March 18, 2020
Augmented reality and artificial intelligence are two new areas many smart designers and engineers are focusing their efforts. Indeed, major corporations like Microsoft have devoted a lot of resources into developing these into products. The problem, as with many forms of new technology, is how expensive it is for the average person. Indeed, even in terms of demand, many might be confused as to why anyone even needs these developed. Yet one startup, called Meta, is taking on the corporate giants of the tech world.
Unlike AI, augmented reality is not as widespread or injected into our systems. Artificial intelligence has found its way into everything from how people shop to navigating their phones. Augmented reality, however, is still relatively niche. As Live Science details: “Augmented reality is using technology to superimpose information on the world we see. For example, images and sounds are superimposed over what the user sees and hears.”
This is not the same as virtual reality, where the entire visual experience is simulated. Thus, the world around the user still exists and the digital simulations are imposed on this. A popular example of this was Google Glass. This allowed users to still see the world, but also put notifications, apps and so on in front of their eyes wherever the user looked. Another example of this was Disney’s coloring book that came to life, as you drew. A Disney research team developed technology that projects coloring book characters in 3D while you're still coloring them.
Google Glass, despite it being developed by a tech giant, apparently for convenience, has not taken off. It died due to a lack of demand and most likely even poor marketing. No one really knew what it was for. And while the technology is impressive, it still appears as frivolous as a very expensive toy. Why then should businesses care?
As with so much of technology, it can seem frivolous at first but can be developed to have widespread application. There are AI startups, who focus a great deal on machine learning, for example – and the related research has profound effects on the future of engineering and design. Progress, after all, is never a straight trajectory or from only one institution. Collective learning is how society grows. Thus, just as AI has become more complex and integrated into people's lives, there’s no reason that can’t happen for augmented reality.
For example, businesses can use augmented reality to train new staff. They learn where offices are, what functions each person has and so on. They can do this at their own pace, without taking time away from those already working.
Research suggests a serious future for augmented reality. As ZDNet noted: “a report in April ... projected AR and VR would be a $150 billion market by 2020, and only $30 billion of that will be VR.”
Meta, an augmented reality startup, saw its founder, Meron Gribetz, win an MIT Technology Review award. Meta developed one of the cheaper augmented reality headsets that lets you to do things like grab and prod 3-D imagery with your hands, conduct video calls with other Meta users, who can hand you virtual objects that you can inspect from any angle.
This can be used for all sorts of project management and development, as people work better with rendered objects and visualizations. Naturally, the data on productivity is not out since so few places use augmented reality in a long term capacity. Nonetheless, it might be wise to check any skepticism at the door. Smart people have invested their time and resources into this new tech. Gribetz, for example, is proud to take on giants like Microsoft by developing more advanced tech and lowering the price of the headset, making it more consumer-friendly.
The point is technology can develop in incredible ways to benefit business and consumers. Have a look at how AI and related tech is aiding marketing, making the experience of shopping more pleasant for everyone. Let’s hope that augmented reality develops similarly to benefit everyone.