Augmented Reality is Enhancing the Mundane
Like your reality? Or, like most people, do you sometimes get bored of your day to day activities? It’s funny, things like virtual reality temporarily remove you from this world. But augmented reality… Yeah, this could potentially be part of your daily rhythm. It has the ability to work seamlessly with the world around you — enhancing objects in your surroundings with streams of real time data. Sound crazy? Sure, I can see that. Nonetheless, it’s time to take notice of the massive potential surrounding this technology.
No, not Virtual Reality
Honestly, it took me some time to get this straight a few years back. Plenty of buzzwords have been floating around between virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial reality, etc. Given the Jarkable goal is to simplify matters, why won’t we get right to it. Augmented reality is basically a digitally enhanced reality. In other words, it combines your current surroundings and with digital overlays, within your given environment.
Augmented reality is attempting to provide real time enhanced data to your current environment while virtual reality is providing you a simulated, visual rendering.
In contrast, virtual reality creates an environment that is completely computer generated. It utilizes the space you are physically in to render a different environment, but your visual is completely fabricated. This difference creates alternate uses for each technology. But to be sure, they are completely different simulations.
Augmented reality is attempting to provide real time enhanced data to your current environment while virtual reality is providing you a simulated, visual rendering. However, there may come a time where the two of these do become intertwined. If you watched the video in the link, it’s fairly mind-blowing where this could potentially go. Still, we have ways to go.
Given some of these definitions can still be hard to grasp, videos simulating the technology seem to be the best definition. Supplementing the link above, the video below does a solid job of displaying what augmented reality could be:
Augmented Reality: Let’s Do Some Dreaming
The possibilities of augmented reality seem endless. Let’s step away from how practical or non-practical this can be, and explore some of the ways this can be utilized.
Currently, most augmented reality is enabled by an external device, ala Google Glass, the Hololens, or a tablet/smartphone. Place these on your head or enable the augmented reality feature and instantly your world is transformed. Unfortunately, the early versions of Google Glass were more of a publicity stunt than anything else. The features were mostly pre-ordained. In other words, they weren’t reacting in real time to the world around you.
However, like most great technologies, time is the key to flourishing. From what I’ve seen of the Hololens, it has picked up on the dreaming Google Glass dared to do. They now attempt to map the world around you and allow you to transform your environment without physically changing anything.
Let’s look at three concepts using augmented reality to improve how we interact with our world.
Augmented Reality Concept: Spatial Awareness
IKEA has implemented a very practical use for augmented reality. Using their app, it maps your room and lets you place furniture anywhere, to scale, by flicking through your screen. Personally, I’ve always worried how things will look in a physical space so this really is a game changer. Taking it a step further, you potentially have the ability to re-imagine all the spaces in your home through a different prism. With the maturation of this technology, you may be able to mix and match different furniture sets throughout different rooms in the house.
Setting aside furniture concepts, the spatial awareness use of AR will also lend itself to remodels. I am currently remodeling my kitchen and I can attest to the fact that there are a myriad of choices to be made. Picking the right counter top is one of them. With so many styles and choices, it can be hard to visualize what a particular piece might look like in your home.
Enter AR. I downloaded the app Cambria AR on my phone, along with an Android AR plugin. Within 10 minutes I had mapped my current counter top and was flipping through multiple designs — in real time. It blows my mind even as I type this, but I was literally walking around my existing counter with a new style overlaid against the backdrop of my hardwood and cabinetry. There is no mistaking, this technology is already useful today.
Augmented Reality Concept: Learning
Now, imagine you are at the zoo. Augmented reality has the potential to change how we learn about the environment around us. Imagine, as you are viewing the animals you flick your wrist and instantly have data about that creature’s eating habits or surrounding habitat. They are already doing this to some extent, but with different goals using the technology. But there are immense possibilities to go farther (think about the Google video above).
Augmented reality learning could also be applied to nearly any topic. Take human anatomy for instance, one of the most engrossing, yet complex topics out there. Apple is already taking a swing at futuristic learning for such a topic.
The app Complete Anatomy takes biology to a whole new level. The app uses traditional lesson plans and guided learning and couples this with real time AR rendering. What you receive is a fully immersive experience into learning about biology.
