As the end of Google I/O 2017 draws near, it’s become very clear that Google’s future focus emphasizes on artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality. With Google’s extensive investment into these verticals, people like you and me have to be ready for embracing what is universally being labeled as the next big things in the technology. While VR and AI had a large share of new announcements, the Augmented Reality, however, had a rather subtle presence at the annual developer conference.
Google showcased two important things related to the AR at the I/O. First, Google blended the AR into a standalone VR headset. Based on a WorldSense technology, the headset becomes one of the first of new VR headsets that will be independent of secondary devices – something that has been the case with the contemporary VR headsets. Moreover, a standalone VR platform ensures a more fluid experience with the VR and already tech giants HTC and Lenovo have come onboard. ALSO READ: Standalone VR headsets is what we needed; WorldSense technology from HTC, Lenovo coming soon
The second important announcement was related to further improvement to Google Project Tango. The company introduced a Visual Positioning Service (VPS), which is essentially a mapping system that is based on Tango. The new technology enables users to navigate indoor locations on their phones and tablets using augmented reality. According to Google, the service could further assist visually impaired people find locations around as the VPS uses audio interfaces as well.
Earlier this month, I for the first time got my hands on the Asus ZenFone AR, one of the very few consumer devices based on Tango. Skipping the smartphone’s looks and performance aspects, what made the device very special was its compatibility with a slew of Tango apps. During my brief time with the Asus ZenFone AR, I realized that the AR had immense potential in the education segment, especially for the school children. Though I don’t see any reason why an advanced level of AR cannot be used by older students.
For an example, I could project a 3D dinosaur on the surface and check out some trivia about it. It’s not the 3D dinosaur or interiors of a BMW car that thrilled me, but the idea of an actual virtual experience of the things that have remained in theory in textbooks. The only thing I could think of at the moment that had these AR devices existed when I was in school, I could have a more imaginative mind. Now that there’s a lot of focus on gamification of education, I can just hope AR tools are more leveraged.
This is why augmented reality really excites me a lot. I can very well see AR implementation in the retail, real estate and perhaps other monetary opportunities, but I am more keen on its human aspects. I am keen on how AR helps our minds to be more creative. It could have been premature to make these observations a few years ago, but I think now is the most appropriate time to say that a right version of AR is finally here. Here’s the video of the Asus Zenfone AR. ALSO READ: Asus ZenFone AR hands-on and first impressions: Future of augmented reality seems bright
That being said, I understand a singular device cannot bring forth the change I have been stressing on. A wider ecosystem is required. There has to be more investment from other technology companies as well. Fortunately, all these things are taking place. Microsoft has long taken pride in showcasing its mixed reality platform Hololens. According to reports, a slew of consumer Hololens-based devices are in the works. Besides Hololens, AR plays a pivotal role in Microsoft’s new Story Remix product that was announced at its recent developer conference. The tool allows you to easily create videos with 3D effects and it’s up to you and your imagination. Just take a look at the demo video.
Facebook has also trained its guns on the augmented reality. Though I find AR photo filters childish and perhaps underuse of a far greater technology, but Facebook’s extensive focus on a dedicated developer community for AR is worth noting. “…the first augmented reality platform that becomes mainstream isn’t going to be glasses, it’s going to be cameras,” Mark Zuckerberg told TechCrunch.
“…building an open platform I think is going to be one of the big advances that pushes this forward . . . all developers can work on [the open platform] so that way you don’t just have 10 or 20 effects but you have thousands,” he added.
Even Apple seems interested in AR and reports suggest the next iPhones will have a certain level of augmented reality mixed. “I regard it as a big idea, like the smartphone. The smartphone is for everyone, we don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining,” Apple CEO Tim Cook had said.
At the moment, AR is still at a nascent stage and far from becoming mainstream. Looking at the rapidly evolving trends, I have no doubts that augmented reality is going to indeed be the next thing. That being said, I am more interested in how the technology improves our productivity and in this case, our imaginations and creativity skills.