The Augmented Reality and the Evolution of Expectations

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By Shuang Yu, Senior Manager, Solutions Marketing, IEEE Standards Association

I was introduced to the eye-opening film, Augmented City 3D, in October 2014 at the InsideAR Conference in Munich. Designer and film-maker Keiichi Matsuda shows us a not-too-distant future enabled by augmented reality (AR), in which, as he describes it, “the architecture of the contemporary city is no longer simply about the physical space of buildings and landscape, more and more it is about the synthetic spaces created by the digital information that we collect, consume and organize.”

What initially struck me about the movie is how data follows people and they interact with that as an immersive human-computer interface and how simply it all existed in the physical realm without prompts from a handheld device. The film’s characters interacted with digital information as though it was an everyday experience; it just “lived and breathed” around their reality. It was expected to be available as they moved through life.

And then it was weeks later, back home in the United States, that I had another revelation about the movie. My friend’s 2-year-old daughter for some time has been using an iPad to play games, so she has grown accustomed to swiping the touchscreen to move things around. One day, the little girl tried to interact with the TV in the same way she would with an iPad—by swiping the screen. Of course, nothing happened. Again, she touched the TV screen and swiped. Still, nothing happened.

“Mommy,” she said, finally giving up, “the TV is broken.”

This is how today’s younger generation interacts with things in a world where everything—stuff and humans—more and more frequently is interconnected. It is a very different reality, a very different set of expectations for how the world works from the one that my and previous generations were born into. And, so, while I find mind-blowing most everything about Keiichi Matsuda’s augmented-reality vision, the technology innovations upon which AR is taking shape are already evolving our children’s expectations to those of the characters in the film.

The IEEE white paper “A Day in 2020: An AR market development and community engagement project” describes today’s AR technology and delivery methods:

Projection AR uses fixed or mobile projectors to superimpose light on the target. This is highly suitable for performing arts, manufacturing, and public art installations. Unlike projection alone, the experience of the user must change when the physical world changes.

Desktop or console AR is stationary and the user seems to see a mirror of the physical world in which additional digital assets are overlaid.

Mobile displays can be optical see-through or video see-through. Smartphones and tablets are not transparent, so they can only be video see-through. Transparent or semi-transparent materials, such as lenses in glasses or contact lenses, permit optical see-through AR in which the user sees the real world (not a video of it).

That’s today, but the technology for AR delivery will become more complex and enhanced. Plus, the concept and capabilities of augmented reality are quickly spilling across all of our senses. AR is not only about sight and touch; innovations today are already showing how AR will also envelop sound, smell and taste.

As we begin to see AR and its associated technologies permeate the world in such ways, what near-term and long-term change might be in store for travel, food and gaming industries? How might they change education and entertainment? And where else can you imagine these innovations transforming our ways of life and our expectations?

For example, if we can change a façade of a building and broadcast our mood, who says we can’t create our own “face” or “shape” the world around us as we see it? Soon people could wear “faces” based on the mood and the occasion—just as some people already change facial makeup daily. This could take the meaning of self expression to a whole new level, using all the body’s senses to engage with reality (and one that’s heavily augmented).

Plus, AR is not only about humans but also things. For example, could sensors be embedded in furniture so that it can “feel” and “see” and have “memory,” and how might such an innovation impact, say, crime investigations?

Perhaps, even our whole understanding of what the “real world” is will be redefined by the augmented-reality revolution and the crystalizing reality of the connected person. Instead of being confined to the physical world, our understanding of the real world might be informed by a combination of the physical and no-less-real, digital world.

I’m excited to be working for an organization that is at the forefront of AR innovation. The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) offers a platform for developers and users worldwide to innovate for open and interoperable augmented reality. Development and adoption of market-driven standards for AR stands to spur innovation and grow markets through economies of scale and wider market acceptance and uptake. Even today, IEEE has dozens of standards and standards-development projects to support the advancement of AR. And IEEE SA Industry Connections is leading campaigns and projects to encourage AR toward its full potential as an enhancement to human life and information use.

The IEEE SA is the connection fabric for technologists globally. Through the IEEE SA, the world’s technologists tap into unmatched access to cross-disciplinary expertise across and beyond IEEE to work together to enable the connected person and all of its associated applications and capabilities such as augmented reality, “e-health,” the Internet of Things (Iot), cloud computing and the smart grid.

How do you see technologies are transforming our ways of life and our expectations? Send me an email, or leave a comment below.