Google, Microsoft, Apple, and even Amazon have been feverishly at work over the past decade, refining and honing separate technologies into what will become the new industrial revolution. It’s called augmented reality, and it’s going to change the way you work, travel, shop, and even socialize.
Like many technologies, AR isn’t a standalone development. Rather, it’s the culmination of many research disciplines, including voice recognition, GPS, and 3D sensors —- All to make wearable devices that can see, hear, and understand our world.
I sought to find several real-world examples where augmented reality has begun to impact daily business. It turns out I’m not the first author to closely examine the concept. There are already hundreds of articles declaring its effect on gaming and current uses in medicine, industry, and law enforcement - just to name a few. Narrowing down it’s potential into a few examples simply does not do it justice.So, let me summarize just where it can be applied.
We are constantly processing, organizing, and storing information from our very first breaths. All of our senses and memories are electrical signals, flying in precise patterns across our synapses, encoding and recording, storing and altering.
From the very first cave scratches, we have sought to expand ourselves. We grew from blurry handprints and hooting to complex speech and beautiful hieroglyphs. Letters were invented, which enabled contracts and complex laws. Humble paintings became grand murals, simple parchment became bound books, and yet humanity sought more.
Enter the printing press. The cornerstone for the industrial revolution, granting even the poorest man the chance to engage in high knowledge and discourse. Photographs came about, then recorded sound, then video. All these various forms of new media and their respective ways of communication. In a dizzying blur, we’ve grown into a highly augmented society.
Even the military is using AR to enhance awareness.
But, at what cost?
Genuine human interaction is somewhat difficult these days, with most of western society dashing from one display to the next. Indeed, we have possibly become too dependent on our little pocket devices. Life is big. And beautiful. And scary, and awesome. There’s no way to distill life into a mere screen. Right?
This is where AR has true potential. It’s one thing to distract from reality, and entirely another to enhance it. Rather than restricting our attention to square inches, we can re-join the big picture. Rather than doing paperwork, our devices can observe and do it for us.
There are the usual concerns about privacy, hacking, and abuse. Business suits and parliaments are making noises about what rules apply to whom. As an IT worker, I have some very strong personal reservations. The more powerful our technology becomes, the more we tend to abuse it. Cyberpunk dystopian images come to mind quite easily. But, time and again, as technology has come about, it has mostly improved our quality of life. At the heart of it, augmented reality is about information, and making it easier to share our experiences. As with all technologies, a little care and wisdom go a long way.
The AR startups of today will be the business giants of tomorrow. There are developers madly tinkering as I type this, working overtime to make it useful and fashionable. The wise investor would invest in those startups before the tech takes off. Think about your field of work. Whatever field that is, there is an application for augmented reality. For increased efficiency, information and creativity.
AR has the promise of making history more vivid, removing the scourge of mundane paperwork, and even saving lives. It’s the cornerstone of our next industrial revolution, and its already changing business. Done correctly, it can let us bin the cell phones altogether and get back to living in reality. Rather than distracting us further, augmented reality can make us more human than ever.