I have been interested in augmented reality for a number of years. My first post on the subject dates back to 2009, asking the question, “How Large Will AR Be?” When I discovered the world of image and object recognition thanks to the app Snaptell, I immediately began exploring how augmented reality would be incorporated into our daily lives. With the creation of companies like Blippar and Apple’s subsequent acquisition of Metaio, the technology’s evolution supported the coming emergence of augmented reality as a new paradigm for computing.
While it has taken some time for the technology to catch up with the initial hype, we are entering a period in which augmented reality is likely to step out of the trade show booth and become a main stream application. Thanks to Pokemon Go people got to experience the joy and “magic” of seeing a digital character emerge in the real world. It fostered a connection with the promise and potential of augmented reality that no other app leveraging the technology had previously captured.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is extremely optimistic about augmented reality. He has said on a number of occasions that the technology could prove to be as transformational as the smartphone itself. While that’s a very optimistic statement to make, in many ways I agree with Apple’s CEO. Overlaying digital information on top of the real world will become one of the most pervasive computer interfaces in our lives.
Whereas smartphones and other digital devices currently act as physical barriers to experiencing the real world, with a phone’s camera serving as a digital porthole, augmented reality promises to free consumers from the phone-to-face paradigm that dominates how we engage with digital information in the physical world. Instead, augmented reality glasses will seamlessly blend digital information into our point-of-view. The information will appear to be a natural part of one’s environment. When the boundaries of the technology become invisible, it will have a truly transformational effect on every aspect of society.
As we have seen over the past few years, with apps like Blippar, Layar, Snapchat, and Pokemon Go, augmented reality experiences in the near-term will rely on our smartphones. It is rumored that the iPhone 8 will incorporate new technology into its native camera functionality that will lend itself directly to enhanced augmented reality experiences. With the ability to sense depth thanks to a 3D laser scanning module and the underlying IP from Apple’s Primesense acquisition, users will be able to elegantly manipulate photos thanks to improved object recognition. This will allow users to add digital information and objects on top of any image or video. From there, the promise of augmented reality reality is in glasses and other wearables that will free us from having to take our phone out of our pockets every time we want to access digital information.
Thanks to future AR-enabled glasses every time we open our eyes we will have the ability to see data, images, information, and multimedia content that will appear to exist in an extra dimension. With the application of artificial intelligence that will customize experiences based upon a user’s behavior, augmented reality promises to give us an enhanced view of the world. The business applications alone are enough to convince a person of the technology’s vibrant future. Augmented reality will play a major role in healthcare, education, manufacturing, hospitality, and any other industry that relies on real-time digital information as a means of operational improvement.
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that further details about Apple’s augmented reality ambitions would come out at the same time as the company’s release of its new Clips app. Clips is essentially what would happen if Snapchat and iMovie had a baby. It gives users the ability to creatively apply filterA and after-effects to any photo or video. One of the more unique features is the ability for the app to automatically overlay captions and titles on a video based upon voice recognition. If Apple is able to successfully build a strong user base with Clips, imagine what the company will do with that pool of creators once augmented reality is a native feature of Apple’s camera app.
After reading the analysis of pundits like Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble I am even more certain about augmented reality’s auspicious future. With the breadth of content and information that we are creating daily, experiences will need to be created that intelligently filter this information. This is where artificial intelligence will truly shine when blended with augmented reality. AI will determine the most appropriate content to show to a given user based on his previous behavior, location, age, and other external factors. Augmented reality will function like an intelligent window that automatically adjusts what one sees based on who is looking through it.