This blog talks about Augmented Reality. For virtual reality, check out this blog.
Augmented reality is technology that superimposes computer-generated screens or images over the user's normal vision of reality. Unlike virtual reality technologies which totally repalace your vision of reality, often forcing you to sit down so you don't hurt yourself walking around, augmented reality is designed to work in tandem with your normal life. Also unlike virtual reality tech, augmented reality is not widely available to consumers. However, this will likely change by the end of 2017.
Augmented Reality As We Know It
Since augmented reality (AR) systems need to simply overlay visuals on top of the user's normal vision -- instead of creating an entirely virtual 3D environment -- these systems are comparatively simpler. The design challenge comes from making AR devices lightweight and attractive enough that people enjoy using them.
A basic AR system is comprised of hardware and software. Hardware includes a processor, display, sensors, and input devices. The most likely candidate for AR in the future are our smartphones, as they are already complete with all this tech. Aside from our smartphones, other ideas for augmented reality systems include lightweight headsets, like smart eyeglasses or even smart contact lenses. Google Glass was the closest we have seen so far too smart eyeglasses but they didn't do so well in the market place. Given the track record, my prediction is the next 3 years will see some advancement with glasses, but tons of marketing and advancement in making our smartphones AR devices. Also, since AR is largely a software experience, this tech will be able to run on iPhones and Androids alike, unlike Samsung Gear VR which only works with Samsung smartphones. Right now, the software component of AR is the major challenge, not lot of it exists.
The biggest AR success the world has seen in my view is the video game Pokémon Go. For those unfamiliar, the game is an app that runs on your smartphone, giving you a map of objectives and Pokémon that you can collect. The fascinating thing, however, is that the map takes place in the real world. Through the app's rendering, the Pokémon you want to collect might be inside your gym or the local art museum. By combining the game's virtual world with the real world, they were able to create a very engaging and fun game with augmented reality. This game just scratched the surface of what AR is capable of and raked in $1 Billion in revenue in just 7 months.
Apple, Inc. Steering the Future of Augmented Reality
Recently, Apple announced a huge focus on augmented reality in future. iOS 11, along with the new Apple ARkit will enable all recent Apple iPhones and iPads to become augmented reality-enabled devices with compatible apps.
In their own words:
"iOS 11 introduces ARKit, a new framework that brings augmented reality to hundreds of millions of iOS devices by allowing developers to easily build unparalleled AR experiences. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, augmented reality takes apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways. Like never before, games and apps can offer fantastically immersive and fluid experiences that are out of this world, yet virtually within it." - Apple iOS 11 Preview
To clarify, iPhones and iPods are already technically advanced enough to run AR applications. All the hardware is there. iOS 11 will simply include specific software powerful enough to fully utilize Apple's existing hardware for AR. Their new ARkit allows developers the tools they need to create new, powerful apps based in AR technology. ARkit will accomplish this by new code to access and employ the camera in new ways, scene and image analysis, and more specific and high powered employment of Apple's A9 and A10 processors. For more technical info on the ARkit, check out https://developer.apple.com/arkit/.
In future, I anticipate that augmented reality will surpass virtual reality in applications and industry potential. Seeing as augmented reality doesn't replace or take our time away from actual life, there is seemingly no upper bound on how long and in what locations humans can use AR. Meaning -- to use VR, you must be seated or confined to a certain radius for your own safety. Moreover, the record for VR use is 25 hours of continuous use and that guy was pretty sick afterward. By contrast, since AR merely overlays our normal vision, once the technology is more widely available and versatile, you could hypothetically use AR to enhance your life anywhere, anytime, for as long as you desire.