Observations on Augmented Reality

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Illustration of Pokemon Go and Virtual Reality

If you’re a card-carrying nerd like me, you find emerging technologies fascinating. One of the latest emerging technologies is augmented reality.

Different from virtual reality, AR overlays digital elements into real life so you have information that helps you:

  • Better understand what’s going on (yardage markers on a televised football game)
  • Enhance your fun – (Snapchat’s filters or Pokemon Go)
  • Educate yourself – (Starchart app)
  • Navigate the world (Wikitude World Browser app)

These are just a few of the simple ways AR enhances our lives – for now.

Because it’s certain that both VR and AR hold the capacity to change the way we live. Of course you can find a wide range of opinions arguing which technology will take off first. Both have their challenges, but AR has a number of challenges that VR doesn’t.

According to a white paper called “Breaking the Barriers to True Augmented Reality”, technical barriers such as embedding digital images into the real world in a believable way, combined with non-technical barriers such as ethics, make AR the more difficult technology to implement. Ethical issues include lack of privacy, access to natural vs artificial information, loss of critical thinking skills – and this doesn’t even include the rules and laws that might need to be considered to keep the general population safe.

Yes, it’s true that as technologies emerge, new issues and questions come to the forefront. Remember Google Glass? In 2012 the augmented reality wearable was hot. Glass made the rounds of news and entertainment shows. Celebrities were wearing it.  The Simpsons even devoted a whole show to it. But for a number of reasons – internal Google disputes, an early release with lots of bugs and privacy concerns – the Google Glass flame turned to embers. For now, Google has taken Google Glass off the market but has assigned it to another product team. (And if it isn’t, that team’s name should be “Phoenix”.)

So how to avoid becoming an AR casualty?

Brian Wassom, attorney and author of the book “Augmented Reality Law, Privacy, and Ethics”, write that AR’s success is based on the convergence of three attributes:

  • Convenience is the ease with which people interact with digital data in the same way they do in the real world
  • Creativity  is the “creative zone” that AR enables
  • Capability reflects the tipping point where digital/mobile technologies have evolved to enable AR

And it goes without saying that AR’s success will also be based on its financial potential, which could be upwards of $120 billion by 2020.

No matter what AR’s road to success looks like, I think nerds and non-nerds alike can agree the journey will be fascinating!

Want the full body VR experience? Try the Google Daydream View or Samsung Gear VR.

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