The Amazing Possibilities of Augmented Reality

The future is here

And it’s manifesting itself in the form of millions of young people stumbling about the streets, eyes locked on their phones.  Pokemon Go may not work very well but its symbolic value is unmissable and it has triggered a voracious appetite for a future in which all our reality will be augmented.

What is it?

Whilst Virtual Reality devices offer the user a totally immersive and isolating experience in a fictional world, Augmented Reality technology creates a visual overlay on the real world.  Although it’s generating a huge amount of excitement Pokemon Go is only a very rudimentary example of this technology in that the Pokemon only appear on the user’s phone; the full Augmented Reality experience would enable the player to see the Pokemon in the real physical location.

The Motivation for the Technology

The term ‘Augmented Reality’ was coined by a Boeing researcher as recently as 1990 and initially it was as a service tool for the maintenance of technology that this new technique seemed to be most applicable.  ‘Imagine a spacecraft designer studying full scale holograms years before a piece of metal is cut’.  Pretty soon though it became apparent that there is a wow factor to this technology, it’s not just that it can be really useful in a whole range of contexts, it can be really fun.  And nothing sells like fun.

The Future of AR

Suddenly it’s hard to imagine a sphere of life where AR won’t have an impact.  Explore a city guided by virtual arrows or a museum with virtual commentaries on the exhibits.  Decorate your home with AR so that you can decide what it looks like before buying that new sofa or splashing paint around.  Suddenly any space could become a shop of your choice so that a walk in the park could actually be the opportunity to browse in your favourite shoe shop and if you’ve time to kill in somewhere boring then just do some AR shopping.  Hospitals are already exploring the training potential of this technology and it sure would lively up those Science lessons for millions of teenagers.

New AR Methods

Currently the smartphone or tablet is the ‘window’ to the augmented world but as I suggested earlier this is a fairly rudimentary form of AR.   Digital imagery can be projected directly onto physical objects to striking effect but ‘projection mapping’, as it’s known, although striking in its effect, is limited in its application.  Surely the future lies with head mounted systems such as Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens, in which digital imagery is projected into the prism projection system located between the eye and the outside world so that the viewer sees the digital image as an integrated part of the real world.

Industries Transitioning to AR.

2.5 billion AR apps are expected to be downloaded by 2017 and the majority of those apps are going to be games based.  

In addition to video gaming, online card rooms and casinos are certainly expected to make the transition into AR. In fact, there’s been a marked increase in the merging of gaming companies, partly in order to combine assets and put more money into the development of technology, and providing elements of realism is certainly something developers are keen to integrate, making AR an obvious transition for them. Partypoker, very much at the forefront of new developments in technology, released a gesture control based app earlier this year, with which players can bet or flick cards with a swipe of the finger. But it’s Casino VR that are at the forefront of the breakthrough.

Travel is also another obvious industry to make the transition into AR, with VP of engineering at Airbnb Mike Curtis quoted as saying “It would be nice to do a virtual walk through of an apartment before you book, it’s all in the future but it's relevant and it’s possible.”

More on Geekweek


Sign in to comment with your TypePad, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo or OpenID.