Are con­sumers ready to give aug­mented re­al­ity a try?

Malta Independent - - BUSI­NESS -

You might have got­ten a taste of “aug­mented re­al­ity,” the blend­ing of the vir­tual and phys­i­cal worlds, as you chased on-screen mon­sters at real-world land­marks in last year’s gam­ing sen­sa­tion, Poke­mon Go.

Up­com­ing aug­mented re­al­ity apps will fol­low that same prin­ci­ple of su­per­im­pos­ing vir­tual im­ages over real-life set­tings. That could let you see how fur­ni­ture will look in your real liv­ing room be­fore you buy it, for in­stance.

While “Poke­mon Go” didn’t re­quire spe­cial hard­ware or soft­ware, more ad­vanced AR apps will. Google and Ap­ple are both de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy to en­able that. Google’s AR tech­nol­ogy is al­ready on An­droid phones from Len­ovo and Asus. On Tues­day, Google an­nounced plans to bring AR to even more phones, in­clud­ing Sam­sung’s pop­u­lar S8 and Google’s own Pixel, though it didn’t give a timetable be­yond promis­ing an up­date by the end of the year.

As a re­sult, Ap­ple might pull ahead as it ex­tends AR to all re­cent iPhones and iPads in a soft­ware up­date ex­pected next month, iOS 11. Hun­dreds of mil­lions of AR-ready de­vices will sud­denly be in the hands of con­sumers.

But how many are ready to give AR a try?

Early ap­pli­ca­tions

Of the dozen or so apps de­moed re­cently for An­droid and iPhones, the ones show­ing the most prom­ise are fur­ni­ture apps .

From a cat­a­log or a web­site, it’s hard to tell whether a sofa or a bed will ac­tu­ally fit in your room. Even if it fits, will it be far enough from other pieces of fur­ni­ture for some­one to walk through?

With AR, you can go to your liv­ing room or bed­room and add an item you’re think­ing of buy­ing. The phone maps out the di­men­sions of your room and scales the vir­tual item au­to­mat­i­cally; there’s no need to pull out a tape mea­sure. The on­line fur­nish­ing store Way­fair has the Way­fairView for An­droid phones, while Ikea is com­ing out with one for Ap­ple de­vices. Way­fair says it’s ex­plor­ing bring­ing the app to iPhones and iPads, too.

As for whim­si­cal, Holo for An­droid lets you pose next to vir­tual tigers and car­toon char­ac­ters. For iPhones and iPads, the Food Net­work will let you add frost­ing and sprinkles to vir­tual cup­cakes. You can also add bal­loons and eyes — who does that? — and share cre­ations on so­cial me­dia.

Games and ed­u­ca­tion are also pop­u­lar cat­e­gories. On Ap­ple de­vices, a com­pan­ion to AMC’s “The Walk­ing Dead” cre­ates zom­bies along­side real peo­ple for you to shoot. On An­droid, apps be­ing built for class­rooms will let stu­dents ex­plore the so­lar sys­tem, vol­ca­noes and more.

Be­yond vir­tual re­al­ity

Vir­tual re­al­ity is a tech­nol­ogy that im­merses you in a dif­fer­ent world, rather than try­ing to sup­ple­ment the real world with vir­tual im­ages, as AR does. VR was sup­posed to be the next big thing, but the ap­peal has been limited out­side of games and in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tions. You need spe­cial head­sets, which might make you dizzy if you wear one too long.

And VR isn’t very so­cial. Put on the head­set, and you shut out ev­ery­one else around you. Part of the ap­peal of “Poke­mon Go” was the abil­ity to run into strangers who were also play­ing. Aug­mented re­al­ity can be a shared ex­pe­ri­ence, as friends look on the phone screen with you.

Be­ing avail­able vs. be­ing used

While AR shows more prom­ise than VR, there has yet to be a “killer app” that ev­ery­one must have, the way smart­phones have be­come es­sen­tial for nav­i­ga­tion and ev­ery­day snap­shots.

Rather, peo­ple will dis­cover AR over time, per­haps a few years. Some­one ren­o­vat­ing or mov­ing might dis­cover the fur­ni­ture apps. New par­ents might dis­cover ed­u­ca­tional apps. Those peo­ple might then go on to dis­cover more AR apps to try out. But just hear­ing that AR is avail­able might not be enough for some­one to check it out.

Con­sider mo­bile pay­ments. Most phones now have the ca­pa­bil­ity, but peo­ple still tend to pull out plas­tic when shop­ping. There’s no doubt more peo­ple are us­ing mo­bile pay­ments and more re­tail­ers are ac­cept­ing them, but it’s far from com­mon­place.

Ex­pect aug­mented re­al­ity to also take time to take off.

Ikea's aug­mented re­al­ity app called IKEA Place, on an iPhone, al­low­ing a user to su­per­im­pose vir­tual im­ages over real-life set­tings. The app al­lows shop­pers to see how fur­ni­ture will look in their liv­ing room or other space be­fore buy­ing it

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