Augmented Reality: Is it the next technological ‘big thing’?
Augmented Reality (AR) has been a dream for those who would like to have their information processed and presented in a format which can be related to the real-time environment that they are experiencing. AR will be able to assist professionals perform their jobs more proficiently without the need to constantly process their load of information on another information platform. Imagine medical practitioners and engineers worldwide being supported by Tony Stark’s AR systems; the amount of lives saved and inventions built might even be on the same level as the man clad in iron himself.
While the current AR environment in our society is not as properly developed and integrated as movies suggest, there have been several huge steps taken in terms of AR development and integration. The system has been integrated into several industries, including gaming, social media and compatible professional work environments. Without doubt, the mixture of AR systems into our society has come with mixed responses and results from society’s occupants. Problems including privacy and security concerns, information overloading are the main concerns regarding AR (King, et al., 2016). To see if AR is the next big integration into our society, we will be looking at the setbacks and improvements of organisations that have delved into AR and assess the amount of time it might take until it can fully complement our society.
The term ‘Augmented Reality’ was first coined in 1990 by Thomas P. Caudell (Caudell & Mizell, 1992). However, similar to virtual reality, the general framework originated from the ‘Swords of Damocles’ invented by Ivan Sutherland back in 1968, the machine provided the first view of an object in a different environment being projected into the real-time environment. The next notable invention in the form of workplace AR technology was Virtual Fixtures (Rosenberg, 1993), developed by Louis Rosenberg in 1992 to complement 3D graphics which were lacking at the time, it allowed the user to use robotic arms to control virtual arms that were viewed through lenses.
In 2009, ARToolkit was a design tool made available open-source for users, it allowed the design of AR objects which can be seen with the real-world environment while using mobile applications. The tech company Google also announced its own AR glasses back in 2013, the glasses promised multiple functions that were able to help users get through with their daily lives as shown with the ‘Project Glass’ video demo below. However, the project was too far- reaching and the release raised several concerns. We will continue the discussion on Google Glasses and its impediments further below.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRxNmu5w1UE, (Source: T3, Google Glasses Project Glass demo, Standard Youtube License)
The big release of AR technology in the gaming industry was by Niantic in 2016, in the form of Pokémon Go, using GPS technology to determine the players’ locations and also the rarity of Pokémon depending on global locations. The app incited users to travel to different locations in order to ‘Catch ‘Em All’. Snapchat also recently announced its own AR studio features, allowing creators to invent and modify their own AR objects which can appear on the users’ snapchat app using Snapchat’s tracking technology on the real-life world through the mobile lenses.
Successes and Setbacks of AR Products
For Google, the Google glasses demo video had many users hyping that the dawn of AR has arrived. With its functions that supported the users’ needs to have rapid access to real-time information using a hands-free interaction, Google glasses seemed to be perfect as how it was marketed in its demo videos. However, the glasses were marketed to the wrong target. The main reason was due to social awkwardness with 90% of Americans choosing not to wear the glasses, a survey finds (Matyszczyk, 2013), the glasses were not subtle in its design, with a protruding physical feature that onlookers will be able to recognize. The glasses’ features also comes with privacy concerns of both the users and of the third party participants (Safavi & Shukur, 2014). The system still has not an answer to cyber hackers who are able to access the users’ information which puts the users at risk of having their daily routines and private data leaked to outsiders. The Google glasses also had privacy concerns to third party users, including unauthorized or non-consensual recording of other people, inside movie theatres. With the Google glasses functions being very accessible, some users who are used to the glasses will unconsciously break several laws (Kumar & Sharma, 2014). Thus, those who are conscious of the laws will have to remove or replace their glasses at different scenarios, making it awkward for in terms of usage.
However, the glasses were popular in other industries including the medical settings (Martinez-Millana, et al., 2016), there were several practical applications of the glasses that were put into use in doctors’ hands and improvements that were made which answered to its connectivity failures and device automatic restart.
It was apparent that the current Google glasses were not fit to be used in the public community, therefore, Google made improvements to its current design and announced a newer design, the Glass Enterprise Edition 2 (Sullivan, 2019), for its intended workplace community instead. Google’s product is still budding in terms of its functionality, before it can be released to improve consumers’ daily productivity as it was intended to, the product has to first breakthrough the tremendous social issues it brings to society.
Niantic’s Pokémon Go was a phenomenon for the mobile AR side, by grabbing from the large pool of consumers with the Pokémon brand, Niantic was able to develop an app that encouraged users to explore and catch Pokémon as the brand intended to. The app generated $1.8 million daily from global players (SensorTower, 2018), retaining the top 10 spot in the most downloaded game section in the AppStore for 21 countries. The app uses its challenges, outdoor activities and nostalgia to retain its users-generated revenue (Hamari & Malik, 2018). By using the app, users will flock to areas that are popular as the rarity of items increase. This means that for areas that are an interest point in the app, there will be increased traffic which can translate to increased revenue opportunities, several stores have been using the app as a selling point in order to attract consumers (Storefront, 2016). While being popular, the app also comes with several known setbacks as well, including the main concerns of privacy and safety. A recent lawsuit regarding a private property being marked as an interest point calls into question the legal concerns of how AR reality can mix with physical property laws (Robertson, 2019). There is also the concern for physical trespassing in important or restricted landmarks by users that can be seen as an irritation for the community and sometimes might spark actual confrontation.
The app currently made improvements to its features, including user-suggested landmarks in order to avoid the property conflicts and to improve services in developing countries. It remains in the top 10 appstore gaming apps of 2019 with its newly released contents. The release of this AR mobile app raised many social issues in society showing the problems in integrating augmented reality into the real-time environment due to its popularity worldwide.
Snap Inc. Case
Snapchat was mainly a fast-paced photo editing and sharing app until it lost many of its users to its competitors. Snap Inc. went forward and developed its AR features and even made its development environment free users with LensStudio. The company has also partnered up with companies that further advertises its AR features, including Nike and Photomath that helped developed an AR feature that can solve math problems (Song, 2019). This inclusion of these features helped increased the company’s revenue by 43% from the year 2017 to 2018 (Snap Inc., 2018). This shows that AR is a feature whereby the positive effects from the usage are able to attract more customers to delve into new technology in order to generate economical returns for an organisation.
The mixing of the AR and the real world environment has many positive effects in terms of accessibility, creativity, enjoyment and productivity for its users. This can be in term of private, social and workplace applications. However, the current setbacks in design technology reduces the full functionality of AR devices due to perceived social issues that may arise. The current application of mobile devices also has the setback of going against property law in several countries, the full release and integration of the AR environment is with several legal concerns. Yet, many users are interested in the enhanced features of the AR functions that companies can provide; as interacting with the real-time environment using accessible, creative and productive features brings about a new experience, which will in turn generation revenue for a company. AR is currently on its way to become the next ‘big thing’, however the next few years of continuous improvement and to its functions and integration into society’s social and legal issues will determine whether the population will have a AR experience that is free of concerns.