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Five Interesting Things About Augmented Reality

I recently came back from The eLearning Guild’s Realities360 Conference where I presented a session about developing augmented reality (AR) for learning using Vuforia. I truly loved the conference because I met a several great people who are looking at how to apply AR and virtual reality (VR) to learning. I also learned many new things about AR and VR; highlighted below are what I found to be the five most interesting.

1. Tools are evolving rapidly.
Over the past year, my focus has been on AR tools that require fairly deep programming skills (e.g., Unity, Vuforia, or ARKit). If you don’t need something custom, consider looking into simpler to use tools, such as:

2. You can make an AR headset using your phone.
Similar to how lower-end VR headsets can be created by slipping a smartphone into Google Cardboard, you can turn your smartphone into an AR headset using the Mira Prism headset. This approach does require developing apps meant specifically for this display, but it offers a path to an AR headset that otherwise might be too expensive.

3. AR doesn’t have to be only about computer vision.
Many AR solutions are based on computer vision (what computer or device cameras are able to recognize). Atheer makes an AiR Enterprise Platform that works across different AR headsets. Instead of focusing on what computer vision can recognize, it focuses on how a worker can get instructions and assistance from a remote coach. Imagine the scene where a worker is trying to repair a washing machine and the coach says, “Unscrew this screw next,” while drawing a circle that appears around the screw that should be turned. The worker and the coach can chat with each other through the headset without needing a phone. The coach can send step-by‑step instructions for the worker to work through a process, and the instructions show up in the worker’s view. This means, the worker’s hands always remain free to do the work.

4. Investments are shifting from VR to AR.
According to SuperData Research information presented in a conference keynote session, AR and VR investments were both increasing from 2015 to 2017. From 2017 to 2018, investments in AR remained level and investments in VR declined. Moving forward from 2018 to 2021, the projections are that:

  • Investments in VR will continue to gradually decline.
  • Investments in AR will dramatically increase.

5. AR glasses may be able to be socialized this time around.
When people look back at why Google Glass wasn’t successful, they may point to the fact that Google didn’t make it clear why consumers needed AR glasses, or to the fact that people just weren’t socially ready to be wearing something all the time that didn’t fit the social norms.

Looking back at Google Glass, one may wonder if the next round of AR glasses may also be rejected by consumers. However, at this point, much more groundwork has been done by socializing AR on phones and tablets. As rumors swirl about when Magic Leap, Apple, Microsoft, and others will release mainstream AR glasses, it remains to be seen if these will be more successful. Many people guess we’ll start finding out by 2019.

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