Previously, some dummy with plastic or foam organ modeling was the bee’s knees. This app puts that to shame, allowing you to not only view the organs but visually watch how the entire cardiovascular system works in real time. Or maybe you are only interested in viewing muscles and motion related to those systems. With a few button clicks you are watching a skeleton moving and all the corresponding expansions and contractions of the muscular system. All of it is available to you for free, and all you need is an iPad or smartphone to view it.
Augmented Reality clearly has the potential to influence how we learn. This may be the one use of technology that is closest to prime time. It makes learning fully engaging and fun for all ages.
Augmented Reality Concept: Real time enhancements
Lastly, think about being in any environment with tons of action, like watching a sporting event. You’re watching basketball players run down the court and are being fed real time stats on demand. Maybe you wish to place the visual outside of your immediate view but the data enhancement is always available. Anything from points and assists to average acceleration time or top speed of a given player. Again, this use of augmented reality could be applied to multiple environments.
While one could imagine various sports, imagine walking around a crowded city. Looking down a block, you may be able to see literally how far it is, and what the estimated arrival time is based on your current pace. Or real time data in your favorite coffee shop. As you wait in line, real time data is being fed to you about how fast they are making coffees so that you have an estimated wait time. The scenarios are truly endless. Real time augmented reality data truly could influence the way we interact on a day to day basis.
Augmented Reality: The Reality of the Situation
So we have walked through some of the positives or potentials of augmented reality. Now let’s talk about some of the drawbacks and where we are today. As much potential as there is in this technology, it looks like we are still a ways away from hitting home.
Real World Augmented Reality
Some people are finding very unique and inventive ways to implement this technology. Even the art world is getting involved. An artist in New York recently released an exhibit in the middle of Times Square using augmented reality.
While super creative, clearly there were drawbacks. From sunlight/brightness issues to overheating, at this stage, the technology is just not ready for prime time.
Augmented Reality is not quite adaptable enough to adjust in real time to it’s environment. As the article states, if you were slightly off position, the imagery wouldn’t align well. For widespread usage, AR must be seamless to the end user. Also, tinting and image adjustment should be automatic. Most electronics can adjust to lighting in a given environment and augmented reality should be no different. And then there’s the issue of public places…
Watch where you’re going, dummy
Although the video promo for Google Glass is an awesome rendition of the potential of this technology, reality is much different. People must get used to the spatial differentials with augmented reality. There have been multiple reports of fatalities of people simply not paying attention to where they are in the real world. Amazing Pokemon is still so relevant, but I digress.
So it’s is a tricky proposition for the technology: be useful without being in the way. Again, part of it will be the human race adjusting to all these new data integrated with their real world environment. But augmented reality must also be much more discrete and avoid sensory overload. It really is a gray line the technology is walking. The application of augment reality must be fine tuned before mass adoption makes sense.
Speaking of mass adoption, who is wearing that mask on their face at all times? Google is in the right track making it a less cumbersome design, but again, the technology isn’t there yet.
Things like overheating are real, and don’t even get me started on harsh environments. Imagine walking around Dubai, AR set engaged, with all that heat and sand swirling around. These headsets wouldn’t last a week.
This will be one of the biggest hurdles augmented reality will face for adoption. Electronics are smaller and faster than ever, but they still take power, cooling and space to operate. It will eventually get there, but I’m skeptical an answer is around the corner.
An Augmented Reality Future
So where does all this leave us? The potential of augmented reality is unprecedented. From uses in real time data generation to spatial design, the technology truly has the potential to alter the world around us. Given the use of electronic media and the rise of the smartphone, widespread adoption would certainly be embraced.
That is, if the technology is ready. At this stage, there are still a multitude of question marks surrounding the technology and the packaging still needs significant work. The good news is, many of these issues should be resolved with time and money. To be sure, there is no shortage of companies attacking this, like the aforementioned Google’s and Apple’s of the world.
The question is, when will that day be? If we had that answer, you and I would be buying lottery tickets. In the meantime, some real life and simulated videos of what an augmented reality future will look like can keep us dreaming.