Tech Quiz:

To ex­pe­ri­ence AUG­MENTED RE­AL­ITY, you look through a de­vice screen or put on a head­set and a vir­tual im­age is laid over the room you’re in. You can see what’s around you, but part of it is blocked out by what­ever video pro­jec­tion is play­ing on your head­set

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Contents -

Aug­mented vs vir­tual re­al­ity


▶ A cam­era and screen equipped with com­puter vi­sion, a tech­nol­ogy that iden­ti­fies ob­jects and sur­faces. Adding depth and mo­tion sen­sors lets a de­vice map the room around you and track your mo­tion through it. Your app can then over­lay any­thing from a first-per­son-shooter zom­bie at­tack to the steps to re­place a fan­belt.


▶ Mo­tion sick­ness sets in when your per­ceived mo­tion – what you see – doesn’t match what your in­ner ear feels. That’s not the case with aug­mented re­al­ity, says Robert Scoble, co-au­thor of The Fourth Trans­for­ma­tion: how aug­mented re­al­ity and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will change ev­ery­thing. You’re still look­ing out on the real world and the same hori­zon.


▶ For now it’s pretty sim­ple: catch­ing Poké­mon (Poké­mon GO), map­ping con­stel­la­tions (Sky Map), ink­ing a tat­too (Inkhunter), turn­ing you into a half-dog (Snapchat).

AR can’t scan a room and iden­tify every ob­ject. But you can teach its com­puter vi­sion to iden­tify in­di­vid­ual ob­jects, such as a mo­tor­cy­cle, when prompted, says Mike Camp­bell, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of the Thing­worx AR plat­form. “There’s not enough com­put­ing power to an­a­lyse ev­ery­thing it sees.”


▶ AR on mo­bile de­vices re­ally is mo­bile. Un­like high-end VR, which can’t leave a room, AR can en­hance a city tour or mu­seum. Last win­ter, the Detroit In­sti­tute of Arts lent vis­i­tors An­droid phones to view the skele­ton in­side a 2 000-year-old sar­coph­a­gus and to see the orig­i­nal colours on a now-beige Assyr­ian sculp­ture.

How­ever, AR is dif­fi­cult to wear on your face. Every­body thinks we’ll be walk­ing around with the next Google Glass. but so­cial con­straints prevent that, says Case, adding, “Sun­shine makes head­set AR dif­fi­cult to see, voice and hand con­trols are still un­re­li­able.”


▶ Hands-on skill train­ing, in­te­rior de­sign, wear­able com­put­ing.

AR can lead a fac­tory worker on a tu­to­rial, but right now the tech­nol­ogy won’t change your life un­less you own a fac­tory, says Am­ber Case, a fel­low at Har­vard’s Berk­man Klein Cen­tre for In­ter­net and So­ci­ety. A Mi­crosoft Hololens can over­lay hid­den parts such as a tucked-away air fil­ter and demon­strate its re­moval. Sim­i­lar pro­grams are in devel­op­ment for phones and tablets and could soon of­fer lifechang­ing re­lief for tasks such as Ikea fur­ni­ture assem­bly.


▶ AR will ex­plode in the next year. To­day, rel­a­tively few de­vices of­fer a rich AR ex­pe­ri­ence, lead­ing to a lack of de­mand for new AR apps – phones with Google’s Tango AR num­ber less than a mil­lion. Ex­pect that to change af­ter Ap­ple’s June re­lease of IOS 11 ARKIT for de­vel­op­ers, says Scoble. ARKIT is a bun­dled suite of AR tools that can reach a quar­ter bil­lion Ap­ple de­vices. Ad­di­tion­ally, the up­com­ing new iphone adds 3D sen­sors and room map­ping that can play holo­gram­like counter-op games or vir­tu­ally mea­sure and then fur­nish a room with­out drain­ing bat­tery.

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