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February 9th, 2018

Current State of Augmented Reality (AR) Industry Tech in 2018

Neil Singh Virtual Augmented Reality VR AR VUDream

Neil Singh, VR/AR Contributor

Augmented reality is evolving much quicker than its cousin virtual reality.
 
The adoption of commercial and enterprise solutions using AR devices is now becoming common. Industries from aerospace to manufacturing, logistics and more are all looking at ways to use AR tech for day to day business operations.
 
In the AR industry, there are some strong forces at play. Microsoft Hololens, Google Glass, among several others.
 
It can be said that AR is going to be the ‘device of choice’ for the new generation and its economy, possibly even replacing the laptop, tablet and even the smartphone.
Current Augmented Reality AR Industry Tech
Augmented Reality also has less hurdles to overcome. Where virtual reality has to literally be designed within 3D artificial landscapes, in AR we are able to simply overlay our existing environment with information. This makes for a compelling business scenario.
 
The excitement of AR is not only that the devices are more user friendly at this point but also that the good ones are certainly ‘wearable’ and that AR creates a less intrusive footprint on ones head when in use.
 
Some examples of great AR hardware are things such as the Vuzix Blade, ODG R-7 Smartglasses System, Garmin Varia Vision, Optinvent ORA-2 and Epson Moverio BT-300.
vuzix3000 AR Augmented Reality
Vuzix probably has the sexiest pair of wearable AR glasses at this point in time it has its own SDK, but on their website, they do claim that Vuzix hardware runs with Android so this makes it quite an appealing product since Android devices have a fairly strong software ecosystem associated with them.
 
Another reason why Vuzix stands out is the adoption of #VoiceFirst technology, where commands can be delivered to the Vuzix Blade using voice, this is impressive especially with the rise in Amazon, Alexa, and other voice clients.
 
If you want to learn more about the abundant number of AR devices available and some of which were on show at #CES2018, visit: Augmented Reality Glasses: What You Can Buy Now (or Soon) This article by Toms Guide did a good roundup of what is out there and what each device can actually do!
 
An interesting thing to note about Augmented Reality hardware is that its specifications are a lot like a mobile device. Many utilize snapdragon processors, sd-card slots, 8-megapixel cameras etc but with the addition of haptic feedback touchpads and motion tracking.
 
ARCore and ARKit are the two big ones by Google and Apple respectively, Microsoft also chimes in with the Hololens SDK where apps run natively on a Hololens version of what seems like Windows 10.
 
Microsoft boldly confesses that it is the leading company in mixed reality with their HoloLens device. The premise of such a statement by Microsoft is the ability for users of HoloLens to interact with digitally created objects in the real world.
Microsoft HoloLens
Magic Leap successfully raised over 4.5 billion dollars. A company shrouded in secrecy about their technology operated largely unnoticed in an indistinguishable South Florida business park. So what makes Magic Leap so special that it could raise such significant capital? What are there secrets? Well, honestly I could not tell you since they keep that close to their chests and given the value of their IP who could blame them!
 
An article in Forbes magazine published in November 2016 said it perfectly:
 
“Magic Leap’s innovation isn’t just a high-tech display – it’s a disruption machine. This technology could affect every business that uses screens or computers and many that don’t. It could kill the $120 billion market for flat-panel displays and shake the $1 trillion global consumer-electronics business to its core. The applications are profound. Throw out your PC, your laptop, and your mobile phone, because the computing power you need will be in your glasses, and they can make a display appear anywhere, at any size you like.”
 
Think of Magic Leap compared to its competition: for example if Vuzix is a rock star in AR devices which could be used by the mainstream, then Magic Leap is the galactic lord of these devices!
 
Magic Leap has a few very significant devices in their product line. It is better to describe what those features are when we look at the ‘creator’ product which they have appropriately named Magic Leap One. It features “Digital Light-field technology, visual perception, persistent objects, sound field audio, a high powered chipset, and a next-generation interface”, I learned of these features just by visiting their website.
People transitioning from phones to a new device might be difficult. But it’s much easier for the market to transition if they see a wearable AR device, with equivalent functionality to their own mobile phones but in a sexier package that simply fits you like a pair of sunglasses!
 
With the exception of Microsoft who’s HoloLens despite its impressive technology still seems a bit clunky for an AR solution. I mean you won’t see me walking around a mall wanting to use AR wearing a HoloLens, some of the other alternatives however like Vuzix, Ora, or Solos you could do exactly that and not compromise style and function!
 
Adding to this excitement Intel and Apple recently announced its own efforts in developing an AR wearable device! The space of Augmented Reality is heating up with all these competitors and no doubt the market is prime for solutions.
 
There is a strong necessity spawned out of the multitude of device options and that is far more practical software solutions to use with AR. Companies need to start latching on to the idea of working with AR as it is one such technology that is very easy to adapt for business purposes.
 
The barrier to entry for many companies seems to be the expense of the technology right now. Most devices are priced similarly to expensive mobile phones. A good question to ask is, how many companies are actually out there that don’t know where they could augment reality.
 
This opens up a great debate about big data and how to re-purpose data visually in applications that utilize augmented reality. I intend to write another blog on this topic that investigates much more how ecosystems in AR work and how they are designed!
Data Center Server AI
In the next article, we will be looking at different approaches to AR applications in the market. We will discuss how AR ecosystems can work at commercial scale using Blockchain, IoT, Cloud, Voice First, and AI.

Conclusion

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