The 2019 A to Z of Augmented Reality

Andy O'Sullivan
Jun 22 · 16 min read
source: Bose AR / Andy O’Sullivan

Just over a year ago I published the A to Z of Augmented Reality and this is the 2019 version, necessary due to the constantly changing technology. It’s a long one so I’d suggest grabbing a refreshing beverage first …

A is for Augmented Reality (AR)

As in the placement and viewing of virtual i.e. fake / not real, objects into a view of the real world, as viewed via a lens e.g. a smartphone camera, AR glasses, the windscreen of a car or something else we haven’t seen yet.

Also interchangeably referred to as:

  • Mixed Reality / MR e.g. Microsoft HoloLens
  • Spatial Computing e.g. Magic Leap
  • Assisted Reality e.g. Google Glass
  • XR — not actually sure what this really means and I’m a professional! Mixed reality? Extended reality? Cross Reality?

It doesn’t actually matter; all the different names are primarily driven by companies / consultants trying to differentiate their offerings.

I call it simply — AR.

A is for AR Glasses

Or goggles, or headset, or whatever else you want to call them. Currently no one company has produced one capable of dominating the market, but I believe that eventually AR glasses will be cheap, small and functional enough to compete, if not replace, smartphones.

This recent article in the Financial Times states:

“The biggest companies and investors in Silicon Valley are all betting AR will eventually become a catalyst for the end of the smartphone era — to be superseded by smart glasses”

A few (but not all by any means) of the current players:

  • Microsoft Hololens
  • Magic Leap
  • Bose AR
  • Toshiba DynaEdge
  • North Focal
  • Vuzix Blade
  • Solos

Read further for more info!

A is for ARKit 3

ARKit 3 is Apple’s latest augmented reality SDK for iOS (iPhones & iPads). An incredible suite of features lets developers add AR to apps without too much difficulty. Here’s me trying out the new motion capture capability, where my joints and movements are being recognised and, in real-time, mirrored by a virtual skeleton, all viewable via the iPhone camera:

and yes, it also works on little people:

Those two videos are using one of the out of the box demos from Apple, but show the enormous potential of the tech. More info here:

A is for AR Core

AR Core is Android’s version of ARKit. I still haven’t tried it yet but here’s more info:

A is for ARVR Innovate

ARVR Innovate is the main AR/VR conference in Ireland each year ; I was on a panel called “Immersive Tech: The Future for Business and Consumers”. Here’s my review of this year’s event, where I was surprised but pleased at the lack of hype; there was much more realism on show about the technologies:

A is for Augmented World Expo

One of the biggest AR conference series each year is the AWE. The European version is in Munich this October. More info here:

B is for Bose AR

Source

Bose, most known for audio equipment, have recently brought to market AR sunglasses with a difference — they don’t actually show you any virtual objects, they instead use sound to augment your experience. Built in speakers can play music or speak information to you, based on your location and pose. Very interesting, and relatively cheap at about $200. More info here:

B is for Business Value

As in, does AR have any? Countless consultants may tell you AR will be worth billions by 2025, or some other extremely hard to back-up prediction, but the truth is that AR is still an emerging technology. Targeted carefully however, I see it being able to make money or save money in:

  • Improving enterprise processes e.g. field work or anything where having a handsfree source of information can speed things up. This is where most of the AR headset makers are aiming at — improving operational efficiency via handsfree information display and retrieval.
  • See R for Remote Assistance below!
  • Gaming — it’s only a matter of time before more games capture the world’s attention like Pokemon Go did. See G for Gaming below!

C is for Cameras

Camera on smartphones are currently the main way consumers interact with AR. This makes it easily accessible given the proliferation of iPhones and Android devices worldwide, but also limits the immersiveness of the experience.

If you need to hold up a phone to view the virtual content, you’ll be too aware of the real world outside of it; when/if AR glasses become sufficiently advanced to go mainstream, their hands-free and eye-covering nature will lead to better experiences.

D is for DoodleLens

DoodleLens is a new iOS and Android AR app from Aidan Wolf which lets you turn your doodles into AR objects! It’s a lot of fun:

D is for DynaEdge

DynaEdge are AR glasses from Toshiba aimed at enterprise and are basically wearable PCs— they run Windows 10. This promotional image from their website sums up nicely the use-cases for Enterprise usage:

More info here:

E is for Epson Moverio

Epson’s Moverio are a range of AR glasses, on the market for several years. They aim at both consumer and enterprise usage, as seen in their promotional images:

Not the most stylish (in my opinion, please don’t sue me!), they are worth evaluating (along with Google Glass etc) if you are thinking about an enterprise proof of concept. More info here:

F is for Field of View

Field of View (FOV) is one of the main attributes of AR headsets by which to measure them — basically what sized area can you see the holograms / virtual objects. The ultimate goal is to see virtual content anywhere you look, but current devices only show them in a relatively small area in front of you.

