The biggest part of an optical illusion is seeing something that wasn’t actually there. But what if it really was? That’s the beauty of Augmented Reality (AR), innovative technology which allows 3D digital objects to appear, almost magically, in real-life. That’s modern-day magic the great illusionist Harry Houdini would be proud of. Why? AR is global, can span industries and easily help transcend consumer experiences and interactions in the physical world in ways that have never been done before. Let’s take a closer look.
Despite the first head-mounted display being created in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland, AR is still a very young technology that has many emerging possibilities for business and personal use. Why? It’s taking what is familiar and making experiences more engaging no matter where you are. By way of example, have you ever wondered how stock tickers, news alerts, the yellow NFL first down marker and weather maps are overlaid onto live television broadcasts? That is AR in its very basic and earlier form. By stark contrast, a bigger, much more exciting example of AR is Nintendo’s Pokémon Go which literally put its game into the hands of gamers and as a result saw it revenues jump an astonishing $600 million in its first three months alone, a record for a mobile game. The example of Pokémon Go certainly generated a ton of interest into how to capitalize on mainstream consumer interest in using AR, a market that some estimates suggest could top $120 billion market by 2020, up from $5 billion for both AR and virtual reality (VR) in 2016. This means AR is about to hit a huge growth spurt, and fast.
While the military has been integrating AR for years, newer areas ripe to be transcended by AR include manufacturing, healthcare, auto and retail. In coming weeks we will elaborate as to why these areas are important to our mission here at MIMIR and how we expect them each to converge with blockchain, especially retail. For now let us just say from a manufacturing perspective, AR can help you train easier, work faster, discover problems earlier and have access to data when you need it most. This collectively will cut human error and drastically lower production downtime, something that will translate into a bigger bottom line.
As for healthcare, it’s all about precision and AR can certainly give nurses more accurate vein locations for drawing blood. It will also help surgeons receive the training they need to be successful during surgical procedures, even ones they do not perform routinely. When necessary, AR could even allow a remote expert help guide risky operations or allow a 3D health trainer to virtually coach you wherever you are. Another amazing use of AR in the healthcare world is the use of stencil outlines around objects, including faces, for someone with limited vision. Imagine helping to give some sight to those that are legally blind. Mind-blowing.
When it comes the future of auto, experience is the cornerstone of the connected car, especially in a growing self-driving and car sharing environment. We are expecting AR to play a key role in the evolution of displays where instrument panels were previously. This technology, which could make owners manuals a thing of the past, will also replace side mirrors with displays inside the cabin, something already approved in Japan and being considered for implementation in the EU by 2018. We expect virtual graphical interface displays and the ability to watch movies via cinematic augmented reality in self-driving cars by 2030. There will also likely be hologram keypads for consumers to enter specific codes to enter car sharing vehicles.
In the retail world, the possibilities are endless. AR can bring virtual 3D products (and people) to the consumer, incentivize them to engage with products/people, enter physical stores or reward them for participating in a demonstration that was overlaid on the surface of a building or literally right in front of them, like digital magic (a topic we discuss at length in our Luc1D white paper: Digital Air Rights and Decentralized Applications in an Augmented World). AR can also be used to overlay directions, showcase reviews or promote new specials on street signs or storefronts. Also, we see conversational commerce and innovative storytelling as emerging areas for AR to fuel a more personalized and secure retail transaction experience, especially at a time when some of the biggest global advertising companies need to tap unique technological innovation to help reverse ad spending deterioration and lower engagement from brands and publishers on major social platforms like Facebook — perhaps this opens the door for AR to be a new way for companies to smartly introduce new products and actually bring them closer to the consumer, something that should lift the current spending on ads — maybe even in a big way.
Now let’s be real. Not everyone wants to wear special headsets or optical smart glasses to interface with AR, and that’s ok. They may not have to. AR’s interface may move beyond headsets and glasses and involve thinking outside of the phone via strategically placed glass windows (i.e. buildings, bus stops, train stations, shopping malls) and other wearables interacting with tangible objects, thus giving the ability for any object to be a part of the user interface. Cool huh?
Regardless of the central interface for AR, privacy and power longevity are certainly pain-points that need to be overcome. This opens the door for blockchain and AR to work together complimentary, a topic we will discuss more fully in upcoming blogs. This will hold true even for spatial augmented reality (SAR) which uses secured digital projections of graphical information on real-world objects as mentioned earlier.
The best part of AR is its potential to bridge the physical and computer-generated world “on-the-go”. So if you thought the Pokémon Go craze was big, you haven’t seen anything yet. But you soon will. As Apple CEO Tim Cook recently stated during a Bloomberg Businessweek interview, “I am so excited about augmented reality, I just want to yell out and scream.” So could we Tim.
At the end of the day, if you like magic, augmented reality will soon mesmerize you more than the amazing Harry Houdini, David Copperfield or David Blaine could ever do. If you don’t like magic and need to actually see it for yourselves to believe it, don’t worry, this isn’t a fad technology or a vanishing act. This is why companies like Google (Magic Leap, ARCore), Sony, Microsoft (Hololens), Facebook (Camera Effects, Oculus) and Apple (ARKit) are all actively backing AR innovation and helping to make it the next best big thing after the smart phone. In fact, Apple is expected to make a big announcement regarding AR when it unveils the iPhone 8. Therefore is may not be so far-fetched to speculate that AR might become the transparent mobile phone of the future.
If you are as passionate about AR solutions as we are at MIMIR, follow us on Twitter and stay tuned to learn more about this exciting topic and the infrastructure we are building to make this possible.