How Augmented Reality is Already Changing Lives
The Summer of Augmented Reality
Summer of 2016 may seem a distant dream but in the tech world it will be forever remembered as the Summer of Pokemon. The feel-good hit of the Summer came out of nowhere and overlaid Pokemon on top of bald heads, sleeping faces and every other surface users could find. It was and still is crude compared to what many futurists and film creative directors see is coming but this foray into the world of Augmented Reality served as a reminder that we’re just around the corner from much deeper immersive experiences.
AR is still very much an untamed genre but there are companies making strides to bring easy development platforms to developers. Right now there is a lot of speculation about what AR is and can do, below is an exploration of this exciting new technology.
Augmented Reality in Pop Culture
For many, the idea of VR and AR (and don’t forget Mixed Reality) still conjure up memories of the clunky 90’s, Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and the 80’s version of Tron. A great introduction on how Augmented Reality could work in the future is the short film Hyper-Reality by Keiichi Matsuda, where the main character navigates a hyper-capitalist society of the not too distant future using deeply immersive reality overlays (https:// vimeo.com/166807261).
This idea of hyper-consumerism may seem far-fetched but augmented apps for shopping, trying on clothes, trying on sunglasses and other aspects of purchasing goods are already arriving. Matsuda’s film represents an extreme version of augmented reality that few from any current living generation would abide. Future generations will likely find the level of intrusion posed by immersive AR as a welcome addition of convenience even with a loss of privacy.
While this type of future tech may one day become commonplace, what is more likely in the near future is that we’ll begin to see more uses of Augmented Reality similar to One World Trade Center’s city explorer (https://youtu.be/P_gUT9Uvoto). The tower uses iPads to give viewers a look at notable points across New York’s skyline, zoom in to explore and get a feel for the city as viewers are walking around the top of the tower.
AR in the Near Future
Remember Minority Report or Prometheus with the cool gesture based screens? That’s likely going to be one of the biggest uses of Augmented Reality and there are already working products for those that can afford it. The other side of the coin is the recent Kickstarter project ZapBox. Rolled out in April 2017, it became the first consumer grade AR development platform on Google Cardboard, making it widely accessible to millions of people at a cost of just $30. But these are all visual examples so far.
Augmented Reality lends itself primarily to visual enhancements but one headphone company called Doppler Labs has released what it is calling the world’s first Augmented Reality Earbuds, the Here One. Using phone software, users are able to control sound interactions from multiple environments
which led to one particularly humorous and crass review from Alejandro Tauber (https:// the next web. com/ apps /2017/04/07/ here-one-earbuds-real-future-of-ar/#.tnw_ Ixgkhxwn). If you’re a James Bond gadget fan, this is welcome news, you’ll now be able to block out your friends if they try to spoil any film plots in front of you – although how this helps take down an international plot to take over the world may not seem as clear yet.
AR in Healthcare
As robotic and VR/AR technologies continue to advance, they will inevitably become married together in many health applications. While remote robotic surgery (http://www.bbc.com/future/ story/20140516-i-operate-onpeople-400km-away) has been used for a number of years now, Augmented Reality offers the capability to add information overlays during surgery.
Duke University has started practicing with the Microsoft Hololens ( https:// techcrunch. com/ 2016/ 10/ 10/ duke-neurosurgeons-test-hololens-as-anar-assist-on-tricky-procedures) to increase precision during tricky brain surgeries where there may be low levels of visibility and brain tissue can’t simply be pushed aside. AR combined with robotic hands will provide surgery where small hands will glide through miniscule incisions while the surgeon observes a screen with real time patient information displayed. Imagine it was only in 1967 where the first heart transplant took place and started by hacking
open a chest – just 50 years later and we’re looking at regrowing tissue and monitoring it with holograms, thankfully leaving the hacksaws at home.
Virtual Reality may have taken an early lead in the AR/VR debate but Augmented Reality is certainly catching up thanks to its increasing convenience and usefulness. Pokemon Go proved that AR can be highly mobile much like a plethora of Google Cardboard apps. Its future applications, however, will reach much deeper as consumer brands begin to adopt it in stores, as the medical industry continues to improve patient outcomes and eventually as users bring it into their homes – who wants to clean up after a dog anyway when you can simply display an augmented puppy?