The hypothesis of the future of AR: Everyone needs a hearing aid and glasses
As implied in part 1 we might be using something else than a hearing aid and glasses. What matters is that we will be wearing products that will alter our way of hearing and seeing. And we will probably see products altering other senses as well.
In the time it took me to post part 2 of the article the game has already changed again. Google has released ARCore and the main restrictions of the Tango project are now gone.
Although it’s not very difficult to imagine applications for AR we will probably soon see applications that are difficult to even imagine today because they are built on technology and concepts that are yet to be invented. But we can probably imagine some use cases if we question phenomenons and occurrences happening today that are dependent on our current conditions. A simple example is the occurrence of TV. Do we need a physical TV in the future when we can place a picture anytime, anywhere with AR/VR?
Further development of AR
Scan the world
There are many ways on how to make a unit understand the space around it. For example, Google Tango uses IR among other things to read its environment. The use of the phone’s built-in camera including other built-in sensors, as done by Apple ARKit and Google’s recently announced ARCore, has its own obvious benefits; it can already be supported by existing phones. The conversion of a 2D image to objects in a 3D space will probably be greatly improved when the AR technology can use two cameras to see a 3D version of the world. Let’s see if Apple presents such a solution on their keynote on September 12.
And what’s better than using two cameras? Using MANY cameras! In the future, we might see real time data of real world objects being shared among devices and other public cameras. We can imagine this information being used to create a 3D world, a dynamic 3D world changing in real-time. Your whole city can then be accessed and viewed in detail (excluding confidential places like your home); a little bit like Apple Maps but much much more in detail. In theory, when you record a normal video the footage can be analysed and the extrapolated 3D data could, in real-time, be used to make a contribution to a commonly shared 3D world.
AR will be a big hit once it’s invisible
We will se an increased number of interesting and fun applications and games using AR mainly as a result of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. But as long as we have to use our phone or tablet to access AR the benefit for people will be limited. AR will hit big time once the technology is more invisible, once we passively can access AR without consciously using a device. Maybe it will be done by creating lenses capable of showing AR? Or maybe it could be done using an artificial retina converting the light into neural signals that are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve after being processed and altered by some type of computer? At this point AR will be more valuable and natural and it will also close the gap between AR and VR by enabling a 100% virtual view on demand (for instance when you want to look at a movie).
Difficult questions needs answers
In such a world, we can record anything we see and hear and we will always be able to go back in time to see and hear historical situations. We never have to debate what was said and it will be easy to find your misplaced keys (if they still exist by this time) since computers will know the last time you saw the keys: “The keys are in the front pocket of your sportbag”. All this data will probably not be stored locally hence a lot of security and privacy issues will surface. We need to trust that no one can access for instance intimate moments. And should the police be able to access the data from a murder victim? Should they be allowed to use AI to search for anyone whose visuals reveals that they are the murderer? Should they be allowed to use this data in real-time? Maybe some countries will require that all new-born gets the capabilities of recording 24/7 in order to counteract criminality? The current general opinion on privacy of most countries would not accept this though. Anyway, there are many difficult questions to answer as technology evolves.
Applications of AR
Ok, so let’s fantasize some applications of AR once the technology is not in our way.
TVs are dead!
As previously mentioned we will probably not need a physical display or projector once we are able to view any picture, anywhere, anytime. There are a vast number of potential benefits with a virtual display instead of a physical display. The environmental advantages are probably huge if we don’t have to build physical displays, assuming that AR/VR products require less energy and materials to produce. The virtual display doesn’t take up physical space in your room, you can have it anywhere, it doesn’t have any glare or bad viewing angle, it’s not affected by direct sun light and a movie can be viewed in full screen mode. And obviously, each individual can choose to see what channel/movie they want to see without being locked to the will of the majority in the living room. And if we extend it to displays in general it will enable any IOT product to have a 1st class display without having to fit any on the actual product.
Physical wallpaper can be replaced by virtual wallpaper. Guests arriving to your home will see the wallpaper of your choice. It can even be a dynamic wallpaper if you like. Even each family member can have their own wallpaper. The same goes for posters, paintings and other purely decorative items. Original paintings and sculptures will probably not disappear though.
Loudspeakers are dead!
