The 3 top trends in Augmented Reality expected to change our lives soon

Augmented Reality as a concept can already look back on a quite interesting life with early experiments of mixing reality with graphical overlays. But it gained a lot of new attention recently. The underlying technology saw a tremendous development in the past years, with the Microsoft HoloLens entering a whole new world in 2015, last year being followed by Google with the launch of Tango.

Augmented Reality layers computer generated sensory input atop an existing real-world environment to make it more informative and interactive. It changes the way users experience the world by adding graphics in the field of view with coinciding audio. To be precise Microsoft is using the term Mixed Reality for the HoloLens which is defined by active interaction with artificial objects whereas Augmented Reality is understood as passive information attached to the physical environment.

Time will tell which term will prevail. The term Augmented Reality is already wide-spread, people understand the concept (in differentiation to Virtual Reality) and it’s being pushed by big names recently. The idea of Mixed Reality is maybe not too distinct to require its own linguistic usage but for sure everything is welcome that clears up how we deal with this technology.

A lot of research has been done in the field of AR by major consortiums, hence there’s a lot of fuel for our imagination where this technology will lead us in the coming years. The most appraised and discussed latest trends in the field of Augmented Reality involve a number of devices and inventions. The top three trends along with the devices that implement the technology and the changes these trends might or already have caused are to be outlined here.

Smartphones will soon be our standard AR devices

Smartphones incorporation of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is not only confined to headsets or glasses, rather the technology has been used to develop smartphone friendly platforms and some of the tech giants have already produced and marketed AR incorporated smartphones. Incorporation of AR in smartphones is considered to bring about the future of smartphones.

Apple is silently seizing the mobile AR market whereas Google has been focusing on dominating the mobile VR market with its Daydream platform. Google recently deployed its AR platform Tango and with the association of Lenovo it has already marketed the AR-supporting smartphone Lenovo Phab-2 Pro. Asus is very close to launching its Zenfone AR being able to integrate both Tango and Daydream. Other manufacturers are expected to implement AR hardware into their next devices, we’re just months before AR sensor technology hits the mass market.

Augmented Reality in smartphones has opened a new era of opportunities. Our physical environment is about to become a canvas for all sorts of information visualization. Seamlessly integrated holograms will make the physical presence of certain objects obsolete.

The incorporation of AR in smartphones would make life easier as well as make users more efficient in their work places by increasing accuracy through its platform of immense possibilities. Augmented Reality will bring about a radical change in our everyday lives — ultimately AR will put an end to smartphones. Users tend to rely on voice commands and gestures more and more and the tech giants are making huge investments on the development of those fields expecting vast business opportunities. AR friendly smartphones would make Augmented Reality accessible for the mass market which is the first important step to bring AR into our daily practice. AR so far is linked to Pokémon Go and face changing apps. With more and more apps being developed AR will slowly evolve from gaming to a complete new way of interacting with our environment.

Depth Sensing with Augmented Reality

Most recent AR friendly devices come with an array of sensors like an infrared camera, a wide-angle camera, an additional RGB camera and the already standard gyro and accelerometer — the sophisticated combination of these sensors now enables depth sensing. The trend of attaching depth sensing technology or the array of different cameras to the devices has made AR tremendously increase its functionalities.

With any other standard phone camera the layers often blend and the designs or structures made or visible using Augmented Reality tend not to stay in place persistently, but with depth sensors users can do pretty amazing things like they can literally walk around or in between the designs or structures and have a better view or understanding.

As Andy Gstoll mentions in his great article about what Apple might launch in the near future:

“Depth is an important metric to calculate and render augmented content properly in a three dimensional space, for example to place a virtual chair on the physical floor and make it stay there — or should I say “stick” to the floor — as the user moves around it in the room.”

