AR Cloud: What Is An Augmented Reality Cloud And Why Does It Matter?
An AR Cloud or Augmented Reality Cloud is a technology that aims to create immersive experiences by unifying the physical and digital worlds.
What is AR?
As the name suggests, augmented reality is a technology that digitally augments the reality around a user when viewed through a phone or other digital viewing device. Examples of AR include several filters offered by social media platforms like Snapchat or Instagram. Pokemon Go is another great example of augmented reality where digital characters and objects are placed across cities for users to find and interact with.
Understanding the Difference between AR, MR & VR
To begin with, let’s explore the differences between Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, and Virtual Reality.
Augmented reality adds a layer of digital objects to the real world. For example, think of the filters provided by Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. Some digital objects can be viewed and imposed on the real world, such as the top of a table or another person’s face, etc. Most AR apps work on mobile phones.
On the other hand, virtual reality replaces a person’s view of the real world and provides an immersive experience in a virtual world consisting of computer-generated imagery. A user accesses this world using a headset device. VR has many use cases across education, entertainment, and therapy.
Mixed reality, also called hybrid reality, is a blend of AR and VR. Digital devices to experience MR are usually translucent such as the Microsoft HoloLens. Mixed reality creates real-world interactions between digital objects and users.
What Is an AR Cloud?
The founder of AWE, Onri Inbaar, coined the term “AR Cloud.” An AR Cloud is a digital 3D copy of the real world. The purpose of an AR cloud is to enable the continuous sharing of AR Experiences across multiple devices. It will provide data and services directly related to the physical surroundings of the user. For example, suppose a user enters a spa. In that case, they can seamlessly check out its ratings as well as a set of services offered, therapists available, and other information related to the business through their AR glasses or device.
According to Onri you need three things to make an AR Cloud:
- A scalable, shareable point cloud that is infinitely scalable and understands the geometry and shapes of the real world
- An instant, ubiquitous localizer that works from any angle on multiple devices simultaneously
- Real-time multi-user interaction, even with remote users
A user could create an AR experience in a physical space to come back and interact with it a few days later. Other users can interact with this AR object as well. The experience or object in that physical space will persist even if the creator or other users aren’t there.
Diverse In Situ Use Cases
Experiences on the AR Cloud will function similarly to websites or apps. Websites and apps offer a range of different functionality. For example, some websites are informational, while others offer gameplay. Similarly, using the AR Cloud, users could access useful information about their physical surroundings or log in to a multiplayer AR game in their area.
AR Clouds will use a set of data streaming and location-based technologies to deliver optimized experiences to users. Users will probably have to have a specific set of hardware to properly access these clouds, such as translucent glasses or headsets and smart connected digital devices.
Open Source vs Paywall
The AR Cloud will be able to offer open-source experiences as well as subscription experiences behind a paywall. For example, governments may have public service apps and functions available on the cloud, while real estate investment companies may provide their services behind a paywall only available to paying customers.
Marketing firms could leave digital objects across a neighborhood for users to collect. FMCG companies can embed AR or VR experiences which users can access by scanning a code on the packaging. Coca-Cola has already experimented with this form of engagement. Games could drop rare, digital, in-game items across a city that gamers could pick up and use or sell.
Blockchain & NFTs
The ownership and exchange of digital objects appearing in AR Cloud worlds could be made more accessible and secure using blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens.
Different competing AR Clouds could also exist simultaneously — similar to content streaming services or video game platforms, where each cloud has its own set of apps and functions.
We see that iOS and Android, with their respective app stores, dominate the mobile space. Apart from owning iOS, Apple also provided hardware in the form of iPhones, a move that Google would later emulate with the Google Pixel range. Netflix was able to license content from most major studios because it was the first major streaming service to go online. The power shifted once other streaming services came online.
Who will exercise disproportionate power in AR clouds? Will it be the telecom companies, the various device manufacturers, games and social platforms, or some other group of application providers? Microsoft, Facebook, and Snapchat already have AR and VR headsets available, which enable users to experience the respective networks and applications interactively. Applications on AR Clouds will require precise geopositioning to function properly. This may put telecom companies and ISPs in advantageous positions, since they will be the ones responsible for helping geolocate users and digital objects. It remains to be seen how the power dynamics will emerge and shift in AR Clouds.
9 AR Use Cases and Examples
Below are a few AR-focused use cases, along with some real-world projects which are gaining popularity.
- Beauty: the beauty industry has developed and deployed solutions that help buyers choose lipstick and eyeliners using AR. Sephora is already offering an AR solution to its customers.
- Home Decor: Furniture retailers have developed apps to let you overlay digital versions of their offerings in your home to see how it would look. The Ikea Place app allows you to see how the furniture will look in your room, while the Dulux Visualizer lets you envision how your room will look with particular color shades.
- Navigation: AR can enhance navigation by displaying directions right onto the sidewalk or street where the user is. Some enthusiasts have also suggested AR capabilities on car windshields, which can help provide critical data and help users navigate unfamiliar cities. The Gatwick airport passenger app is recognized for its creative use of AR, the app enables users to navigate through the airport and provides in-depth information about all the available services, flight schedules and times, boarding requirements, and helps users access emergency services.
- Healthcare: AR will enable doctors to conduct various medical procedures more effectively. With AR, doctors can also make tumor models and then decide the right approach to remove or treat them. The handheld device produced by AccuVein scans the vein network of a patient, which could lead up to a 45 percent reduction in escalations. This enables surgeons to plan their procedures better before making the first incisions. AR can be used to make disease diagnostic tools as well.
- In-Store Advertising: Supermarkets are exploring AR for in-aisle advertising. AR versions of brand ambassadors and celebrities could be endorsing products at your supermarket soon. A Swiss store has created an augmented catalog of their offerings, which helps users with how-to guides and product information and allows instant purchasing.
- Education: Many education companies are working on creating AR-based education classes. For example, students could see the solar system in AR as they learn about it. AR can also be effectively used to help medical students understand the internal dynamics of the human body without going into a lab.
- Industrial Manufacturing: AR has numerous industrial manufacturing use cases. AR wearables are helping technicians identify unsafe conditions, measure changes, and review in-depth information about industrial processes in real-time. Google Glass Enterprise Edition offers AR solutions in logistics, manufacturing, healthcare and more.
- Engineering: Smart Glasses are helping technicians work through complex workflows, view instructions, and access reference materials right in their line of sight. Engineering firms are developing AR products that will help them service machinery and parts they have created as well as third-party products.
- Gaming: AR is being used in creating immersive games, which can then be overlaid on a user’s surroundings. The most popular AR game as of this writing is Pokemon Go. AR platforms will allow game developers to redesign and launch their games with AR components to be immersive and played interactively in the real world.
Augmented reality apps are set to experience explosive growth in the near future, and several regular apps will add AR features to enhance their user experience. AR Cloud technology will power many of these use cases and help usher in the next generation of apps. The AR Cloud will likely make it easier for users to access and interact with different parts of the Metaverse as well. The way it develops will have enormous implications for the digital world and will enable the next wave of public and private platforms and applications.
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