Augmented Reality: Coming Soon to a Mobile Device Near You
Augmented reality (AR) is widely heralded as one of the most promising emerging technologies. A recent IDC study forecasts that shipments of AR and virtual reality (VR) headsets will soar to more than 99 million units in 2021, nearly 10 times the 10.1 million units shipped a year ago. A February 2017 survey by PwC reveals that most consumer and business respondents see multiple uses for AR, including fraud prevention, medical research and privacy protection.
Today’s mobile and desktop hardware may lack the capabilities to unlock AR’s full potential, but that’s changing rapidly. As Computerworld points out, Silicon Valley is hard at work developing AR-ready smartphones, tablets, head-mounted gear and other AR devices. Initially, the focus will be on smartphones and tablets for one simple reason: They’re everywhere.
Lasers and Holograms
According to a Fast Company report, Apple is developing a rear-facing 3-D laser system for the back of future iPhones. The sensor system will deliver more accurate autofocus for photography and improved depth perception for AR applications, the report claims. It’s unclear at this time whether the sensor will be included in the next-generation iPhone expected this fall or a future model released in 2018 or beyond.
On the Android side, Red, a manufacturer of professional digital cinema cameras, recently announced a smartphone with a hydrogen holographic display capable of showing 3-D holographic content without special glasses, reports Computerworld. The Hydrogen One is slated to have a 5.7-inch display capable of switching seamlessly between traditional 2-D content, 3-D imagery, holographic multiview material and interactive games.
AR Competition Heats Up
Meanwhile, Microsoft says it’s building an augmented reality viewer into Windows 10, a tool set to release later this year. The mixed reality feature would allow a Windows 10 user with webcam-equipped laptop to overlay 3-D objects, created in 3-D Paint, onto a screen view of the real world, The Verge reports.
Google has been very public about its AR efforts, having launched Project Tango, an AR platform, several years ago. Tango enables app developers to create interactive user experiences with AR capabilities, such a car showroom app that allows users to view a full-size virtual automobile and customize its features. At least two mobile devices, the Asustek ZenFone AR and the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, currently support Tango.
IBM has announced that Dragon Creative Enterprise Solutions Ltd. (DCESL), a Hong Kong-based startup best known for its MAD Gaze AR smart glasses, is using IBM Watson technology to develop a training simulation application for automobile mechanics. By leveraging several Watson Developer Cloud APIs — including Speech to Text, Visual Recognition and Dialog — the MAD Gaze glasses can see and identify vehicle parts, vocalize their names and use 3-D animated instructions to show students where the parts should be fitted.
Since migrating to the IBM Cloud, DCESL has developed AR-enabled applications for a diverse set of business uses, including travel assistance, logistics and inventory and customer service.
Ultimately, AR may have an even brighter future in business than in consumer applications. Microsoft’s HoloLens, a powerful AR eyewear system with a self-contained holographic computer, is gaining adherents in the design and manufacturing world, notes CIO. Boeing technicians are also using AR devices to visualize and navigate the staggeringly vast number of wires that connect aircraft electrical systems.