From time to time, I like to give you readers, many of whom are my regular clients, a glimpse as to what’s ahead in the world of tech. For me, it’s interesting, especially in the tech industry, to look ahead to see “what might be,” or, in some cases, “what could have been.”
Remember a few summers ago when people (young and old) were in public parks and streets playing “Pokémon Go” from their mobile devices? It was all the rage for a short amount of time. Even though the game is still played, the initial buzz has died down and playing of the game has since tapered off. But, unbeknownst to many, it was an important moment in technology, as it brought the phrase “Augmented Reality,” or “AR,” to the vernacular.
What is “AR”? Is it just for playing silly games on your smartphone? As it turns out, no, but “Pokémon Go” was one of the first mainstream uses of AR technology. In short, AR is the mixing of technology and “the real life.” AR brings components of the digital world into a person’s perception of the real world. The best way to understand AR is to envision future practical ways that you could utilize it.
It’s important to mention here that “AR” and “VR” (Virtual Reality), are slightly different. VR is entirely virtual. AR is partly virtual. The best way to understand this is that VR usually requires special goggles or lenses to experience. You might know someone, maybe your grandchildren, that own a pair of VR lenses, which may enhance their enjoyment of a video game or app.
Many of you may not know that you have access to an AR feature already at your fingertips. If you are a Facebook user, open the Facebook app on your smartphone or tablet. Swipe left on the screen and you’ll see the camera open. Press the little photo of the “magic wand” and you should see a number of squares, some with photos of animals, or maybe hats, or masks. Try pressing on one of those. Don’t be surprised when AR technology transforms your face into a cat, or superhero, or zombie! Here’s the cool part, try turning your head slightly to the right and left……see how the effect follows the contour of your face? Pretty cool, huh? That’s what I mean about the merging of worlds earlier. A digital component (in this case, a puppy-dog mask effect) is mixing into the real world (your face).
Now, as a sidebar, you know that I stress the importance of practicing and playing around with your gadgets, so I expect to see my inbox full of AR photos from Facebook. So, for those of you following along, please email these photos to email@example.com and I’ll reward the first 5 people to send me an AR photo of themselves experimenting with AR on their own gadgets with a special treat.
Enough of the silliness, let’s talk about more serious uses of AR. AR is still in its early development, but imagine some of these cool uses of AR:
-Imagine AR combined with a GPS app (like Google or Apple Maps). As you drive, a popup appears that points out the name of a business, maybe if the business is currently open or closed, and maybe a phone number that you could call that business right away.
-Imagine AR for use by the real estate industry. You and your spouse walk into an empty home. The agent, equipped with an iPad, can use AR to virtually place furniture in the room to give you an idea of how much space a room has. Read about how home remodeling app Houzz is already implementing this feature.
-Imagine AR in the medical field. Maybe AR is used to train future doctors and nurses and improve their skills. Or maybe it can be used by your doctor to help you understand the process of taking a drug or medicine and what effect it has in your own body.
What will be the key to AR is the development of Heads Up Displays (HUDs). Remember my last column in February, where we discussed the popularity of digital touch screens and how many devices don’t have knobs and buttons, but just a touch screen where everything is controlled. HUD’s take that idea and project an image onto a non-traditional display screen (consider the windshield of a car). HUD’s are considered safer in vehicles because the driver doesn’t have to shift their eyes to their console, but is it too much of a distraction for a task like driving a car?
In my opinion, a world where an image can be displayed right into thin air is not too far away.
Today we hear a lot about trying to figure out what is real and what is “fake news” in the media and online life, but what about trying to decipher what’s real and what’s not in your own world? Imagine walking in public and seeing AR being used. That’s essentially what was popular about the “Pokémon Go” game mentioned earlier. The mixture of the real and the “not real” (virtual) got everyone in a craze! Hollywood is already relying heavily on CGI to make things look lifelike in major motion pictures, but what about CGI-like components in everyday living?
It’s enough to make you pause and think – just where is our society headed? The cliff? We’ll see!
Post & Computer Center – Freshfields Village