Augmented Reality may have hit the scene like a ton of bricks as a way to bring virtual objects into the real world, but over the last few years, it has evolved into a valuable tool for various industries.
It has become a common tool in everyday life, and the future seemingly has no limits.
Where did Augmented Reality start?
Where are we seeing the technology in use today, and what does the future of AR look like?
Let’s see what to expect now and in the near future.
From Humble Beginnings
Augmented Reality may have smashed its way into the market in the last decade or so, but it comes from much more humble beginnings. The first head-mounted display system was invented in 1968. Dubbed The Sword of Damocles, it would be the only major advancement in the industry until 1975 and the introduction of Videoplace, Myron Krueger’s artificial reality lab.
In 1990, Thomas P. Caudell, a former Boeing researcher, finally gave it a name — Augmented Reality (AR). From there, the technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. NASA used it in 1998 for field navigation. Companies started adopting AR as a medium for print advertisements.
Microsoft Kinect used AR as a motion sensor in 2010, allowing for interactive gameplay. 2013 saw the rise and subsequent fall of the Google Glass. 2016 brought “Pokemon Go,” which used AR through smartphone cameras to project Pokemon on the real world as players caught them.
AR was introduced as something you used to need specialized equipment for. However, as smartphone cameras became more prevalent, it’s proven to be the perfect venue for gaming, shopping and marketing.
Augmented Reality in Present Tense
Currently, we’re seeing augmented reality pop up nearly everywhere. A few examples include:
- NASA using AR and the Microsoft Hololens to aid in spacecraft assembly: Instead of using a massive instruction and assembly manual, engineers can use AR to see the instructions, what parts they need and even the next steps projected right onto the surface where they work. Augmented reality headsets have become a staple on the International Space Station, used for everything from controlling robots to carrying out maintenance and even exercising in space.
- Shopping: Have you ever wondered what a piece of furniture or a paint color might look like in your home while you’re shopping online? Wonder no more. All you need is a smartphone camera, and sites like Amazon offer an AR mode that lets you visualize your purchase in your house before you ever click that Buy Now button.
- Surgical training: Hands-on experience is best, but the last thing you want is a new surgeon carrying out a delicate and dangerous operation on their first day. AR can give physicians the experience they need so they’re ready to save lives when the need arises.
- Property tours and project inspections: The COVID-19 pandemic has made face-to-face interactions a challenge. AR gives people the ability to tour properties without ever leaving the comfort of home.
This isn’t an in-depth list at all – Augmented Reality is beginning to emerge as a valuable tool in nearly every industry, finding new ways of implementation and usage. If you are doubtful about AR, due to the costs it may incur (or you wish to learn AR development), you can try and build an AR app yourself with the help of the available tools on the market.
What Does the Future of Augmented Reality Look Like?
The present is already looking bright for AR as a whole, so what does the future hold? Facebook, in collaboration with Ray-Ban, just released its new smart glasses. Apple is planning to offer its own headset and smart glasses in 2022.
Experts also predict that the expansion of 5G networks will make it easier to support cloud-based AR experiences while also making them more realistic. The high-speed, low-latency internet offered by 5G networks will make it easy to pull programs and interactions from anywhere in the world in a fraction of a second.
Augmented Reality may also become a part of the average office space, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that pushed so many companies into adopting remote work. When Facebook introduced its VR office software Horizon Workrooms earlier this year, a lot of people rolled their eyes. However, this AR technology application could allow people to stay connected as though they’re working in the same space without leaving their homes. An AR meeting could showcase people — either as holographic projections, videos or even avatars — in a room without being in attendance.
The AR market is growing exponentially. By 2030, experts estimate the industry as a whole will be worth more than $76 billion, a massive growth from $26.75 billion in 2021. It will be interesting to see what innovations crop up during that time and how much easier augmented reality can make our lives.
Looking Toward the Future
AR — and more specifically, mixed reality (XR), which combines aspects of virtual and augmented reality — will become a more common part of daily life. While we may never reach OASIS levels of immersion like what you see in “Ready Player One” and other examples of VR in pop culture, we will likely see more instances of this technology every day.
AR has the potential to connect people around the globe in an instant, provide tools for various industries, and change the way we interact with both the virtual world and the real one. The only place to go from here is up, and it appears the sky’s the limit.