This is the main reason that AR headsets are currently more suited to enterprise usage than consumer usage; a consumer application needs to show as much content as possible to immerse the user. An enterprise application however just needs to show enough to add value.

G is for Google Glass

AR glasses from Google, formerly ridiculed when aimed at consumers, but now with edition 2 of their enterprise-focused version just released. If they perform, these stand a good chance of leading the market, mainly due to their brand name. Unlike the previous version, edition 2 runs on a version of Android — making it more attractive for developers. And global insurance companies’ innovation teams …

And let’s be honest, it’s a nice looking pair of glasses:

Beautiful

More info here:

G is for Gaming

I believe there is massive potential for making money with AR games, giving consumers the chance to interact with the real world in games.

The biggest AR game so far has been Pokemon Go; this year its makers have just released releasing a new AR game: Harry Potter Wizards Unite.

Source

From what I know of gaming and also Harry Potter, this has the potential to be absolutely huge. That article in the Financial Times has the headline:

“New Harry Potter game to usher in era of augmented reality”

Official site here:

and a good article about it here:

G is still for Gaming

In 2020 Netflix are also releasing a new AR game also based on Stranger Things (the incredible TV show I mention in every single tech talk I give!) which I will definitely try out.

credit: Netflix

More info here:

https://www.ibc.org/tech-advances/netflix-hit-stranger-things-spun-into-ar-mobile-game/3944.article

More G for Gaming

Finally, Microsoft are working on an AR version of Minecraft, called Minecraft Earth — where players can see their creations in the real world, via a smartphone.

source

More info here:

One more G for Gaming, because it’s from us!

AR Madness is an open-source AR game that we built in Liberty IT for kids. Check out the epic 5-part tutorial here:

and you too could perhaps build this:

H is for HoloLens

Microsoft recently released version 2 of their AR headset, the HoloLens. Like v2 of Glass, it’s relatively easy to develop for, and very much aimed at enterprise usage.

Source

I’m not convinced it’s worth investing in — they are still quite big and you would need to prove definite cost-savings in processes etc to justify using them. However — I haven’t trialled them in anger yet, so the jury is still out.

More info here:

H is for Hype

As is AR (and VR) can be way too hyped! Like any new tech, it comes with consultants, start-ups, whoever hyping it up — and like any new tech should be viewed with a pinch of scepticism. Stick to the basics — try to work out can you make money, save money or make your customers happier.

I is for iPhone

Same as last year, the iPhone is still the main driver of AR in the consumer market.

I is for I/O

Here’s a playlist of videos all about AR from Google’s I/O developer conference:

J is for Jelly

I struggled with J, I won’t lie. Rainbow Jelly AR is an augmented reality jellyfish app brought out a few years ago! More info:

K is for Burger King

Did I google AR Kangaroo and AR Koala hoping to find something for K? Yes. Did I then come across an AR app from Burger King to allow users to “burn” the ads of their competitors? Also yes!

L is for Lowdown Focus

Lowdown Focus are (were?) “brain sensing” glasses, by Smiths Optics, that measure brain activity while completing exercises in an accompanying app, to help with mindfulness and meditation. I’m not actually sure are they an active product — they’re not on sale on their website, but their are some for sale on Amazon.

Not exactly AR, but worth mentioning as an example of technology that may in the future be included in AR glasses.

More info:

M is for Magic Leap

Speaking of hype!! Consumer focused AR glasses that are/were subject to massive hype in tech circles, mainly due to the large amount of investment they attracted, along with some impressive promotional material and demos.

They finally released the Magic Leap One “Creator Edition”, and it seems quite like the HoloLens. I’ve just tried it once; the holograms looked great, but the field of view was small. Of interest however is their push to generate content and their tie-ups with other brands, including Disney and CNN.

Not the most stylish

While not yet achieving the potential they’ve talked up, they offer a vision of what will likely be possible in the future when the technology improves.

More info:

M was for Meta AR Glasses

Meta was a competitor to Magic Leap and HoloLens — and featured on last year’s version of this guide. The company however shut down earlier this year with their assets being sold to a new company called Meta View.

Source

M is also for Marketing

Marketing is one of the main use cases for AR — creating bespoke or short-term AR apps / Snapchat features to promote something. There are countless examples, for everything from movies, to make-up, to soft drinks. An article with some nice examples here:

N is for North Focals

More AR Glasses, aimed at consumers — I came across these in this AR Glasses article and they look super slick:

Source

They come with a ring controller, along with voice control; they are integrated with Alexa.

Ring controller! Source

They are currently only available for purchase at their physical stores, one in Brooklyn and one in Toronto (sounds like both a good way to manage startup supply logistics and a classic early product launch approach!), but only cost approx $600. I’m loving the idea of the combination of the voice control and the ring controller; super innovative.

