Like most new technologies, augmented reality was born in the labs of researchers working at various institutions by identifying and approaching the various technical problems that need to be solved. These researchers reside in universities, non-profit research institutions and government-industry joint partnerships and have had a very important role in the emergence of AR. Many early-stage technologies are, by their nature, broadly enabling. Therefore, companies would not likely be able to realize all of the R&D benefits themselves if they were to invest in this research. To remain competitive, companies with limited R&D budgets must focus strictly on what is going to benefit them rather than what will be broadly enabling. Research institutions bridge the gap between high risk ideas and practical implementation.
In this post I aim to cover many of the important institutions currently conducting important research responsible for laying the groundwork for augmented reality to achieve its full potential. They are listed in alphabetical order. Please feel free to reach out to me or leave comments about additional entities that may belong on this list. Read More →
Conferences provide the opportunity to assemble like-minded people together to share and disseminate knowledge and ideas. They provide a place for people to meet face to face and learn about what each other are doing and thinking through formal presentation and informal dialog. They serve as a catalyst for ideas to recombinate and minds to meld and often result in the advancement of research or commercialization.
There are a number of conferences around the world that are focused on different aspects of Augmented Reality. The number of events and their far flung locations point to the fact that AR is truly a global phenomenon. Some of these are commercially oriented, some are scientific while others are focused on the social aspects of the technology. I have listed conferences that are either centered on augmented reality or prominently feature AR in their program. In my research I found that there are many other conferences that are adding sessions and topics on augmented reality in order to introduce their audiences to the future of what’s to come within the context of their respective industries and disciplines. These conferences where AR is a merely tangential topic are not listed here. Also not listed are the meetings of standards groups. All in this list are known to be currently or recently active.
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Here’s a use case I hadn’t thought of. It’s coming from none other than Rolls Royce.
“The windows of the bridge serve as augmented reality displays of the vessel’s surroundings, including visualisation of potential hazards that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye. The system can, for example, pinpoint sea ice or tug boats and other craft that may not be visible to the crew, especially on large container ships.”
This is very cool stuff, but I have to wonder if in an age when self driving cars are speeding quickly toward reality if it’s really necessary to put people on cargo ships at all any more. Why shouldn’t they be piloted remotely by captains who can sleep at home after their shift is over. If we can fly high speed drones in Afghanistan from bunkers in Nebraska there’s no reason we cannot do this.
[Updated 7 january, 2015]
My preceding posts have been about defining augmented reality, how it’s used and how it works. From here I intend to cover the state of the AR industry. This includes how it is evolving, how it is organizing, how standards are arising, how it is collaborating, and who the players are.
I think a good place to start this section would be to cover the ongoing process of standards development. Without standards, the industry would be a fragmented and disorganized mess, doomed to never being able to fulfill the technology’s great promise. However, my research indicates that the stakeholders have been doing an excellent job of carefully and deliberately collaborating to design the arena in which they shall all compete. It’s exciting to be here at the dawn of the era where I can witness the hardware and software technologies converge and the new technology begin to emerge. Read More →
In my previous two posts I discussed how hardware, software and services come together to deliver augmented reality experiences. Many AR apps are designed to perform specific functions within specific contexts. For instance, an app designed to provide enriched information about an art museum exhibit is only of use when visiting that particular exhibit and would otherwise be of little or no value outside of that context. Furthermore, it would detract from the art if the visitor were being constantly bombarded by AR throughout their tour of the exhibit. In this example the AR experience should be triggered at certain places in the exhibit and disappear at other times. So how does an app know when to perform its intended function? In this post I will be discussing the different ways by which an app can understand context and thus trigger the intended AR experience or content. Read More →
I was wowed by the revelation of the Cicret Bracelet which promises to “make your skin your new touchscreen”. The design includes a pico projector embedded in a thin bracelet that uses an array of 8 proximity sensors to sense where the wearer is touching the screen image from their connected smart phone. The demo simulation in the video is slick but not does not accurately depict the occlusion of the projected image that would take place each time the arm is touched. The idea is otherwise very exciting.
However, it is my opinion that the pico projector technology is not yet small enough to fit into this form factor. Fitting enough battery to run such a projector for any significant amount of time would also be unlikely. Note that to make use of this gadget you would need to shave your arms as the demonstrator in the video apparently has. Cicret is being crowd funded but is operating the funding themselves rather than using one of the Kick Starter-like sites. There is no offer of reward for those who fund the project nor is there any way to know if the donation is actually being invested in R&D. There is nothing about the team proposing to build this nor is there any real contact information indicating where your money may be going. As cool as the gadget would be if created, there is nothing here to give me confidence that it will ever happen. I challenge the folks at Cicret to better establish credibility before asking me to give them my money.
In my previous entry, 08: Mobile AR Hardware Technologies, I discussed the hardware technologies that are converging to enable mobile augmented reality experiences. Software and services are the other components that are crucial to the delivery of mobile AR experiences and I cover both in this post. There are several layers of software involved, some of which have to do with how developers create experiences while the others are about delivering the experience to the user. Services are applications that provide data or information that is consumed by AR applications over a network (i.e. the Internet). This data is much too diverse and vast to be stored on the device so it is made available upon demand. While hardware and software are responsible for rendering the AR experience, it is services that truly bring value to the user. Read More →
In my previous entry, 07: Modes of Visually Implementing AR, I discussed the various means by which an augmented reality experience can be visually rendered and I emphasized mobile AR since this is clearly where the compelling use cases lie and therefore where the commercial opportunities exist. While the visual rendering is at the heart of AR, there are many other technologies that must be integrated into an AR solution in order for it to be engaging, effective and attractive to the market place. In this entry I will be reviewing other hardware technology that is converging to make mobile AR happen. Software and services also play a crucial role and will be covered in upcoming posts. Read More →
The Holy Grail of augmented reality technology is a wearable medium by which information and 3D images can be integrated into one’s view of the real world where it is in registration with the objects and surroundings being viewed and dynamically adapting to those surroundings in real time both positionally and informationally. There are a number of companies (whom I will cover in future posts) today who are either accomplishing this in a limited fashion or have something close to this ideal in development. While implementing this ideal into spectacles that are attractive, lightweight and unobtrusive is the ideal form factor for mobile AR, it is not the only medium for AR experiences. In this post I aim to identify the many means by which AR experiences can be implemented visually. In subsequent posts I will cover the other technological aspects that go into rendering AR experiences which complement this visual presentation.
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Many wonder whether augmented reality is just a novelty or perhaps a fringe technology suitable only for the geeks in lab coats. In fact some have already written it off as a result of Google’s inability to build critical mass with Glass and the content companies’ production of mostly gimmicky applications as of yet. In this post I have compiled snippets from many market research sources in order to provide a picture of the opportunity that AR presents. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that AR is in the early stages of an explosive growth cycle and is destined to become an indispensable part of our lives. In fact I found nothing to the contrary. Do you buy into the hype? Be sure to leave your comments about your take on whether AR is poised to take off or be relegated to the heap of broken tech dreams. Read More →