Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are technologies that will have a profoundly transformative effect on the way we live and work in the years to come.
Augmented Reality (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) are technologies that have existed as a concept for quite some time, but their practical implementation was limited due to technological constraints. However, we just might see that trend reversed in 2019, as a number of improvements become available significantly increasing the scope of implementation and reach. Small business will benefit immensely from these new developments, but ordinary users will be able to enjoy at least some of them as well.
Social and Business Interactions
A vast majority of Sci-Fi movies have at least one scene where people hold a meeting via holograms while being very far apart. AR and VR technologies can now provide a similar experience. Think of it as a conference call on steroids. Put on your headset and enter a chat room to hold a marketing team meeting with people who are hundreds of miles away. Of course, this has a significant downside, since bosses will insist on having one of these almost every hour because they are so convenient.
Augmented Reality in Combination with Artificial Intelligence
You know those Snapchat and Instagram that add glasses and devil horns on your selfies? This is one of the earliest implementations of Augmented Reality in conjunction with Artificial Intelligence. The code recognizes the areas on the screen that need to be changed and decides what changes to implement, based on your feedback. While this is one of the more banal and frivolous examples of AR and AI working together, the possibilities are endless. Imagine an entire virtual casino setting, in which you can choose the look of your poker table or a dealer. While you are there, you could also choose how much clothes he or she has on, but that might be taking too far.
While we are still far away from having a classroom without a human teacher, that doesn’t mean some aspects of education can’t benefit from the development of AR and VR, even if it is limited to work training. Even now, various simulators, like those used in pilots’ training, are very close to the real thing and as technology progresses, it can get difficult to tell them apart from real life. Almost every industry will benefit from these, but the jobs that require reacting to situations that are hard to replicate in a safe and controlled manner will love hew AR and VR simulators. Police and fire departments will be able to create an almost lifelike situations in order to better train their personnel and prepare them for challenges they will face in their careers.
While self-driving cars have been around for some time, they are far from being widespread. We will probably see further refinement of this technology in 2019 with added layers of VR and AR. The most prominent adaptation will be the introduction of Heads up Display (HUD), a device that projects various info directly on the windshield, eliminating the need for the drivers to take their eyes off the road in order to check the speed or navigation. HUD will neatly have these and other information at the bottom of the windshield. Nvidia is developing software that will, in addition to basic info, check for hazards on the road and overlay them over the image taken by the onboard camera, allowing for the real-time warnings. Many automakers, including Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, and Volvo have already committed to implementing this technology in their new models.
One of the biggest complaints about VR was the need to use clunky headsets that severely limited its use. In order to address this issue, several companies have invested heavily in the development of smart glasses and the research has started to pay off. They have a multitude of implementation possibilities in various fields, from military to medicine and some estimates say that about 14 million workers in the United States will use smart glasses every day by 2025. The military is especially interested in these things and has awarded a contract to Microsoft for the development of their HoloLens 2, which should revolutionize the use of smart glasses by vastly increasing its processing power and battery life.
VR and AR as Shopping Tools
Perhaps the area that is least mentioned whenever people talk about future AR and VR implementation is shopping. Only about 15% of shops use AR technology to assist their buyers, despite the fact that some 48% of all shoppers say that they would prefer a store that uses AR compared to the one that doesn’t. American Apparel, Uniqlo and Lacoste have started implementing changing boots with AR technology like smart mirrors and the feedback from their customers have been overwhelmingly positive. Ikea also has an app that allows their customers to get an idea of how a particular piece of furniture will fit in their homes simply by pointing a phone. The next step would be implementing these solutions to online retail, allowing buyers to actually try a piece of clothing without the need to leave their home.
Mobile AR and VR
The ongoing trend in IT is minimalization and it has affected VR and AR as well. We are finally capable of implementing it in mobile devices, with features like 3D object detection, which is a major stepping stone. Apple is leading the way with their ARKit 2.0, but Android users are also seeing the benefits of VR and AR being implemented on their phones. The sales of AR-capable Android phones have jumped to 250 million users, compared to 100 million a year before.
VR and AR have been limited by the capabilities of hardware in recent years. It always seemed that software was one or two steps beyond what the existing electronics could support. However, it would seem that in 2019, for the first time, hardware will catch up, which should spark some interesting developments as software designers realize they are the ones that are holding development back. If nothing else, it should serve as added motivation to come up with new concept and ideas that will fully utilize the hardware possibilities.