A screenshot from their site on the visuals you see wearing them, so more information, than Magic-Leap style 3d holograms.

More info here:

O was for ODG

Another AR-glasses making company that was on the list last year but has since collapse — ODG, who made these:

More info on its demise here:

P is for Portals

Still one of my favourite use-cases for AR, portals are “doors” into virtual/other content in AR. Once they’re possible in great AR glasses, they’ll be huge. Imagine being able to “walk” into a store, in your living room. I shared this last year, but I still love it — my Office in a Field:

Q is for Quick Look

Quick Look is a feature on iOS to allow users to view usdz files (see U below!) of 3D models in augmented reality or 3D in apps or websites. More info here:

Q is for Quotes

Like last year, I struggled to find Qs, so am falling back to a quote I quite like about AR. This year it’s from Dave Vincent, Chief Digital Officer with Tourism NI. When asked at the AR/VR Innovate conference what’s the best use-case for tourism in AR/VR, he said:

“I haven’t seen one yet”

R is for Remote Assistance

Also on the guide last year, remote assistance is one of the main use-cases for enterprise AR (both glasses and phone / tablets). The idea is that someone using the AR device can live-stream video of what they’re seeing to someone else situated remotely, who can then offer assistance.

Lots of potential value in this one.

S is for Solos

Solos are AR Glasses aimed at cyclists and runners. Don’t know too much about them but they showcase another use-case: providing consumers information during sports and other activities. More info here:

S is for Snapchat

I confess to not using Snapchat (or Instagram or Facebook), but they are one of the main providers of AR to the masses via their filters etc. Ever used a funny filter with your friends / kids / whoever? That’s AR. This is from December last year — an AR view of Big Ben, using Snapchat AR Lens:

Snapchat also sell their Spectacles glasses, which allow you to take a photo or video from their built-in camera.

Stylish? Source

More info here:

S is for Sumerian

Sumerian is an AR/VR cloud based service from AWS. Keep meaning to try this, but haven’t yet. More info here:

T is for TERROR!

As is AR horror games! I’m convinced that the best use case for Virtual Reality is horror, as when watching a scary movie on the TV, you can just look away, but in VR there is nowhere to look away, it’s all around you!

Likewise, AR has potential to make horror games and experience more immersive. Here’s one game I came across:

U is for Unity

Same as last year, and likely for years to come. Unity is one of the main development platforms for 3D content — AR/VR/Gaming/ whatever. More info here:

U is for usdz

.usdz is a file format developed by Apple and Pixar for 3D models. Article explaining more here:

V is for Virtual Reality (VR)

AKA the other ‘R’. Virtual Reality differs from Augmented in that AR places virtual objects in the real world, whereas in VR, you only see the virtual objects (apart from photos & videos etc of the real world that can be also displayed in VR). So you can walk down the street while using AR (carefully), but it wouldn’t be advised with VR.

Which has more potential? Really difficult question to answer, and it probably depends which consultant you’re talking to! VR has mainly value for:

  • Gaming
  • Training
  • Tourism

V is for Vuzix Blade

I’ll be honest, I only came across these recently, but they look interesting — consumer focused AR glasses, with integration with Amazon’s Alexa. Read a review of them here titled “These $1000 AR Glasses are Fun but Frustrating” — which says it all really about the current state of AR glasses, regardless of the maker.

More info here:

W is for WarDucks

WarDucks are an Irish company mainly known for building VR games, but are currently working on a new AR game after raising new funding. Mentioning them partially as they’re Irish (!), but they also have a track record of releasing successful games, so are one to watch.

W is for Web AR

Someone commented on last year’s guide that I’d left out The Web. As in Web AR. I don’t know too much about it but here’s a site with lots of info:

The basic idea is the same — putting virtual content in the real world, viewable via a screen; but the features are limited as a lot of the native capability used by ARKit and ARCore are not yet available for web browser based use.

X is for X-Men

The recent X-Men Dark Phoenix movie (starring the Queen in the North) came with a Snapchat AR ad campaign.

More info here:

Y is for YouTube

YouTube has just launched an augmented reality feature to allow users to virtually try on makeup, teaming up with Mac. More info:

Z is for Zaphod Beeblebrox

actually no, it’s for Zoo

Lots of Zoos have embraced AR in their apps and experience, here’s one I came across:

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end! I nearly didn’t!

If you’ve any thoughts or comments, let me know below or you can get me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out Liberty IT here. Thanks, Andy

LibertyIT

Liberty IT thoughts and tech stories on technical leadership, digital transformation and agile software delivery.

Andy O'Sullivan

Written by

Innovation in Liberty IT | Creator of http://appsandbiscuits.com | Gaeilge | all content my own opinion

LibertyIT

LibertyIT

Liberty IT thoughts and tech stories on technical leadership, digital transformation and agile software delivery.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade