The concept of augmented reality (AR) is likely to become a “daily habit” among consumers worldwide, according to Google’s vice president of business and operations for virtual reality (VR) Amit Singh, as the tech giant anticipates “hundreds of millions” of Android devices to have AR capabilities by the end of 2018. The global adoption of AR technology via Android smartphone and tablet devices is expected to bring a raft of potential monetization opportunities.
Earlier this year, Google released a new AR platform in August, ARCore, designed to help innovative developers create useful AR apps for Android. ARCore was initially targeting Google’s Pixel smartphone as well as the recently released Samsung Galaxy S8 – both of which are considered high-end devices. Nevertheless, Singh predicts that owners of mid-to-low range smartphone and tablet can expect to see “augmented reality [become] a core feature of most of Android over the next few years”.
ARCore is designed to work with Java, OpenGL, Unity and Unreal, with a distinct focus on utilising cameras to provide accurate motion tracking, improving the environmental understanding for virtual objects and even use ambient light to make virtual objects appear even better suited to their physical surroundings.
The AR battle is well and truly hotting up between Google and Apple, with the latter’s ARKit already giving rise to a number of exciting AR demos, as Apple gears up to bring AR technology to the iPhone with iOS 11. Leading brands such as IKEA are beginning to get involved with their Apple-exclusive AR app allowing their customers to visualize precisely how their furniture will look and fit in their homes. The IKEA Place app allows users to choose a piece of furniture from their product catalogue and drag it into their own home to ascertain whether it will be a suitable purchase; without having to traipse around their miles of warehouses. Meanwhile, the UK National Lottery is already embracing AR with the development of industry-first AR scratchcards, utilizing technology from Blippar. Games of chance still remain very popular with casual gamers and the Lotto has now found its way online, adapting to consumer demands and providing new ways of playing lottery games around continental Europe.
While Google and Apple battle it out for AR supremacy, Microsoft is also quietly working on a fusion of augmented and virtual reality. Mixed reality is designed to allow physical and virtual objects to co-exist and work together in real-time harmony. The concept behind mixed reality is that the technology goes further than visual displays by incorporating environments and spatial sounds which blend human perception and conventional reality with digital interaction.
Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system has been built to integrate fully with Microsoft’s mixed reality devices, the HoloLens and the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset. The Microsoft HoloLens is a holographic mixed reality headset, allowing people to see the real-world environment through digital lenses which overlay virtual objects, data and content in the real world as it if was physically there.
Already mixed reality technology is being put to good use in the healthcare sector with doctors from around the world assisting in surgical procedures, while a HoloLens app was also designed to assist visually impaired individuals’ navigation around their home and wider environment using the medium of sound. With all of these AR, VR and mixed reality developments, 2018 promises to be a truly exciting prospect for consumers, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in all areas of our lifestyles.