Imposing on Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) became the new buzzword in the world of technology after Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Jose, California, in April this year. According to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, AR is the way forward for this global giant – as well as the rest of the world.
AR technology, which is related to Virtual Reality (VR), super-imposes computergenerated images upon a user’s view of the real world. It sounds rather futuristic, but many of us do not realise that we are already making use of this technology. We see it in luxury vehicles that project things such as speed limits onto the driver’s windscreen, and in social-media photo applications which allow us to wear virtual bunny ears and regurgitate rainbows.
“The tools today are primitive. People aren’t using primitive tools because they prefer primitive tools. They’re using primitive tools because we’re still early on the journey to creating better tools,” Zuckerberg told Recode, an independent tech news website.
AR is still in its infancy in terms of its development, but Zuckerberg has high hopes for what this technology will be able to do in the future. It will not be long before Facebook has developed AR to the point where things such as menus will pop up while at a restaurant through the use of the app’s camera.
Google was the first to have a go at this sort of technology for the general public with their Google Glass, which was released in 2014. The glasses resembled standard eyeglasses and projected information onto the lenses, so wearers could interact with the Internet while simultaneously interacting with their surrounding environment.
The public initially responded with a great deal of criticism to these AR headsets. The idea of having a gadget that constantly emits radiation so close to the brain was cause for concern to many people. The fact that the Google Glass could be recording or taking a photo at any time also presented many with an uneasy feeling about the product. Ultimately, legislative action due to privacy and safety concerns brought the production of these glasses to a standstill – until it was announced in July this year that the Google Glass Enterprise Edition would be released. The idea behind these updated glasses is that they are to be used in enterprises, such as on the manufacturing floor, and are to be taken off at the end of the business day.
“I think everyone would basically agree that we do not have the science or technology today to build the AR glasses that we want,” Zuckerberg reportedly said. “We may in five years, or seven years, or something like that. But we’re not likely to be able to deliver the experience that we want right now.”
Whether there is truth to Zuckerberg’s words, or whether Google has already beaten Facebook in the AR race, remains to be seen. The point still stands that Facebook has its eyes set on developing AR, and is not afraid to step on toes in order to do so.
Facebook’s own AR “Camera Effects Platform” that launched earlier this year mimicked developments by other socialmedia platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram. According to an article by senior reporter Alex Heath from Business Insider, “Facebook’s move to open up its AR capabilities to other apps and services is another direct attack on Snapchat, which is credited with pioneering AR camera effects but has yet to open its technology to developers.”
Heath writes that Facebook has already invested over $2 billion into the development of their virtual reality division, but the company believes that the demand for AR will eventually outweigh the demand for VR. As a result, Zuckerberg and his team plan to invest time and energy into this growing market and become the industry leaders in this division – no matter how many toes are stepped on.
“Even if we were a little slow to add cameras to our apps, I’m confident that we’re going to be the ones to push this augmented reality platform forward,” Zuckerberg concluded.
While AR might not be at the level of ’90’s sci-fi movies just yet, it is well on its way to getting there. And Facebook might well be the application to watch in order to see how far this technology will go.