Augmented reality is such an all-encompassing field, maddeningly complicated having to deal with human physiology, geo-navigation, high-speed data communications, arcane and esoteric display technology, and a myriad of other details it’s a miracle anyone can get it to work at all. And lot of companies and people who thought they could are, no longer in business — more will follow them into obscurity.
But when it works, it’s magic.
AR can be a first responder’s or an F35 pilot’s helmet, it can be the head up display in your car or airplane, it can be your smartphone or tablet, and someday it will be a pair of glasses no different looking than the ones you may be wearing now.
|Seeing things that really aren’t there: Focals (left), Nreal (Right)|
AR is the next step in information transfer and communications.
Smart glasses will be the biggest development in AR, but we won’t fully enjoy it for a few years, there’s still a lot of issues to be worked out. In the meantime, the smartphone and tablet will be the biggest platform for AR and the biggest consumer device experience.
|The evolution of information delivery: the value of media increases exponentially|
How people will use their AR devices will vary from industrial and scientific to games, informational, and consumerism. The number and types of applications is bewildering from training to capturing expertise, to surgery and first aid, building inspection, and design, and dozens if not hundreds more.
The killer app
Ever since the spreadsheet was available in the microcomputers that predated the PC, the computer industry has been in search of the killer app that would signal the next big thing. In the case of AR there are so many apps it’s a question — is there a killer app for AR?
The answer is yes — e-commerce.
Consumers will buy things with AR in ways they have never purchased before. They will try on clothes, glasses, and shoes virtually. They will position sofas, rugs, and lamps in their homes and offices virtually, they pick custom car interiors, and review house and garden plans.
They’ll search for, and find, information about products in any language and time zone. E-commerce stores, which will be all stores, will be AR enabled, open for business 24-7, and frictionless when making a purchase. Consumers will be able to try before buy and that will reduce misunderstandings, dissatisfaction, and the dreaded returns. Not only a better, smoother, and more satisfying buying experience, but one made with confidence as the wisdom of the crowd will be simultaneously available offering customer experiences.
The early examples of this brave new augmented world can be experienced now with a mobile device. Mobile devices are a good entry experience to AR. They lack the hands-free aspect and recording of everything you that smart glasses will bring but offer almost everything else, and just about everybody has one.
As a result the predictions for the market size and growth of AR is badly warped as forecasters let their imaginations get ahead of themselves and add up all the downloads of AR tool kits, mobile phones and tablets, conference audiences, TV, cinema, and amusement park events, and almost everything and anything else they can find that is remotely related to AR and call it a prediction. That’s exciting for the numbers it produces but fundamentally flawed, and misleading. Too many investors and developers will find they drank that Kool-aide to their sorrow. However, no other industry has ever existed or has the potential to dramatically change the lives of every human on earth as AR does.
But unlike a spreadsheet, one size will not fit all. AR will come in so many different forms, for so many different environments, indoors, outdoors, day, night, hazardous, safe, almost any human existence you can think of will have an AR solution for it. Initially, the use cases will be restricted. Gradually as technology is developed the AR experience will become universal. One of the mistakes made by most, if not all the failed AR efforts to date was reaching too far too wide and too fast. The good news from that is what was learned about where the limits are today — they won’t be there next year or the year after that.
Augmented reality is coming to you sooner than you think and not soon enough for me.