Big AR: The Future of Augmented Reality

August 2nd 2017
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@kevinmiseKevin Mise

This is the final article within a series of blog posts on augmented reality and its implication for consumers and marketers alike. If you missed out on the first four Big AR posts, you can begin here.

The future of augmented reality. // Concept shot: Magic Leap.

Welcome! If you are reading this article, it’s likely on a mobile device. You see, it is a growing trend that, in leisure, citizens of the Internet are using their smartphones and tablets more than their desktops (see below). Even more so, the gap between mobile and desktop in the workday continues to grow smaller by the day. It’s easy to explain how mobile has slowly crept into the forefront, dominating most of our screen-time: it’s simple, it’s portable, and it’s accessible within just moments. Your content has never been more available to you than it is today on your mobile device.

Mobile dominates morning and night. // Source: Smart Insights

In the Big AR series, we have discussed the implications of augmented reality in its current state, on marketers, on gaming, and on the two current dominating mobile platformsBut we haven’t discussed the future of augmented reality. That is, the future of a platform so aligned with our current values as marketers, consumers, and creators alike — in prioritizing mobile-friendly, highly personalized, accessible experiences, that it seems obvious the platform will soon shift how we experience and interact with our world — even more than smartphones did (only) ten years ago!

Microsoft’s vision for the future: the Microsoft holographic.

Your Content. Unleashed.

Yes, content is more accessible than ever but it’s confined to a physical space. It is forever boxed in. To your phone, your tablet, your PC. The rectangular box of the boobtube (TV for you young folk). Content is even confined to the pages of a book. Its knowledge forever trapped within the same closed, defined pages of which, through the eagerness to learn, it can promise to free your mind. That is, until now. Or soon.

Let’s do an experiment! Look at your phone screen. Or your computer screen. Or your Kindle screen (I don’t judge). Whatever you’re reading this from. Look away from the words. The sentences. Glimpse at the confining rectangle. Now hold it up to your face… A pixel-y mess. But, the premise of the experiment, is that your content is closer than ever before. Just imagine…

iPhone AR mockup. // Source: Gábor Balogh

Now here’s a tricky one! Imagine your screen was transparent. The content held over your world. An unobtrusive platform. An overlay. An opportunity.

Envisioning the Platform

The potential in seeing what could be; where we could go, is that we, as marketers, creators, and tech evangelists, can foresee the future and potential structure of a universal, worldwide platform. Augmented reality will one day be used by every child and adult today who uses a smartphone, and by holding your phone to your face, by outlining the current trends of the market, by researching on which companies are creating the future, you are investing in being ahead of the curve. And that is an infinite future of potential in marketing on AR and in creating AR experiences.

We’re in an interesting time. Flip phones saw their demise over 10 years ago and we could possibly be experiencing the dying breath of our screens — smartphones, tablets, PCs, and TV monitors everywhere may be in danger.

And that is the future of augmented reality. What, today, may simply be the prospect or concept of doorways that open up worlds and universes on your favourite device can become a glistening truth, a keystone, of that very platform tomorrow.

A concept/idea of Holographic’s future. // Source: Augmented.

From your personal assistant. To your favourite Pokemon. From your productivity apps. To lifestyle, utilities, and file managers. On and within the world you live, extending as far as your eyes can see. Through glasses, contact lenses, perhaps even through brain-machine interface, you are no longer slouching to read a screen. You are finally liberated from the boxed in screen.

So who can provide us with this future of our content unleashed? Let’s talk contenders. Who are in the running to strap their branded glasses and other apparatus to your face… retina… brain?!

Big Brother, Big Fruit, and Big Blue Screen of Death

Yes, that title does refer to Google, Apple, and Microsoft. No shade at all. The big three are the most likely to succeed in creating an augmented experience that can reach the general population quickly by marketing to their brand evangelist demographic. Targeting super-fans means less need to persuade the mainstream consciousness to consider the new tech as the early majority who hop onto the technology bandwagon will follow right after techies. The same could not be said with certainty for other companies, especially recent startups tackling the world of tech for the first time.

