The reality of AR is mixed

The thing with augmented reality is that no one knows how it will evolve. Remember VRML? Exactly… But there is hope for sure.

The smartphone is the intermediary AR form factor

It is clever we are approaching AR via the smartphone first. This will avoid the Apple Watch launch situation, where people wanted to buy but did not have many reasons why. There were simply very few apps and use cases in general. Smartphone AR will enable developers to explore the possibilities and start creating content. And then, when the iGlass hits the stores, people will say “Finally, I don’t have to hold the phone.” They will be familiar with AR at that point.

AR’s “Instagram moment” will probably come with the glasses, not the smartphone

When you look at all the measurement, painting and zombie AR apps, you see the technology in search of a problem. Similarly, when the iPad came around, the publishers thought they would just port their print magazines’ PDF files to it, and they could call it a day. Well, we now know it took a little more effort than that. In fact, they had to reinvent magazine publishing from the ground up.

So, the analogy with AR and Instagram stands like this: there were many photo apps until Instagram introduced a mobile native photo app. A small distinction, but enormous consequences. And the same will happen with AR. There will be many apps that just utilize what we have learned on the smartphone until someone comes up with an AR-first use case and experience. The Ikea Place app is somewhat close, but it still feels a bit rough around the edges. It is simply too predictable.

Therefore, an AR-native form factor, aka the “glasses,” is needed for us to realize how much different approach to designing the AR experiences we need to take.

AR is the new user interface. Without a thought leader

Can you imagine Apple launched iOS without presenting a coherent vision for the user interface? There were so many new user interactions, such as finger scrolling. So why is this not happening with AR? Yes, there are Apple’s Human Interface guidelines, but these are surprisingly vague. They are saying “make sure you create a great experience.” But what is a great AR experience? The tabletop game Apple showed us looks more like the PDF-iPad situation. We need more guidance at this stage to open our eyes and think different.

AI might connect the AR dots

In the absence of a thought leader, what if it was the artificial intelligence that would present us with the new use cases? Afterall, this is what AI does. It connects the dots and comes up with unusual solutions as AlphaGo proved.