No. Or at least, not for long.
All the major players in the tech industry seem to share a common desire when it comes to Augmented Reality: That it becomes something everyone uses, every day, to enrich and enhance their life experiences.
The way AR is being used to create extra layers of fun, fulfilling, or time-saving experiences now suggests that it’s something that the masses soon won’t go a day without.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) is a real-time, computer generated enhancement that adds another sensory layer of understanding or interaction to perceived reality taking place on screen. This technology enables an audio or visual overlay that can be used to augment real world environments by doing such things as; showing boxes containing scores and stats over the top of a broadcasted sports game, displaying GPS data, or introducing video or graphics atop a background of reality.
Advanced AR technology components such as object recognition and computerized vision provide users the opportunity to interact and digitally manipulate their experienced reality, without ever having to leave it. For example, mobile experiences are becoming more interactive through AR with 3D pop-outs for email, photos, and more.
AR is a variation of a more general concept in technology known as Mediated Reality, where a computer alters or even detracts from the view of reality with the intent to enhance it.
Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality
The purpose of Augmented Reality is to enhance, and add depth and additional information or interaction to the current perception of reality someone is experiencing. Virtual Reality, however, simulates a reality that replaces a real world environment. For example, AR technology provides scores in a football game as added information for the viewer to digest while they’re already experiencing the game. Virtual Reality, on the other hand, creates a simulation of a football game where the user is immersed and playing along as if they were in the game themselves.
How Tech’s Biggest Players Are Making Augmented Reality Mainstream
Augmented Reality is quickly becoming the next must-have technology to stay competitive in a market of consumers who are getting increasingly savvy in how they want their realities enhanced.
Here’s a snapshot of what the tech moguls are doing with AR now, and what they have in store for the public in the not so distant future.
Google is not only the king of all things online search-based, but they are also leading the field in innovative use of Augmented Reality most notably with the Google Glass. These glasses allow people to pull up searches, check email, and read notes for presentations easily with not much more than the naked eye. They are able to do so because of the skillful AR technology built into a pair of glasses that pulls information into the user’s physical reality and vision-but it is invisible to anyone other than the person looking through Google Glass.
In early 2015, Google pulled back Google Glass, shutting down its early access “Explorer Program”. However later in 2015, Google launched Project Aura in an effort to revive its Google Glass initiative. Little information has been revealed about Project Aura, but media outlets speculate that Google’s second edition of Glass will serve enterprise clients.
With the recent release of the new iPhone 6s and iOS 9, Apple has given their loyal patrons perhaps their first experience using Augmented Reality every day. The new device uses AR technology to pop out emails, text messages, and pictures in 3D with the touch of a finger. Apple’s use of AR is smooth and seamless for the consumer, and allows them to toggle back and forth between on-screen reality and 3D interaction-based augmentations.
There are also questions about what Apple plans to do in the AR space since it acquired the German augmented reality software maker Metaio in May 2015. Analysts speculate Apple could integrate Metaio’s intellectual property into its products in future product releases.
Last year, Facebook made a big move on the AR scene by acquiring Oculus Rift, a leading company in Augmented Reality technologies. Mark Zuckerberg indicated that its use will be largely based in creative, immersive communication and social media interactions. He said, “By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”
While this is still on the horizon, Zuckerberg shares in the idea that AR will soon be a part of everyday life and interactions.
Seemingly seeking to pick up where Google Glass left off, Microsoft is storming into the AR realm with the revolutionary HoloLens, bringing to life what they’ve coined as “mixed reality.” HoloLens leverages AR technology in their first see-through, holographic computer. And their mission isn’t so much being high tech, as it is making interactions with technology more natural, personal and connected. They accomplish this with beautiful holograms that come to life on the backdrop of a life already happening-their own.
Amazon is using Augmented Reality in an app called Flow to make their shopping experience even more seamless and interactive by applying this technology to their shopping carts. This allows customers to take a photo of an item, and search using that photo. If it’s in inventory, the item will pop up, and the customer can add it to their cart to purchase.
HP’s Aurasma is using AR to take business and digital marketing to the next level of creativity and meaningful interaction. This is opening up the world of possibilities for developers, marketers and consumers alike. This use of AR technology has crafted a whole new way to create, target and connect with an audience that isn’t going ignored, and even has earned the devotion of megastar and marketing extraordinaire Taylor Swift.
Intel has quietly been moving in the Augmented Reality circles for some time, but their newest remake on the cameras and other devices using this technology, called RealSense, didn’t stay under wraps for long. Intel RealSense cameras come to life with a motion of the hand and follow commands. On other devices running this technology, users can draw in the air above their device, and marvel as their imagination comes to life on the screen.
Oracle is taking part in creating AR commotion, as well. Their Database 12c Cloud Italian Launch featured a presentation with images and graphics the speaker summoned with hand motions.
Oracle has also introduced the AR app, Augment, on its Sales Cloud Marketplace. With Augment, Augmented Reality is integrated directly into the Oracle Sales Cloud experience. Sales teams can simulate their products in the real environment at scale in real time.
Samsung has recently patented technology for a keyboard that will put Augmented Reality technology into the hands of the users. Literally. They have developed a keypad that is intended to be directly on the palms of the user’s hands. Each finger has letter designations, and a camera tracks the movements to display typing.
IBM is working on an app to help make shopping in stores more informative, helpful and interactive as well. By incorporating AR, the app will allow for customers to enter certain criteria of the item they’re shopping for, scan a shelf of options with their camera, and receive a recommendation on the product that best fits their needs.
What is the Future of Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality is so riveting and powerful because it closes a chasm that has long existed between a person and the device they’re using. Doing this successfully will revolutionize the way people communicate with not only devices, but with themselves and one another. It will change the way shopping works, how business is done, and completely redefine how to market.
This technology is being used by all the big tech players with a shared goal: To make the digital world a transparent overlay of the real world, seamlessly blending the two into one perceived reality. And we can’t wait to see, touch and experience the realities that await ahead.