As virtual reality enters its “adolescence” (and perhaps the trough of disillusionment), it languishes in an awkward stage where much has been accomplished, but perhaps it’s fallen short of all the hype. Arguments can – and should! – be made for a bright future, but at iMerit we have our eyes on another kind of reality: augmented reality.
In some ways, augmented reality (AR) has pulled ahead of VR in terms of hype, and many watch as it pulls ahead in terms of promise as well. Big players like Microsoft are betting big on the promise of AR, and speculations around applications and profitability are broad.
Though at iMerit we’re aware of the challenges that face AR – everything from hardware concerns to gathering datasets to train computer algorithms – we are still excited. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Totally new tech.
Earlier this year, Microsoft released more information on its Holographic Processing Unit (HPU), which was quick to ignite excitement in many circles. The HPU gathers data from accelerometers and camera systems to not only recognize gestures, but also create a map of the environment in order to ensure that virtual objects stay put. Microsoft developed the HPU after they were unable to find any off-the-shelf vision-processing chips able to perform at the needed level. Now, it is about 200 times faster than a pure software equivalent, and operates at only 50 per cent of its capacity, meaning Microsoft is planning for it to do a whole lot more.
2. Novel ways to interact with technology.
By now, navigating the internet using a mouse, keyboard, and browser is second-nature to many of us. In the same way, we’ve quickly become adept at scrolling, tapping, and pinching our way through mobile apps and browsers. But what if there were even more ways to interact with our devices and technology? Until recently, progress on gesture tracking – especially of hands – has been slow. Understanding complex and subtle movement requires a lot of data and research. However, use of your hands is critical in an AR world, and increasing amounts of research open interesting possibilities that will ripple beyond the world of AR.
3. More dynamic and connected software
Good AR will collect huge amounts of information from the “real world” in order to augment it in a believable and exciting manner. The different inputs could take different forms – space maps, temperature, light levels – and they’ll need to be communicating efficiently and in real-time. This means that whatever software handling all of this input will need to be well-connected and powerful. The implications for this kind of software are huge, and could change not just AR, but the Internet of Things and more.
4. New jobs and markets
Given the rapid clip with which technology changes the field of job prospects, we should expect no less from VR and AR. Whether it’s creating entirely new positions – what does a VR Location Scout look like? – or repurposing old positions, the job possibilities are many. Udacity, a provider of online classes and nanodegrees, is now offering a new VR nanodegree that would prepare students for jobs in the emerging industry of VR. At iMerit, we work with clients building promising VR and AR systems, and employ hundreds of youth and women that would otherwise depend on informal, unstable jobs.
5. Applications as big as our imaginations
We might be getting used to some of the sillier (but still impressive) applications of augmented reality – see Snap or Facebook’s masks – but these are just the beginning. New use cases, both in-reach and still a ways off, abound. From letting fashionistas test out fashion week looks, to revolutionizing the way you take notes or do work, to changing the advertising and sports industries, you can bet that AR will touch thousands of companies around the world. The human-centric applications are just as ripe. Whether it’s making learning more engaging by bringing together VR/AR companies and education companies, or re-shaping the way healthcare is taught and practiced, we’re excited to see the ways AR can do good for our world.