When we talk about AR, as in augmented reality, we typically mean some kind of head mounted display that allows us to experience a complete new way of computer interaction.
The term ‘augmented reality’ is defined by Wikipedia as “a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data”.
They make this definition extremely wide to catch any kind of application possible. While there is nothing wrong with this definition, we have to keep in mind that it is not the basis for everyone writing about AR. AR has also become a high tech phrase that makes everyone look good that works with it. As a consequence, every time somebody uses the term we add to the definition and understanding of the term for the general public.
Here are some examples being announced in just the last few days:
BMW is rumored to release an augmented reality HUD in the upcoming 2017 version of the BMW 5 series. By that the writers mean that the new AR HUD will add more information to the HUD such as “the distance to the vehicle ahead, cross roads and points with low visibility, objects and people that are on the road or in blind spots, information direction of a curve, and others.” Keep in mind that the Wikipedia definition basically already makes every HUD in a car an augmented reality device, as it supplements the real world by giving navigation information for example. On top of that, BMW will use an “augmented reality browser”.
The Singapore postal service released a new edition of collector stamps that enable an augmented reality experience in connection with an app available for free. When loading the app, the consumer is able to scan the stamps and will see additional videos. This is to commemorate the 50th year of Singapore independence.
Timber Tech, a US-based provider for outdoor decking materials announced an AR app, that allows the user to design the deck with the available choices of materials and see how it will look in the actual space it is meant to occupy. The app is running on the iPad for example and is similar to the IKEA design app.
As a consequence, the consumer is bombarded with augmented reality applications that use a variety of display devices and will hopefully learn the value that augmented reality can bring to everyone’s life. On the other hand, there is also the distinct possibility that consumers are being completely confused about the term AR as such and its usefulness. As it seems, we will find a little bit of both in the marketplace.
There is also the market interest in augmented reality technology that has triggered multiple market research firms to publish reports on the success of the technology in the coming years. Just in recent days, Technavio has released market reports covering the “Mobile Augmented Reality Market in the US 2015-2019” and “Global Mobile AR Market for Marketing and Advertising 2015-2019”. In both cases the CAGR is hovering about 100% for the forecast period, a good outlook indeed. And all this without any reliance on augmented reality headsets like Google Glass, etc.
If our society embraces the use of augmented reality technology as such, it may just be a question of time until the ‘social awkwardness’ that may have killed Google Glass will be replaced with ‘technology envy’ as a driver for this new technology. Once head mounted displays are being seen as a superior method of viewing accepted AR content, a widespread adoption may follow. The real question is, when that will be. – Norbert Hildebrand