Loudspeakers will probably see the same fate as TVs. If everyone has some type of earbud (maybe it will not be an actual earbud in the future but let’s call it that for now) everything they hear will probably come from that earbud. Loudspeakers have benefits to earbuds though. You can get a deeper base and you can feel it physically in your body. But the question is if people will find that advantage important enough to invest in a loudspeaker.
Understand anyone speaking in their mother tongue
AR earbuds will not only clarify audio, it will also enable translation in real time, much like the babel fish in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And it could be with the same voice as the person speaking, but in the language of your choice. An advantage will be that we won’t have to steer towards one universal language anymore, like for example English. Technology will allow more diversity in languages. The incentives to study other languages will probably decrease when you don’t need to learn a language to understand someone else.
An early application of AR will probably happen in retail while AR still is a little bit cool. The new IKEA Place app is an example of what’s coming very soon. However long-term AR/VR might play a part in the decline of retail as we know it. This topic can be a blog post on its own though.
Positioning System and measurement
By analysing the image, a computer will be able to allocate a precise position, even indoors. Much like sound analysis made by Shazam and other alternatives, but based on visual data instead. The advantage of this approach is that you are not dependent on satellites or physical objects like beacons to identify your position. There is obviously a clear disadvantage as long as we use phones to allocate the position since we need to actively “film” our environment as opposed to just having the phone in our pocket (as when we use gps or beacons).
With AR, we might also be able to measure things easily and present it live on the display. Having a reference item in a room will allow every item in that room to be instantly measured. There already exists some basic measuring apps.
AR in gaming
AR will have a huge impact to gaming. Pokémon Go already has some very basic AR functionality but we will probably see much more advanced AR coming to mobile devices already in the fall of 2017. Soon we might see people wearing VR/AR headsets on the streets playing games. Imagine a detective story where you have to solve a puzzle finding clues in the city, a little bit like today’s geocaching but with virtual items instead. Or imagine that you have to defend yourself against intruders in your own home. Or maybe having a cup of coffee and playing chess on the kitchen table against a friend playing from another country. Endless opportunities!
AR will facilitate the connection with people in ways that are difficult to imagine today. But let’s imagine a few applications that are possible in this area.
You can see through walls that you have a friend having a cup of coffee at a cafeteria, as long as the friend is open about that.
Connect to others
Imagine that you are looking for a guitarist to your band. While walking about in the city centre you see one of those plumbobs from Sims above someone’s head. This is a guitarist looking for a band. You can immediately meet the guitarist to get a feeling for him/her.
“Don’t forget to return the umbrella!”
When you meet someone at a party or at work you will always see that person’s name. Connect this to a CRM solution and you will know that you met this person two years ago and a very brief summary of what you talked about. Next time you have booked a meeting with a friend you will get a reminder to return that umbrella you borrowed last time.
Sight is a fantastic short futuristic film from 2012 that gives a dark, but not totally unrealistic presentation of what could be possible in the future.
Augmenting the senses
Another application of AR is to augment reality, not only to add virtual layers to it. We have already mentioned ear buds that improves the audio you hear.
Hear better and safer
You will be able to hear the person you are talking to without being disturbed by background noise. Our ears will probably be much more protected and not be exposed to dangerous sounds. At a concert you might hear a nice mixed sound of the concert directly from you earbuds instead of sounds from loudspeakers. Maybe the concert organisers wants to make up for the lack of physical feeling of a base by including a sub though. At home, you will be able to put on some music, without loudspeakers, and all your guests hear the music in the background through their ear buds.
When it comes to visual AR it’s not hard to imagine that we will have perfect sight and we be able to zoom in on objects that are very far away. By combining a superb lens (or whatever technology we will use) and very high resolution the usage of digital zoom will be very valuable. Today many people connect digital zoom to poor quality. But that is only dependent on the original resolution. Imagine that you have incredibly sharp lenses and that the original resolution is 100 x the eyes retina it means that you are able to zoom in 100 x without seeing any deterioration in the resolution.
AR/VR is natural
In the future we will probably not even make a difference between AR/VR and RR (Real Reality) because it’s not that important. We don’t consider normal optical glasses as something unnatural even though they change what we see. We don’t consider normal headphones as something scary bringing sounds to our ears that would not be there otherwise. AR/VR will feel as natural as any of these items.
What do YOU think, will everyone need a “hearing aid” and “glasses” in the future?