What's going on?

Reality: Augmented
27/11/17

Those of us living in the tech world are always excited and enthusiastic to greet any new technology appearing on the horizon, especially if it's close enough to be within our reach.

A few such technologies in recent years include Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).

Most of us will have heard of VR, but it isn't that new in tech terms. VR has been around since the 1960s, when Ivan Sutherland (along with student Bob Sproull) created the first virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display system, named "Sword of Damocles".

The idea of VR being that when the headset is worn, the wearer enters a CGI world designed to simulate a location. They can then "look around" and (using sophisticated software) interact with that location and the items within it by moving their head in the direction of those things.

VR didn't really break onto the scene as the "next big thing" until the mid 2010s and it wasn't until 2016 that we saw a burst of VR devices enter the market. AR differs from VR in that, there is no virtual world. Instead, objects created using AR are superimposed onto the real world as if they were really there.

AR seems to have become an accepted and preferred virtualisation technology, especially since the release of the game Pokémon Go back in July 2016. This was the world’s first location-based AR game, made for smart devices, in which you roam various places (including your home town and even your own home) to find, battle with, capture and even train virtual creatures known as Pokémon. As the player moves with their smart device, pointing the camera at the world in front of them, these creatures appear as if they were standing on the ground in front of the player, and move realistically as the camera is panned or tilted.

This game demonstrated a single, simple and undisputable fact about AR; it's a technology which can be utilised without recourse to expensive or cumbersome hardware. In addition, the hardware required is already in most people's hands.

Somewhat auspicious to the growth and success of this technology is the fact that Apple has embraced it enthusiastically. At the September launch of their iPhone 8 and iPhone X, they announced the release of an AR SDK (Software Development Kit) for all iOS developers, signalling their desire to usher in an era of AR development, at least for Apple devices.

With all of this in mind, where can we expect AR to go? Because AR is effectively programmable objects superimposed on the real-world, when combined with real-life telemetry data, the possibilities are limitless.

Imagine, in the world of emergency services, AR integrated with personnel transceivers to track individuals in fire and rescue teams as they search a burning building for survivors. The AR display showing vital information such as location temperature (possibly to allow scene command to map the spread of fire/dangerous heat levels), oxygen remaining in breathing tanks, and so much more, simply by pointing a tablet at the building.

Exciting beyond words.

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