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Augmented Reality: What are the Next Steps for AR?

It’s still early days for AR – so how might it have functional uses moving forward?

Augmented Reality has been a research topic for many years, with increasing popularity among tech circles. Many people are already familiar with AR through Instagram and Snapchat’s functionality.

Firstly, there were filters that would recognise your face as an object and prompt a response when you changed your expression. More recently, we’ve seen animated stickers that can dance on your coffee table. However, whilst in its infancy, there’s potential for AR to add functional purpose to our daily lives.

What is AR?

AR is much more than layering one element on top of another. In principle, it is a hugely engaging method of communication and giving people some added insight. This can be for a functional purpose rather than just an entertaining one.

If a camera understands what object it’s looking at, then there is a way to interact with it. AR offers options for adding to the object, or augmenting it in some way. Simply put, the best AR experiences will consider what’s virtually possible in the physical world. Augmented Reality apps should also be easy to use, and probably be either helpful, or good fun. So far, this is largely the latter, although more functional uses are emerging.

AR has been explored slightly less than its VR counterpart, which is a few years ahead on its development journey. However, the release of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore makes building much more accessible for developers. With that, there’s increased likelihood that solid AR apps are going to more frequently make an appearance.

Making it Work

So, why could this stuff become useful? A lot of it comes down to the way we can see information, or visualise data. Mobile phones have helped us to gain some added information at our fingertips. Beforehand, this information was less readily accessible. So, the potential for additive VR to tell us that bit more about the world around us has great potential. A key advantage here is that our mobile screen is finite. In theory, future tools may help to get around this problem.

In a world where additive visual elements can exist through AR, useful cues can sit on the edge of view. To be successful, AR needs to consider both the way in which augments real world objects, as well as the augmentations that are valuable to the user. We’re thinking more along the lines of helpful tips than neon indicators.

Microsoft Hololens

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

What Kind of Uses are Possible?

Having access to additional information in front of you is instantly valuable in the B2B arena, such as on the job training. This is something that has also been explored within Virtual Reality. However, there are many more potential uses, too.

Apps already exist to identify what objects are, which gives you the ability to go out and find out more about it and even buy it. The likes of Google Lens could be valuable moving forward, although my Pixel 2’s first guess at object recognition was to mistake a can of soup for a cocktail.

Equally, AR could be used to not only help you find places in your local environment, but add some extra information about that location too. Additionally, users could become better equipped with more useful data about specific objects or situations in your real world environment.

So, What’s Happening Now?

As an emerging technology, there is much more to be seen from AR. However, Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore allow developers to get to the heart of developing their own AR applications right now. Of course, we are still some way from realising the potential of AR. This means that we’ll probably see more of what users are already familiar with (cue more dancing hotdogs for a while). However, useful cues that can support the user might not be too far off.