Back in the 1930s, Science fiction author Stanely Weinbaum was considered a “visionary” for his uncannily modern story about the experience of virtual reality. Weinbaum’s vision included user goggles and holographics for immersive smell, taste and touch. About 30 years later in 1960, Morton Hellig produced a “Telesphere Mask” with stereoscopic 3D, widened vision and a stereo sound component.
Through decades of futuristic experiments, the immersive technology wasn’t catching on. Even in the early 1990s, the consumer market wasn’t ready. The SEGA VR glasses (1993) and Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995) are memorable immersive failures. However, by the end of the 1990s, the Matrix film series hit theaters and brought the concept of a simulated reality into the mainstream.
Ideas for immersive reality have been around for nearly a century, but until now the inventions have received little-to-no attention.
Today immersive reality investments are skyrocketing.
Two years ago, immersive reality investments hit $700 million. Then up to $1.1 billion by the end of 2016. Aside from exciting gaming experiences, extensive real-world uses are being realized. This leads to extensive consumer value, which results in a profitable marketplace.
Real-world applications make up 54.5% of the immersive reality market, according to analysis firm Quid. While VR moves in a more commercial phase for entertainment, AR shows significant potential for practical uses.
What was previously considered “science fiction” is now widely accepted throughout many industries. From uses in cyclist safety and creative design to education and medicine, AR is developing to make our world a better place.
WHAT IS AUGMENTED REALITY AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
At its core, AR provides a digital overlay of information into the physical world via smartphone or headset. This allows for designers or researchers to graph out and interactively visualize what isn’t already there.
AR provides many beneficial uses in the world of architecture and design.
The HoloLens glasses along with the DAQRI Smart Helmet show great promise for architect efficiency and for increased safety in construction. Through creating virtual experiences, skilled workers-in-training can practice highly-dangerous scenarios without any real risk. This represents huge leap forward for the construction industry. Construction worker deaths account for one in every five on-the-job deaths, according to OSHA, making it the most dangerous industry in the nation. The majority of these deaths and injuries are a direct result of human error and often within the first year of a worker’s experience. This illustrates the crucial need for safe and effective training. AR can help.
AR tech is also rapidly progressing in other real-world applications such as research, education and medicine.
The healthcare market is ripe for AR and VR uses. While healthcare costs have steadily increased, perhaps AR devices will help to provide better and cheaper medical attention. This is definitely a case for intelligent optimism about our future.
Ideas and practical applications in the medical field are only just being discovered. Some examples include Accuvein, ARnatomy and Vipaar. Here are some examples of ways that AR tech is already playing a significant role in managing and curing illnesses:
- Improves minimal invasive surgeries
- Provides more realistic training and education for doctors
- Overlays records and scans for diagnosis
- Allows image recognition usage, specifically for cancer detection
Similarly, more helpful AR uses in education are being realized every day. When it comes to various learning styles, each child is unique. However, regardless of the learning style, it’s understood that the more senses which can be used to process information, the better.
Augmented reality helps to improve classroom learning through extensive interaction. Imagine learning about the sky through Google Sky Map (a popular augmented reality app). Suddenly astronomy has become even more interesting, fun and accessible. The app allows you to identify stars and constellations simply by using the camera on your smartphone.
Do some research, and you’ll find tons of fun new ways to learn with AR. FETCH! Lunch Rush, GeoGoggle, ZooBurst, and Acrossair are just a few examples of kid-friendly AR learning experiences. Again, the tech trend is still extremely fresh in the education industry. But already there are tangible benefits to encourage more interesting and interactive early education experiences.
ADDITIONAL INDUSTRY USES FOR AUGMENTED REALITY
Augmented Reality differs from Virtual Reality in the partialness of experience. In Virtual Reality, you may be standing in one room, but all of your sense have zoomed you into an entirely different environment. You hear, see and interact with a whole new world. This makes for excellent exhilaration and gaming experience. One man even set up his VR set with a stationary bike to simulate a biking trip through Europe.
Journalism leaders have gotten excited about uses for immersive reality in storytelling. In January the New York Times announced their desire to incorporate AR projects into their real estate and cultural coverage.
In the dangerous world of cycling, AR is here to help. Everysight recently announced Raptor AR sunglasses which provide a wide range of valuable information to cyclist without obstructing road vision. Now riders can safely skim crucial data in an ultra-convenient way.
Many will remember the popular AR game Pokémon Go that gained serious attention last summer. Users were prodded to roam their neighborhoods and cities “catching” Pokémon characters with their phones.
There are many other excellent AR apps that increase daily efficiency and life enjoyment. Despite the drastic AR evolution through the past decade, technicians have barely scratched the surface for its future life incorporation.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE OF AUGMENTED REALITY?
All this excitement leads us to question: where is all this development headed to?
What can we expect in the future for AR? It helps to analyze trends and cycles from past technology disruptions. Much like the development of cell phones, market projections include smaller and faster versions. But that’s just the beginning of what may unfold in the future.
The cell phone industry was disrupted when phones merged with the internet. AR technology has the beginning of a serious disruption with multiple emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, 3D printing and artificial intelligence. It will be exciting to watch its progression as engineers begin to interface, integrate and converge AR with other technologies.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has openly compared AR to smartphones. Though specific plans are secretive, Apple has been investing in AR and developing product prototypes.
Tech companies are pouring investment dollars into AR because of its emerging value. Smart business owners will incorporate immersive tools to become the industry leaders of tomorrow. What now seems like a clunky device, may soon be similar to the sleek and sexy iPhone in your back pocket.