Im­pos­ing on Re­al­ity

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Kayla Cloete Im­age © is­tock­

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.

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