Augmented Reality – 3 steps in the right direction

AR with HoloLens

A lot has been done on the Virtual Reality side of technology. Nowaday’s it seems that the crossover from this technology to the real world – translated in Augmented Reality (AR) – is where the latest focus is at. Making information available and letting humans interact with that content while it is integrated in their real life environment forms the next big thing, according to a lot of people.

I’ve seen three very high profile Augmented Reality products coming to the developer community since beginning 2013 that really set the tone for what we will actually be using as a platform. This post describes 3 of the most profound products that proof that AR is coming to the crowd soon. More after the break.

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To me, the begin of the era of Augmented Reality was marked by the introduction of the Google Glasses back in 2013. Google made an AR wearable with the size of sunglasses available to the public by introducing a prototype program with a – relative – cheap Explorer (developer) kit that could be used by everyone with $1500 on hand and coding experience (meaning both small developers and enterprises). The possibility of being “always online” and retrieving information and recording the moment literally with the blink of an eye was empowering the people wearing these glasses but also scared strangers surrounding them. Both technical and social developments and hurdles start coming to the surface and made this new technology something the general public could start having an opinion about. A wearable combined with AR are coming to town, and Google Glass proved that they will be around very soon. The realisation of that fact was a wakeup call that this technology wasn’t really that future babble anymore but that it is coming to the public soon whether we like it or not.

While the Google Glass Explorer program has ended late 2015 it has morphed into another phase focussing more on enterprise practices. A second generation Google Glass is under development as we speak (or read) and the concept is submitted for FCC approval in December 2015.Google Glass

The second milestone to define AR wearable technology was set by Microsoft with the HoloLens
. A wearable that starts by targeting the developer community and has more of a form factor of hardened ski-glasses than sunglasses but Microsoft’s take on interaction, location – and environment – awareness and the applications make it very interesting and noticeable a very high end AR platform.

By letting your environment’s structure influence your AR interfaces this platform has an interesting edge in that it doesn’t only show extra information but it actually “projects” interactive content on tables and things like screens or touch interfaces on walls etc. I remember thinking about how this will be a very understandable step towards AR integration when you have a classic OS mindset.

Check out the nitty-gritty on the Why HoloLens page.

Microsoft Hololens

The third big (virtual) eye opener came into my sensor range late 2015 when Meta presented their latest device; although the AR wearable’s form factor appears to be somewhat similar to the HoloLens the OS is being setup from an entirely different angle. The conceptual definition for the Meta AR platform lies in Neuroscience and how our senses and interaction defines what we as humans find the most comfortable and easy way to work. By letting hand gestures and interacting with AR content in a “human fashion” set the basis for the AR experience, Meta is going for a “path of least resistance” which looks like a jump in the right direction. As Meron Gribetz – Founder and CEO of Meta – stated in an interview with Robert Scoble: “Technology is only going faster, look at how long the internet took to get to its current form and how short smartphones took to be developed into their current state. Each new technology will evolve faster so it won’t take very long before AR devices will be all day wearable devices for everyone and also become affordable and usable”.

Look at Meta’s presentation at TED in March 2016 and let their demo inform you on what their angle and platform are about.

Meta 2 AR Glasses

I know one thing for shure, if giants like Google and Microsoft are churning up the AR toil and fresh startups with a great vision and a focussed concept just like Meta with their AR Glasses 2 keep going at it the dream of integrating information and interaction with our daily lives will become reality within then next 3 – 6 years. Let’s just hope that we as people can evolve our mindset just as quickly so that Augmented Reality technology and platforms will let us work, socialise and interact with eachother on a more profound level instead of ending up in another bar fight.

And for that, please let it be affordable and not make us look like (cy)borgs from Start Trek so we can look cool while using it. Make that happen and count me in for including an AR device for 2020’s Christmas List.

Star Trek Borg