment – position, pose, surfaces around the user, objects/images of interest and location to create seemingly realistic additions to the real world environment.
2017 is a particularly ground breaking milestone for AR due to the fact that we’ve seen Google and Apple both invest in AR and start to introduce mobile hardware capable of handling better quality AR experiences. From better cameras to higher processors, the future of mobile AR is looking promising.
On the other hand, higher end AR experiences are also finding their place in the industry, although currently growing at a slower pace we’re seeing additions such as the Microsoft Hololens begin defining future standards for the high end consumer chunk of the AR market place.
Before venturing on a whimsical journey of futuristic predictions and perspectives, think about technology for a moment. How many jobs, social connections, events and leisure activities have no connection with technology? Mobile computing and the Internet have revolutionised the integration of technology into almost every facet of our lives. But even the most advanced smart phones are still some way off from delivering genuinely integrated experiences for the user.
Augmented Reality, delivered in a subtle, natural and convenient way moves the technology from an interesting visualisation tool to the third eye. A device which tracks and presents information and visualisations around you so accurately and flawlessly that only the removal of the device can give clarity on the “real” World.
We are some way from this point and there will be several phases to progress through before this Utopian (or nightmare, depending on your perspective) view of the future exists.
In September 2017, Apple took their first step into the market with the release of their ARKit. We now await the first AR specific hardware from them in terms of timescale and format. The cloak of Apple secrecy means that nobody knows for sure but our estimate is that Apple glasses are at least a year off and most likely two years or more for a consumer model that has a universality, level of sophistication and style capable of creating mass appeal.
Before that, we expect to see a rapid increase in the developer tools to give more precision and facilities for delivery through traditional devices.
Microsoft is taking a business and gamer approach (as you would expect from their current market domination) and released a developer only headset called Hololens in early 2017. Though it’s large and has a small FOV (the “digital window” one looks through), the basic components are sophisticated and indicate the direction of the first consumer release. Microsoft have taken a year out until the next release on the basis that the market is not ready and the hardware still needs an improvement, therefore a step change was needed rather than a 12- month evolution.
20 years ago, carrying a phone around that was rarely used as a phone and using an electronic A4 pad at home to consume most of the “TV” content would seem slightly alien. AR glasses will almost certainly be the transition hardware for AR. Glasses will be popular, easy and “normal”.
Beyond that, there are already prototype contact lenses with screens on and, if we are to believe the likes of Elon Musk, cerebral inputs would be a much faster way of communicating with computers.
Bear in mind that our reliance on Sat-navs mean we don’t remember routes, that our socialising on smart phones has reduced face-to-face contact and our reliance on the internet has adapted our learning behaviour from memorising of facts to the filtration of information, AR will be your plug-in, zone out, speech-free, auto-routing, remember nothing, real-World blurring, visually over-driving zombie maker. We can’t wait.
Welcome to the future.