Could Augmented Reality (AR) be the wave of the future?
Recently, in my focus to write out product reviews, I missed writing articles that outline my thoughts or highlight recent trends. In this spirit, I thought to put out something that’s getting traction recently- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).
Multimedia support has been the all-time game-changer in technological inventions. Thus, whenever a change in the representation of computer graphical/audio data erupts, a rapid transformation of computer generations is likely to follow. Take for instance traditional computer applications used to be controlled by some dark command-driven unfriendly terminal. This was long before the introduction of GUI (Graphical User Interface) systems (these are systems that use graphics to pass commands to the hardware e.g. the one you have used to access this page). At the moment, the popularity of GUI applications has rendered command driven interfaces to be almost obsolete. Another example is the introduction of touchscreen technology and how it paved way to modern smartphones, smartwatches, televisions, vehicle dashboards …name them.
And now, we behold in our markets two new and extremely amazing multimedia technologies: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). Of course, VR was the first technology to be released into the market. VR’s earliest research could be dated back to 1990s. However, the technology never became very popular until 2012 when more research was pumped in by Oculus in creating the Oculus Rift VR. Later in 2014, Facebook eyed the Oculus and bought it at $2b. Since 2014, VR’s popularity seems to have exploded into the market. So, HTC threw in their Vive which has been mimicked by several smartphone companies (I mean China has done well in this), Lenovo added their Daydream, and if you have upgraded your PS to PlayStation 4, then I am certain you don’t need a definition of Virtual Reality, do you? However, not much has been disclosed of Augmented Reality at the moment. Nevertheless, AR has greatly hit the headlines in the recent years with the market’s trailblazers like Google and Apple showing the keenest interest in AR. So, I ask my question again: could AR be the wave of the future? Or could AR be just a passing fancy? Well, let’s explore.
First, what is AR? Is it just like VR?
Of course not, these two technologies are somehow distinct though they may have some similarities as well. A VR headset, for example, will completely shut your view to the external world and will immerse you into a virtual world whereby you watch a movie or play a game as though you are actively involved in a real-world 3D environment of the movie or game. Augmented Reality, on the other hand, does not deduct you from your normal environment. In AR you will just put on transparent glasses (meaning, you will view the normal environment) but AR will distract you a bit by displaying images into your real normal environment. So, if you are in VR, you will momentarily say “goodbye actual world” whereas if you are in AR you will only spice your actual world. That’s the greatest difference between the two and this is what will determine what technology is likely to survive longer and which one may soon become a kick in the dust.
What we know for sure about AR applications so far is that…
Google Glass was the earliest invention that implemented an aspect of augmented reality. Google glass displayed 2D images and the ideal concept behind it was that of having Google on everything you laid your eyes on. However, it all didn’t go well as many could have prospected. The main concern was that the health of the glass wearers was not guaranteed. Besides, there was fear of ease in breaching confidentiality where the glasses were used. Thus the Google Glass technology didn't become too popular and was eventually recalled from all social networks.
Recently, Microsoft Company threw in their AR card when they released a new headset with 3D-features that they called The Hololens. Hololens does borrow a lot from Google Glass in the representation of images. The main difference, however, is that Hololens displays 3D images, unlike the 2D images that were displayed by Google Glass. In my honest opinion, I find it hard to classify Hololens as an AR kit. This is because Microsoft has not clearly defined this headset as a definite AR headset as Google did. However, if you have seen this headset in use, it is 95% clear that the kit has not embraced a VR anatomy at all, thus the classification.
The biggest blast, however, is the rumor that Apple has been cooking a very serious AR stuff that is likely to sweep the internet as from this year.
But rumor has it that Apple is developing an AR storm…
Besides Google, Apple has been a major trailblazer in innovative technology, although Apple is very secretive. Now, this same Apple has of late been reported to be secretly working on a serious AR advancement in the past two years. Given its nature, nothing can be clearly be defined but everything is open to speculations. One main reason why many suspect this is because Apple has hired key developers of AR since then, the leading among them being Doug Bowman (America’s finest VR developer) and others like Yuri Petrov (developer Oculus) and Zeyu Li (developer Magic Leap). Besides, Apple’s CEO has consistently kept giving thumbs up to AR than VR in most of his interviews. Thus, it is very likely that Apple will blast the internet this year (when they will be celebrating their 10 years in the market) with an AR invention that could possibly pave way for more AR advancements for iOS.
The again, this year Apple has announced to release a new tool known as iOS ARKit which will help iOS developers in developing apps that feature on AR. Surely, even the doubting Thomas could have believed that Apple is obviously developing some serious AR stuff. Yes, this may take some time, but the wave of AR from Apple is oncoming in any case.
One sure bet you can be certain of is that Apple (unlike Google which released Google Glass instantly and fell) will not release all their AR inventions instantly into the market, just like they first released iPods, which paved way to smartphones, and then later tossed in their tablets, it is likely that Apple will first release AR mobile applications this year and then bring in their AR glasses next year (or something of the sort). Well, as I think about it then, AR will be the next storm waiting to sweep our markets.