AR Cloud is the next big evolution of Augmented Reality. Until now, using current AR frameworks (except Google Tango which is deprecated), virtual objects could only be placed on flat surfaces. Other than being aware of flat surfaces in the real world, the framework has no other knowledge of the 3D physical fabrication of any observable physical object that is scanned in the environment, there was no 3D scanning involved.
AR Cloud is a continuously generated and updated online 3D open-world-like map that resembles the exact location of anything around us, including objects and terrain formations of the real world, like a 3D scan of everything around us. This generated spatial 3D map is seeded by users who use apps that utilizes an AR Cloud SDK code by users who use them using their own mobile devices.
Developers can use this AR Cloud platforms to place virtual objects that persist in the real world and do that with great accuracy. Much more accurate than relying on GPS coordinates for placing virtual content in GPS-coordinate based locations..
The virtual objects, and can be seen and be interacted by other users. Those users will be using different devices and platforms that use an app that facilitates access to shared information connected to the same AR cloud or uses cross AR-cloud data to retrieve information from different AR Cloud providers.
AR Cloud brings something different and more advanced than what Tango did (spatial mapping). It not just able to scan the area that came is facing and reconstruct a 3D virtual space that is saved to the cloud via the Internet and can be shared, alongside any virtual data that was embedded in it at a very precise location. All this happens in real time and brings several unique features that could only be done well and accurate using this technology.
This includes persisting virtual objects in the real world so when you reload the app, those virtual objects will be there exactly in the place you left them.
This was possible with GPS, but it was just location based, not at the object level resolution and it was very inaccurate for many types of uses (~4.9 m / 16 ft radius under an open sky, source: gps.gov). Just imagine trying to leave an important note on a washing machine in an Airbnb apartment to let visitors know how to use it but instead of appearing on or near where you initially placed it, it appears outside the apartment.
Vertical accuracy is even worse. I did try toying around with some GPS-enabled virtual content sharing apps, like Atlantis AR World for example. The experience was very inconsistent and lead to bad experience. An app like Skrite tried to conquer the sky, but the result is a clumsy app, usability wise, with very limited functionality to make an interesting and useful for social interactions and content organization and sharing.
Furthermore, AR Cloud enables cross-platform space-sharing social multiplayer AR experiences, which are essential to make AR a more accessible, useful, entertaining and most importantly, social.
I always cried on my blog how much I want to be able to play with friends. I want to get out and play a great new augmented reality game with other people I meat on the street. I want it to be a great experience. In order for this to happen, each device that interacts with the virtual content need to be able to see the same things that the other devices are seeing at the same location, at the exact place and the exact time. It has to be perfectly synchronized, because if not, two or more people might see different content, or even the same content, but at a different time.
Can you imagine playing an online or local multiplayer game where your opponent appears not where he or she is or a bullet getting towards the player a few seconds after he moves from the place? Probably not. This means that the AR scene has to be accurate, synchronized, consistent and persist across all devices taking part in the AR experience.
Having persistence in AR ensures that any virtual object that introduced into the AR scene, will stay there when I come back. Unless it was removed or moved for any reason by the app or by the users themselves.
One of the great advantages of AR Cloud is occlusion. Having a very precise spatial mapping of the world means that virtual object can be placed in the scene and be masked based on real-world objects that physically exists at a location that hinder their view. For example, placing a virtual ball under a table, result in the ball being hidden or partially seen, unlike current AR technologies, where this is just impossible, as every virtual object appears on top of the projected camera stream.
Some AR frameworks like Maxst AR SDK 3D, start supporting occlusion by using spatial mapping algorithms and computer vision algorithms, but AR cloud persists that information and make that information shareable across devices.
The world around us changes every single second. Some physical objects that were there a moment ago, might not be there a second later. The AR Cloud requires constant updating to make the shared online spatial map updated. There is no magic technique to do it from what I’ve read. The way to do it is to make users use apps that run on an ARCloud SDK and make users transmit that updated data to the AR Cloud where it will be stored, updated and shared among other users.
Just imagine wanting to put a specific virtual object on top of a pre-scanned physical object that it’s no longer there anymore.
There is so much to be excited about and it’s exciting for me to see how this AR Cloud tech is evolving and which players are going to get into it. As for now, I am quite surprised not seeing some of the big players taking an active part.
Googling the term “Samsung Cloud” actually lead me to a job post on LinkedIn that says: “Samsung Next building an AR cloud (whare) to enable a new generation of augmented reality application”. So I guess Samsung is in this game as well. There are also several full-time jobs listed on Jobinvite.com for “AR Cloud” in New york and California.
I am so hyped for this technology, I mean, the possibilities, my mind goes crazy. I will continue to spend more time to stay up-to-date with the latest information about the subject. If you have anything interesting to add, my ears are all open. Cheers.