My AR Journey

My Augmented Reality Journey Update

I’ve decided to create ‘AR Critic’ blog minutes later after I tried out an ARKit game on my friend’s iPhone. I didn’t even have to play a lot, I just moved the phone from side to side, walked a bit t observe the virtual content from different dimensions—it was enough to foresee the bright future of this technology.

Until that part, I was all into using apps the “Standard” way, like most people around me, did. I had too many things to get my hands on and my mind wasn’t in a ready state to follow all the technological innovation that is happening.

That moment where I actually tried a modern AR application was a disruptive moment in my life. I was late to the party but it didn’t take long to realize that the party has just begun, and it’s going to take quite some time before the main show begins.

Since then, I’ve tried out hundreds if not thousands of AR applications and reviewed quite a lot of them. Some of those I reviewed, mostly the ones that I enjoy the most and those who were, for me, worth spreading the word about. From very little knowledge, I start learning about design concepts that work well for this medium and wrote a few articles and guides sharing my insights.

I’ve read many articles about the technical aspects of augmented reality and quickly understood its current disadvantages and what needs to be done to take it to the next stage. The mobile phone itself was a fast and accessible way to deliver the AR experience to a wide audience. Pokemon GO showed the great potential of the technology and for many developers, it was a turning point where they start thinking, maybe we should make some AR apps as well.

This was also a great opportunity for many developers to put something out that stand out from the rest, as it was the beginning of something new. Pokemon GO was kind of an important milestone that demonstrates a good AR game design concept and proved that people are interested in the technology, willing to physically go out and explore their surroundings as they play the game.

It was a time that many developers thought that if you just put out something interesting out there, there was a good chance that it would get noticed, even better, featured. Many developers took this opportunity with both hands and start working on some AR apps and games.

Most of the action took place on the App Store. Even right now as I am writing these lines, not a lot happening on Google Play. Most developers priorities iOS as the main platform for their apps, and I only saw relatively few apps released that were developed for the two platforms. Of course, there are AR platforms that are cross-platform and those help developer reach a broader audience but in practice, most of the apps that I tried and reviewed were on iOS.

I still bought an Android ARCore-enabled device (OnePlus 6) because I wanted to be able to review ARCore apps as well, aside from the fact that some of the apps require GPS.

Although I still consumed those Augmented realities (AR) experiences through the mobile phone’s screen, my heart looks forward to AR glasses. I want my hands to be free of holding a device, and that thing alone opens up the door for so many unique interactions and app design concepts that just aren’t possible or at the very best not comfortable to use when your hands hold a device. There is also the limitations of the screen’s limited field of view, surrounding awareness, homogeneously mixed reality viewing experience without borders and much more.

Watching AR content appear in the world was like seeing a creature in a cage, the screen, then releasing it to the real world environment and see how it adapts and evolves. Still, the content was just an overlay and surface detection with the right angle and positioning helped produce that “fake” mixed reality view where the virtual content appears like a part of the real world. To have a truly mixed reality experience, we need the app to map and mesh the area or/and detect objects in it so the virtual content can seamlessly look like a part of it.

You get that view when the virtual content appears occluded behind, below, on top or inside real physical objects or when it reacts to colliding or intersecting with them. That “mixed” part is very important to create a perpetual and authentic mixed reality experience where the virtual content appears part of the real world without the viewing angle or other real-world objects disclosing this synthetic real/virtual compound at some point during the user experience.

Since then, new technology innovations were made, with AR cloud (e.g. being one of the more prominent ones required to fulfill the vision and effectuate the great potential of this amazing augmented reality medium. A term “Spatial Computing” term was coined. It’s a broad term that denotes the way we use computers to interact with the world around us. We are no longer bound by the limitations of the screen area, the physical hardware size, and shape—It’s a beautiful symbiosis between code and nature.