With Google, we’ve already seen their innovation in the field. Google Glass was very much ahead of its time. Too ahead, in fact, that it scared the public. Privacy concerns and price positioning killed the device. But it does look like it is back — and if it’s not, it most likely will be soon. Google spent a lot on that research and development and it will only help them, in cohesion with their learnings from their phone AR, Project Tango, to solidify a space in glasses AR.

Apple is keeping mum about their wearable, but it’s clear that wearable AR tech is on their mind with recent patents popping up and rumours of a collaboration with Carl Zeiss to create fashionable glasses in time for launch. On top of that, ARKit (Apple’s AR software platform) is already creating emotional experiences just ahead of its launch on iOS 11 (see below), meaning we’ll surely be seeing creativity and innovation in Apple’s side of the ring, especially as the video below was framed solely through an iPhone screen. Imagine where we’ll go with a full experience in our frame of view!

A-ha! with ARKit

Microsoft has gone all out on framing augmented reality as the future of mobile tech computing. They’ve even gone and combined virtual and augmented worlds for us, creating perhaps the first mainstream notion of mixed reality on the market with their HoloLens headset and dedication to their futuristic Windows Mixed Reality operating system. Something that will be even more necessary once bite-sized apps and more fleshed out experiences in AR begin to beg for a cohesive, unifying user interface to define the platform.

An introduction to Microsoft’s HoloLens

The Secretive: Magic Leap

Magic Leap, founded by Rony Abovitz, is estimated to be worth over $4.5 billion USD, and yet they have not released a single product. The secretive startup has been creating buzz for years, hyping their first mixed reality product, letting investors in for sneak peeks and previews here and there. In the AR/MR circle, Magic Leap has been maintaining a momentum of hype for months on end, but what will it lead up to product-wise? No one knows. But we do have a glimpse of the software (see below).

A demo of Magic Leap, shot through their technology in April 2016

The Visionary: Neuralink

Upon realizing the very real threat of artificial intelligence and where it could go (see: potential death to humanity), Elon Musk (Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX) has founded Neuralink, a neurotech company looking to uncover the secrets of communicating with the human brain. What will start as a medical aid to those with degenerative brain diseases (like Alzheimers) through providing patients with extended memory, can one day become unlocked output potential for humanity. Think: typing with your brain (like the Facebook endeavour linked earlier), or even better, sharing memories and moments in augmented reality without having to strap anything to your body! Futuristic. If you’re any interested in the radical ways a brain-machine interface can transform the human body (beyond just AR/VR functionality), be sure to read Wait But Why’s writeup on Neuralink and the implications it has for society. It’s lengthy, but it’s accessible to all readers and it’s worth it.

A Futurist summary of Neuralink

Along with these high earning, high dreaming, and highly-insane companies, there are boundless others that are pushing for creating innovative AR experiences ahead of the curve. It goes on and on. And, thus, it is the right time for marketers to consider how we can best make use of this emerging platform before the early majority latches on. As innovators and tech evangelists, we have the upper hand: the opportunity to help shape a blooming industry, to opt into a dawning era, and for the luckiest of us, to create beautiful, human experiences with it.

And I’ll leave it at that. This was the final post in Big AR. I really hope this series helped enlighten you on the amazing potential for augmented reality as a consumer and marketer and perhaps open up some pathways for research in the months to come.

This topic is constantly expanding and developing with tech advancements, even by the day! So I will be returning to augmented reality as a whole some other time. In my next article, I’ll be discussing Magic Leap specifically and how it reinvigorated a slowing industry so if you’re interested in that secretive investor-magnet, it’ll be a good read.

I do plan on coming back to Big AR and making some revisions here and there, so please do let me know where I could improve and how I could make this material more succinct and reader-friendly! Feel free to leave a comment below or open a discussion on my Twitter!

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Dream big!

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