Augmented Reality, or AR for short, will change how we experience, measure, interpret and understand our world and also how we interact with it.
AR will certainly challenge us – sometimes less, sometimes more significantly – but it also will bring with it a great value potential and an essential set of tools for our societies to master progress in various areas – may it be in an increasingly digitally driven industry, about infrastructure, mobility and logistics, urban planning, design, and governance, environmental and regenerative sustainability, establishing closed loops for a circular economy, about knowledge transfer, education, and learning, communication in general, tourism, socialising, as well as societal participation, and probably a lot more. And not to forget the right now seriously globally tested healthcare sector.
LIDAR Sensors Used for Tablet Devices as a Test Case for a Next Generation of Augmented Reality Solutions
On 20 March, 2020, WIRED Magazine speculated about the latest iPad Pro’s LIDAR sensor mainly being a test case for a wholly new category of products to be offered by Apple within the next years – Augmented Reality (AR) glasses.
WIRED author Brian Barrett, like authors of other publications, grounded his view in recent releases of iOS and Xcode or one of Apple’s more recent patents. And while not all technological developments, patented or not, necessarily have to lead to actual products available to consumers so soon or at all, AR as much as Mixed Reality (MR) or Extended Reality (XR) devices in general make much sense and will most probably see their breakthrough rather sooner than later. They will offer never before seen possibilities of perception of and exchange with one’s surroundings and also massively benefit an increasingly digitally interconnected, interactive world – at least for those who will be willing to make use of it and understand how.
Sceptics might point out how Google Glass did not really come to life, other approaches like Microsoft’s Mixed Reality device HoloLens only relatively slowly moving forward, and the once hyped company Magic Leap not being able to meet or even exceed way too high expectations.
Nevertheless, AR is already in use, and e.g. in manufacturing, companies experiment with first applications, eagerly waiting for the next technological upgrades and new possibilities enabled based on them.
Developments in Virtual Reality Being an Indicator?
On the other hand, after having been material of a whole decades old subgenre of science-fiction, namely Cyberpunk, Virtual Reality (VR) witnessed one revolutionary announcement after another, just to be followed by fascinating and yet still rather modest achievements.
However, those developments are definitely not to be underestimated, and most importantly, while indeed slowly, do in fact move forward unstoppably and will have built sufficient momentum eventually. Digital artist Goro Fujita’s work made with Oculus Rift and a software called Quill gives a very good idea of what great ways of what kind of visual and spatial experiences to expect in the cyberspace. Have a look at some of his animated 3D drawings that were made by drawing in virtual air and give an idea about what VR (and with it AR and XR) might have to offer to us in the not so far future.
Some Examples of Possible Augmented Reality Use Cases
The scenarios following were only some of the more obvious ones that AR will allow users to create, and some, if not all of them, are also already in the making somewhere. One might read about them in tech articles, hear people (the author of this article included) daydream about them, or experience prototypes at fairs, conferences, tech summits, etc.
An Urban Infrastructure Information Layer
Picture yourself walking in the streets of some megacity like e.g. Shanghai, possibly in Pudong district, not sure where and when to catch the next metro train but being under immense time pressure due to an important appointment to take in thirty minutes. You activate your AR glasses and suddenly see all needed information right in front of your eyes, as an overlay that extends the real, physical world by what otherwise would be invisible to human sight.
You see in which direction the next metro station is to be found, where the entrance. But you also see the different trains actually approaching and leaving the station, as if you were looking right through the ground under your feet; additionally the next arrivals and departures on schedule, counting down, how long it will take you to arrive at the right platform, which car will be closest to the exit to take at the arrival station to get to the place of your appointment fastest. Possibly, you will be able to directly book the proper ticket, too, by simply touching your spectacle frame swiftly two times when you selected the correct connection, thanks to eye tracking.
Of course such information layers would also work for all other parts of the urban infrastructure on your way around the city and tell about the nearest local government offices and their service times, stores and their products in stock, restaurants and their culinary offerings, hotels and vacant rooms, taxi or bus stations and fairs or ticket options, and much more.