In recent months I received a few questionnaires asking me to reflect on the future of AR. The replies I gave are in this blog-post.
What excites you the most about augmented reality?
Thanks to augmented reality our world has turned into a programmable universe. That means a lot of new opportunities because any imaginable thing can now be realized, for real, just by programming. All that’s needed is technical skills and time, no need to invest in physical material. And that means it’s possible to work at an unparalleled large scale. The AR domain is without limits.
What do you recommend for people who want to get into the AR field?
People starting with AR development might experience a gap between the fabulous possibilities being depicted in conceptual (fake) AfterEffects movies and the tough reality of creating successful AR experiences in reality. AR is not an easy medium. It’s not just a matter of getting the technology right, it’s the tight relation to the physical reality that’s difficult.
Although the basic AR infrastructure is improving, such as better spatial tracking and object recognition services, there are a lot of other factors influencing the user-experience. The physical situation and the user are two highly unstable factors. A dynamically changing environment requires a very thorough, flexible and smart understanding of the space. But people standing on the wrong spot, pointing into the wrong direction or doing the wrong things, will lead to a failed AR experience too. Designing interactions on a screen is easy, it’s easy to detect slides and clicks. But working with interactions in the real world (without standing next to the person to assist) are a challenge of a different kind.
First-time AR creators should be ready to experience some setbacks. But don’t give up and turn to VR, just because you’re in full control there. Go for the challenge to make it happen in AR!
What are your predictions for the AR industry and technology in the next 2, 10, and 25 years?
In the next few years we’ll get a better understanding of the type of AR wearables on the market, and which one to wear in which situation and for which purpose. The heavy duty glasses equipped with 3D tracking sensors will be useful when we need virtual items positioned at specific spots in our physical surroundings. But lightweight AR glasses will be sufficient for most occasions. They’ll show notifications originating from the cloud, or they react when something is being detected in the camera feed. Sometimes this leads to an instant reaction, but the parsing of everything that’s in your vicinity is happening for another reason too. The “lost keys app” for example uses the data gathered from the ongoing analysis of everything that is within your field of view. But that information gathered throughout the day is also used to train our personalized AI cloud.
At first some people will be wearing their AR glasses once in a while. But they’ll experience that the usefulness of their device will increase rapidly the more they use it. AR wearables will learn a lot about their users by analyzing their environment and their behavior. As a result, the recommendations will become better, more relevant and more valuable. And that will be an incentive to wear the the device more often, so an acceleration of this process will occur, ending in a situation in which we’ll wear our glasses most of the time.
In 25 years from now the last hardware hurdles will be solved. People who objected against wearing AR glasses will eventually be equipped with build-in displays in their retina. Living in an augmented reality is going to be default for those that can afford it. The type of software and the clouds you’re in will define your quality of life. There will be a micropayment mechanism for the moments when AR will intervene in your life. And hopefully there will also be a public domain zone, where both creators and users can use AR with all of its powerful features without the constraints imposed by the commercial Big Tech companies. Their role of patent fighting entities and gatekeepers of our augmented world is one to be wary of.
What do you think will be the positive and negative consequences of living in an augmented reality future?
Augmented Reality will mean the whole world will get an update, with interfaces popping up whenever there seems to be a need for one. Actually, it’s us humans that will get an upgrade, empowering us with an additional intelligence that is pro-actively guiding is and advising us what needs to be done and what not. It will radically change the relation between us and the world around us.
But with all that technology in our life, it will be a challenge to be your own robot. We will be controlled by messages, notifications and instructions showing up in our Heads Up Displays, but will we still be in control of what’s controlling us? A negative consequence of living in a customizable AR future is that it’s a lot of work to configure yourself. And that means there is a risk that for some people it will be too much ICT, causing them to switch to auto-pilot mode and accepting all default suggestions and instructions. AR will play a major role in the increase of the influence of AI on our everyday life. And although we might experience a perfect life in the future, that’s only valid from an efficiency perspective judged by an algorithm of which we don’t oversee the core values or working.
How to make sure that our future AR world will be valuable to us humans, instead of the other way around?
The commercial potential of AR is huge. For Big Tech it’s going to be very attractive to take control of the ‘eyeballs’ of the whole world population. But it would be a sad outcome if such a marvellous medium would become the domain of bussiness only. Therefore it’s important that we keep an eye open for AR apps and experiences that might not have a proper bussinessmodel, that therefore might not be as shiny as the high investment apps. But to keep the AR universe an open playground for everyone, it’s important that we stimulate a variety of creators by being an audience for them too. Besides a lot of functional purposes and meaningful use-cases, there is are a lot of opportunities with AR in the worlds of the arts too.