Thanks to the recent frenzy around Pokémon GO, Augmented Reality (AR) has been enjoying a renewed burst of enthusiasm and press coverage. I must confess to not being a player myself, (although I have watched with great interest people attempting to catch Pokémon in my local pub!), but I have been tracking AR technology and its potential for many years. AR has often appeared to be the poor cousin of Virtual Reality (VR) and looked a bit limited and clunky. However, Pokémon Go and the arrival of new and more immersive AR hardware have changed all that.
One example of that change is the Microsoft HoloLens which has recently arrived in PA’s Innovation Lab, generating great excitement.
A smooth and immersive experience
It’s one of relatively few currently available outside of the US and is a head-mounted AR display, that overlays digital content and information on top of the wearers’ field of vision.
I’ve been really impressed with how smoothly the digital content was rendered and anchored to real world objects and the changing perspective of the wearer. Even a short time playing the accompanying game created an immersive and rewarding experience, and highlighted the potential usefulness of the technology in applications as diverse as training, therapy and entertainment.
What also struck me was how much more compelling the experience of playing a game such as Pokémon GO would be on a head-mounted device such as HoloLens. Having the AR experience mediated through the phone screen is limiting and disrupts any kind of deep immersion. The developers of Pokémon GO have already stated their desire to integrate the game with Head Mounted Display (HMD) technology such as HoloLens and Magic Leap. This perhaps gives us some more pointers to how this technology might develop in the future, driven in the first instance by opportunities to create more immersive experiences in gaming, advertising, and entertainment.
Sci-fi pointers to long term potential?
When I consider the long term potential of this technology I often recall the scenario presented by Vernor Vinge in his 2006 sci-fi novel Rainbows End, In this, a post- Singularity society (where artificial intelligence triggers major technological change) interacts through virtual and augmented reality overlays of the physical world on an almost constant basis through contact lens-style devices. Artificial intelligence plays a big part in ensuring that the behaviour of the digitally rendered “reality” is consistent and realistic and the convergence of AR, VR, and AI points to some fascinating potential future applications in this respect. Of course, there are considerable technological and social barriers to be overcome before such a future might unfold, not least around safety and social acceptance.
An invitation to explore AR
However, we believe that there are considerable opportunities for businesses to start to benefit from this technology now and we are already exploring use cases in healthcare, retail, utilities and education. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you to explore how Augmented Reality can create new opportunities in your industry.
To find out more or to arrange a session with HoloLens please get in touch with PA's Digital team.