‘Pokémon Go taught millions of consumers the value of the smartphone screen as a viable experience for AR. Apple has just put in place the platforms for rampant AR development and, with the capabilities of the iPhones 8 and X, everything is in place to finally exploit AR in a way consumers will find comfortable and valuable.’
Since Glass Explorer ended in 2015, Google has learned much about AR and now has a set of software tools for Android called ARCore. Expect an AR app explosion on Google-based smartphones.
But the futuristic dream of smart glasses isn’t dead, it’s just that our way of getting there has changed. According to Blakeslee, the focus on smartphone AR is going to accelerate the investment in AR eyewear that looks good and works perfectly. There are already rumours that Apple is in talks with optics firm Carl Zeiss to make Apple glasses.
Microsoft is trying out a more mixed-reality approach with its oversized, more VR-looking HoloLens headgear. The idea is to turn the space around you into a 3D version of your computer desktop. It takes your pictures, your graphs and your windows off your monitor and throws them out into the real world.
Graphic models of the solar system can float around your table, PowerPoint presentations can rise up from your desk and it’s a lot easier to achieve because none of the computer-generated wizardry is reacting to the world around it. Samsung, Acer, Lenovo and Dell all have HoloLens headgear in the pipeline.
While Apple and Google will create the appetite, Microsoft HoloLens can begin to build the future along with companies like the mysterious Magic Leap, according to co-president of the VR/AR Association, Steve Dann.
‘HoloLens is pointing the way’, he says. ‘Microsoft has been very brave to bring it out early and Magic Leap has had more money pumped into it than any new company in tech ever. A lot of people are betting that it not only works but that it’s going to be relevant for an awful lot of people. We’ve all got our fingers crossed.’
Vision: HoloLens turns space around you into a 3D version of your computer desktop
Magic Leap is the sweet spot in the middle, the name that’s been teasing the idea of super-smooth AR through its next-generation headset since 2016. Video demos of little cartoon characters hiding under objects have been enough to earn the company $1.4bn of backing. Word is that the device is bigger than a normal pair of glasses but smaller than VR goggles and that it projects a ‘light field’ of virtual images directly on to your retinas alongside everything else you normally perceive. Could it be the first company to crack smart glasses?