When Will Augmented Reality Reach the Tipping Point?

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By Konstantinos Karachalios, Managing Director, IEEE Standards Association

Proprietary products deliver competitive differentiation in early stages of technology development. But there comes a point when open, standards-based solutions are necessary to establish the technological foundation on which more innovators can participate at lower cost, toward the goal of growing a richer and more robust market. Communications, computers, energy and healthcare are among the many, many technology areas that have all demonstrated this pattern.

So, where is augmented reality in relation to its inevitable tipping point?

The 11th Augmented Reality (AR) Community Meeting, 12-13 September 2014 at Metaio GmbH in Munich, will provide insights on the status with respect to the maturity of the technological foundations for AR. Among the goals for the front-line AR customers, developers and tools providers who participate in this meeting will be to learn about the open standards, specifications and application programming interfaces (APIs) under development around the world today.

Anecdotally, we can observe that AR is beginning to penetrate everyday experiences. The next generation of mobile and wearable devices will integrate sensors; by combining these and complementary services, valuable information in AR view will appear directly with our environments, so that it will be part of how we interact with the world. Many emerging and existing technologies will be involved in bringing about this mind-blowing AR future, and the standards process offers a path for realizing AR’s full potential. Ultimately, development and adoption of open standards for AR stand to foster innovation and market growth through economies of scale and wider interoperability.

The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) is leading campaigns and projects to advance open and interoperable AR. It makes sense, given the scope of IEEE expertise across technology areas that contribute to AR and the proven track record of IEEE for serving as a facilitator and catalyst in widely adopted technologies, such as networking communications and the smart grid.

The IEEE SA offers a platform for developers and users to innovate for open and interoperable AR. For example, the IEEE SA’s standards-development process is based on broad global participation and consensus—in alignment with the “OpenStand” principles for global, open, market-driven standards. And, indeed, a wide variety of IEEE standards and projects relevant to AR already exists today.

To facilitate participation from emerging AR domains, the IEEE is also exploring establishment of new study groups, projects or standards based on requirements of all segments of the AR ecosystem. To that end, an IEEE SA Industry Connections activity has been launched to, in part, identify needs for new standards and best practices in the AR technology space.

Furthermore, the IEEE SA proactively engages with other leaders around the world to encourage global AR market growth. For example, in June 2014, the IEEE SA collaborated with PEREY Research & Consulting on outreach in southwest Germany to establish and/or strengthen the IEEE SA’s relationships with leading-edge AR developers and users, as well as to inform them about our organization’s activities in AR. This area is home to the world’s highest concentration of research institutes, universities and companies that build core technology enablers for AR and/or integrate and use AR for enterprise applications.

During our meetings with chief executive officers (CEOs), product and manufacturing managers, faculty and the executive director of a non-profit association dedicated to the advancement of virtual reality and AR, it became increasingly clear that component interoperability is a distant goal. This makes standards critical to the ongoing growth in this space, a point that will be explored further in this week’s AR Community Meeting.

The tipping point at which the open, standards-based approach takes the fore in the burgeoning AR space is inevitably on its way, and, beyond it, the possibilities for the industry are boundless.