The Dawn of New Technology
Augmented Reality and Mixed reality are the umbrella terms used to explain the blending of the Physical and Digital worlds through a phone, tablet or headset. Augmented Reality is when the Physical World has Digital Information overlaid on to it, the Physical world still remains central to the experience however Mixed Reality is when both worlds are Intertwined and you are able to interact with both the Physical and Digital environments and both are aware of each other.
Augmented Reality is not a new technology but with the advancement of mobile computing this has provided the platform for mass adoption in a truly transformational way. It’s fair to say, that when a technology is used and accepted without the need for explanation, interlacing it with everyday life this demonstrates a clear success. In the late 90’s ESPN introduced the ‘1st & 10’ yellow line for viewers to see play progression in American Football. This yellow line is overlaid on to the live television broadcast via a number of specialised cameras in the stadium, augmenting the viewers experience of the game.
In contrast to this is Google’s Translate app, used by over 200 million daily users, it augments and translates over 100 languages in real time, simply point the camera of the device to the language and it will augment the text to your chosen language.
Mixed reality will see significant exposure and growth over the coming years as it is an integral component to Driverless vehicles (cars, buses, trucks). The tracking and sensors are powered by Mixed Reality, blending the Digital Information with the Physical world and incorporating Artificial Intelligence to provide real time decision making. After years of trials in the US, 2017 saw a number of Governments (UK, Japan, Australia, Dutch) give approval for Autonomous Car trials to take place in their countries. This is a transformational change to the automotive industry and will have significant benefits to the future of road traffic.
In a truly innovative era the use of both Augmented and Mixed Reality are being taken to new levels, pushing the boundaries and inspiring new industries, jobs and solutions. With that said is Augmented or Mixed Reality in a ‘Hype’ bubble or does AR have a real tangible place in the future of technological developments. Over the last 5 years over £2.5 Billion has been invested into Augmented Reality, this has resulted in real innovation coming from both Hardware and software companies. Blue chip businesses such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple and Alibaba are all heavily invested in Augmented or Mixed Reality and have tens of thousands of staff working in R&D to deliver cutting edge devices and applications. Microsoft have recently release their Mixed Reality headset range working with Acer, Dell, HP, Samsung and Lenovo to bring the headset to the mass market. This headset provides ‘Inside Out’ tracking which means no external standalone sensors are required.
Apple has also recently released their first fully enabled Augmented Reality phone, the ‘iPhoneX’ this phone has a number of built sensors to understand its surroundings and computing power to meet the needs of Augmented Reality.
It’s is not just limited to the large organisations; the likes of Ikea have developed their IkeaAR app. This app has access to the device camera and the Ikea catalogue and enables the user to overlay virtual objects from their catalogue on to the physical world. This greatly improves the user experience and makes the shopping experience fully enriched and simple to use.
Amazon is also looking at ways to bring this experience to their platform. Imagine that you’re shopping online for a watch or bracelet, and you want to get a sense for how it’ll look around your wrist. Just point your smartphone camera at your wrist, and an augmented-reality enabled app will show you the item superimposed.
Industries have and will continue to be transformed by using AR enabled headsets: for example Healthcare workers will be able to keep their hands free when working and have critical data fed to them whilst working in difficult clinical environments. Constructions workers in remote locations are able to look at complex equipment and have step by step instructions overlaid for them, no longer reliant on large instructions manual. Architects are able to provide their clients a virtual view of new buildings even when the another building still exists or is an empty plot by augmenting their view. The use of AR in education provides students a new and engaging way to visualise and understand text books. Imagine having the Statue of Liberty as a 10 foot virtual object in the classroom for children to walk around and look at or being able to walk across the Surface of Mars and see the the Mars Rover, all of these are possible using current Hardware and Software and just open up new and exciting ways to learn.
Recently I had the pleasure of presenting an Augmented and Mixed Reality workshop at Eagle Labs to support the 2017 National Coding week and I found it to be a thought provoking and enlightening experience. Whether it be to the young or old the reaction is still the same … ‘Wow’. Many of the audience had heard examples such as ‘Pokeman Go’ the gaming craze that went viral in 2016 and Snapchat which transforms selfies by applying special effects but most were unaware of the underlying technology used. It was a real pleasure in demonstrating different examples of Augmented reality showing people just a small snippet of what can be achieved.
The role of a technology innovators is one of continually pushing boundaries, working with emerging technologies to transform and enable new experiences. It is fascinating and exciting to see how the continual development and innovation in Augmented and Mixed Reality will shape the future use of technology in the classrooms, the workplace and at home.