The depth sensing functionality of AR provides a better sensing of sharp edges of objects and thus facilitates 3D scanning of certain radius using certain apps. Based on this, scientists forecast that the incorporation of an utterly accurate facial recognition system in smartphones might not be too distant. 3D mapping technology is also about to become a mass application. Using a 3D map for example of a room, users can spin around, zoom for details and even measure distances from anywhere to everywhere of the map on their devices. Structure has come up with their latest innovation ‘Canvas’, using Augmented Reality and depth sensing which can create scale-accurate 3D models in moments. This would allow users to easily find out the height of a building, the thickness of a pillar, distance from a point to another and much more all on their AR supporting devices.

Microsoft Hololens and Lenovo Phab-2 Pro are at the moment the most renowned devices capable of depth sensing and 3D scanning using their AR platforms. But there have been more inventions viz. Occipital Bridge, a headset containing Occipital’s Structure Camera is capable of doing 3D scanning, depth sensing and much more using an iPhone, Vuzix smart glasses don’t need any other devices hence capable of doing everything hands-free, Meta-2 is another popular light weight AR headset that supports a fully immersive 90-degree wide-angle view, DAQRI is developing smart helmets with AR glasses designed for industrial use.

AR devices of today mostly use 2D displays but with development of AR friendly 3D displays, AR features might be even wearable which would allow to check not only how a product suits but also how well it fits from every dimension. AR devices would be using more developed and distinct three dimensional spaces like Tango, faster connection speeds and instead of using pixel-based displays like smartphones, laser-based displays would be introduced. AR might put an end to not only smartphones but also to mainstream computing. The merging of AR & VR might introduce and environment where people would hold heads up in a mixture of virtual and reality and can access information from the context while computing seamlessly into the environment.

Retail Oriented Augmented Reality

The vendors and marketers are introducing the newest technologies in retail to keep pace with the fast-changing trend of technologies. Both augmented and virtual reality are being used for offering a unique shopping experience to customers. VR is mostly used for e-marketing in virtual stores, online retailers like Ebay and Amazon etc. are known to work on this technology.

Unlike VR, Augmented Reality blends the real world and the virtual world instead of replacing the reality with a virtual environment.

By using AR, retailers can superimpose a product that facilitates the customers to check how the product would fit to their body or desired environment. Various apparel and accessories companies have their own online or offline applications and software to check how their products suit to the user. Warby Parker and Frames Direct use simple online AR software to offer the option of virtually trying on glasses and frames. Apparel retailers like Topshop have an AR kiosk, by standing in front of which buyers can superimpose any clothing of the store on their image as well as check the fitting. Retailers like Canvas, De Beers etc. use simple online and offline applications that allow customers to overlay product and jewelries simply on their smartphones or PCs. The furniture retailer IKEA has introduced AR in shopping that offers potential buyers to shop from home using an AR enabled catalogue app that allows them to check how a life-size 3D vision of a specific furniture would fit anywhere, by simply pointing the camera of the smartphone towards the desired location and looking through the screen. Augmented Reality has vastly eased shopping and increased customer satisfaction to a great extent as they find and try on their desired product with a very little effort.

In AR friendly shops customers would only ask for the products that they find the most suitable for buying or further real-time fitting, so the necessity of unpacking, displaying, explaining and repacking etc. would come to an end. Thus, AR would take an immense load off the retailers and save money as well since a reduced number of salespersons would be required.

By dint of AR, shopping has got easier than ever. Shoppers can read details of a product, check reviews, get alerted about the offers and discounts and compare related items on their smartphones simply by walking through the alleys without even needing to take the products out of the rack.

Retailers can also keep track and have a better understanding of the customers’ shopping pattern and can focus on very specific sectors to develop. AR friendly stationary retailers tend to get more customers and increased sales.

Big changes ahead

Augment Reality has unbolted a new epoch of possibilities in almost every industry with nearly no limitations. Incorporation of AR in medical sciences has already increased success rates of surgeries and better diagnosis. Augmented Reality is also being used in military training, gaming, maintenance & repair, education, entertainment and many more sectors, it’s expected to turn into a billion-dollar industry in the upcoming years.

The technology is still in the primitive stages of development, further research and application of this technology would soon bring about an enormous revolution in every aspect of everyday life. The technology if implemented for well-being, it’d bless the world with an easier, hassle-free, safe and most importantly with a prosperous environment for its inhabitants.