Augmented reality is already here,
and all you need is a browser.
Microsoft’s Hololens is cool. The Google competitor that comes out of their Magic Leap acquisition will equal or better what they have.
But you don’t need to wait, to appreciate what a breakthrough augmented reality will be for our everyday lives.
All you need is a Google Chrome browser on your PC, MacBook or Chromebook. It is in reality, for many of us, where we spend our day.
A fact brought home to me lately, when setting up how I would manage a new business. With total freedom came total responsibility and went as cloudy as possible in what I used.
- Google Apps for their every improving email (inbox anyone), ability to use single sign-on and a healthy ecosystem of cloud applications.
- CapsuleCRM for tracking getting a little bit organised in the effort of pursuing business and staying on top of relationships.
- Toggl for tracking time, both how I spend my own time and also for tracking time spent on work for clients.
- FreshBooks for accounting, simply because Xero and MYOB are pretty expensive if all you need is a simple invoicing/expense tracking.
All these tools integrate with each other — often in quite significant ways. But it's all fairly traditional APIs and partner add-on ecosystems.
It is Toggl though, that revealed the world the world of augmented browser reality.
With Toggl, you install a chrome extension and suddenly your existing web browsing experience is overlayed with a new type of intelligence.
In specific web applications, a vividly recognisable toggle button allows you to start tracking time against that specific customer, task, email or whatever you are doing. You can then stop the time recording from the browser bar.
What a difference it makes to always have it at your fingertips. Not changing browser tabs, having to load a website and type in any data.
That seemed the penultimate of augmenting your browser until I stumbled on onto Grammarly.
Like Toggl, it is both a website and a Chrome extension. It recognises specific web applications such as Gmail and Medium and adds powerful grammar checking capabilities that put Microsoft Office to shame. It does this in real-time. It’s amazing and educational too.
Why does any of this matter?
Because browsers and web applications are the fore-runners for what will be possible. Toggl and Grammarly are made possible by Google’s chrome browser ability to install extensions that can view a web page dynamically change the content before it reaches your eyes.
Unlike our visual field, a web page is already categorised into structured into meaningful entities that can be readily be interpreted and manipulated. Therefore, Timely only has to recognise that Gmail web app is loading and it can interpret meaning from markup that is being loaded.
Why is this a forerunner of augmented reality for our eyesight and hearing.
Advanced real-time visual recognition engines will be able to reduce what you are seeing to a semantic language that can be categorised and interpreted based on where and who you are.
Having coffee with a work colleague. Toggl will recognise be able to recognise their face, the face that you are in a coffee shop during work hours and will offer to let you start tracking time with the blink of an eye, or tap on your watch.
Writing on a physical paper? Grammarly will recognise the text in real time and overly suggestions for improvement. It will also record the voices of those speaking and analyse their level of grammatical ability, where they are from (based on accents) and suggest the right tone of voice.
The underlying technologies for all these augmented reality ideas exist. They have just not been miniaturised, integrated and yet made usable.
Start thinking about your business capabilities and the why people pay you money and explore how you could do it in a new way with augmented reality — and you don’t need to wait for a heavy, wearable computer that you can put on your head.