When I walk in the street, there is so much information that can be perceived from my surroundings, which I don’t collect or skip because of a technological barrier or just because the process of acquiring the data isn’t readily accessible. The data is there, but it rests in a disconnected computing layer. There are of courses mobile apps the ease that gap, For example, I used AR translation using Google Translate to translate foreign language text and I use Google Lens to detect and learn more about my environment, objects, etc. I always feel that it’s a missed opportunity because the information exists, but it just doesn’t connect in a way that will allow me to easily consume it. I could have been much smarter and learn more thing every single day if I could easily acquire more knowledge about things in my surroundings without the hardware and software making it complicated, unexciting or time consuming.

That being said, although there are applicative solutions, they are bound to the mobile phone’s limitations. The mobile phone isn’t the optimal product to channel that flow of information to, especially when you do want to consume it in real time without causing any convenience interruption.  The use suppose to be as easy as looking at a sign at the store and seeing whether the store is closed or not. As easy as asking a person a question and getting an answer. It supposes to be natural for us without the hardware being a barrier that impairs the experience for us.

This way, computers won’t stand in the way between you and that natural vision and speech data acquiring experience—The technology will be there, serving you, helping you, make your life more convenient and fun, allowing you to gain knowledge in simple and exciting new ways.

Some of those technologies are already here. This includes the necessary hardware (i.e. MR glasses) and software (i.e. AR Cloud, Machine Learning, Deep Learning). These hardware and software components are created in a human-centric way,  so you, the consumer or professional, can benefit from them in a way that respects your valuable time, space, and privacy. Those experiences will further be personalized to perfectly, as much as possible, fit your needs, your lifestyle, knowledge, age, location, etc. Those will also take environmental conditions into account and combine those and other factors in a single coherent ultra-personalized experience. AI will be used to continuously learn about you and optimize those experiences so they perfectly match just for YOU. This also means that future mixed reality experience will need to take more use personalization than ever before. This might make some app development more complex, but I’m sure there will be personalization platforms to ease that transition and adaptation.

This way, the benefit of using the technology will overcome some of its initial barriers and people will gladly accept them and use them. AR glasses are essential for the evolution of these technologies and fulfilling the vision and promise of those breathing-living data layers that are synergized with the real world, feeding the real world with its essential “data nutrition” that humans can consume and benefit from in every single moment of their life if they wish to. The “digital vitamins” that enrich our knowledge and soon will become vital for our daily lives.

That world around us will change forever. Nothing around you will be taken for granted. Things around will morph change and adapt to physical changes in the environment. Not just that, physical things will be digitized and would be able to be modified and even removed. You will be able to move buildings, erase trees, change the weather (digitally), look back in time, replay your birthday as it was in front of you years later in the same exact space (spatially, using volumetric videos or complete constructive 3D recording), get an inner look into buildings, have AR indoor and outdoor navigation, see people with their new digital look, even if you just want to be alone, you can just erase all people and sounds. Do you think that I am crazy? Well, technology will enable this and so much more. Things that you haven’t thought possible, will be possible. The moment reality can change on you using digital visualization, everything is possible.

There are endless creative opportunities here to improve our daily life and make our day more meaningful. Of course, there are also risks and privacy issues that companies will have to deal with. Imagine people being able to use advanced AI algorithms to completely analyze your body language, scan your eyes, observe your pulse and see whether what you said is a lie or truth. People can know some things about you that you don’t even know about yourself in a blink of an eye by just looking at you.

Ethics is another big topic that already becomes the concern of many and it is important to implement those basic ethical properties before even the technology is being developed.

What I said here is not even the tip of the ice, it’s a small dust particle in a universe of possibilities. Creativity will rise to the roof as digital becomes an unseparated (artificial) intelligent observing layer of everything around us and within us. It already is in many ways, but it will be more immediate, conclusive and in some ways, also intrusive.

This is my passion, and although it started not too long ago, I didn’t think twice before I decided to leave almost all the other things I’ve done and dive into that world of augmented reality.

I feel that my journey has just begun. I am such enthusiastic about these technologies that I want to live and breath them every single moment of my life. If it wasn’t like that, I wouldn’t be so motivated and excited about it.

I want to continue contributing and take an active part of this ever-evolving and amazing world of augmented reality. If you want to support my journey, please check out my pinned tweet on my twitter account. Your support will be highly appreciated and I can continue this journey into the future to come. Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for everyone who takes an active part in supporting my passion.