Week in Tech: Augmented Reality
While the term ‘augmented reality’ (AR) may induce fears of a realised dystopian future from your favourite sci-fi blockbuster, AR is actually far more friendly and widespread than you may expect. By merging our own reality with virtual data, graphics and information, AR is set to revolutionise the way we use technology in everyday life, and will only become more important to both consumers and businesses as it becomes more mainstream. 2017 has already been a landmark year for augmented reality, and these breaking news headlines suggest that AR’s prevalence in everyday life is only set to grow in the coming months.
Apple has been vociferous in their support for AR over the past few months, and the technology’s prime place in the recent iPhone X Keynote underlines the Cupertino-based company’s commitment towards augmented reality. As a result, it’ll likely come as no surprise that Apple is looking to make a further stride into wearable technology with AR and VR, and recent developments suggest that the tech giants are serious about making a splash in the sector. Today, Apple has announced the acquisition of Vrvana – the creator of a ‘seamless’ mixed reality headset – for $30 million; the iGlasses may be closer than we anticipated.
You may not have realised it at the time, but the Pokemon GO craze that we were all involved in last summer was the first real mainstream adoption of augmented reality in everyday life. Catching colourful creatures in real-life environments might not have had much of a practical application, but the mobile game’s perpetual popularity underlines the appeal of the technology in entertainment. A year and a half after its release, Pokemon GO is still going strong, and as part of a challenge to catch three billion monsters over the course of a week, players have managed to amass a cool 500 million Pokemon in under two days. With some enticing in-game rewards at stake, this event is a good excuse to get sucked back into AR’s biggest success story to date.
Projectors – in their most basic form, at least – are well over 1000 years old. However, the optical device is still a hugely popular option in homes, classrooms and cinemas to this day. While once only a thing of science fiction movies and over-active imaginations, San Francisco-based startup Lightform are determined to use AR to literally augment the world around us through the use of light from projectors. In other words, holograms might actually become a thing sooner than we think! Having just raised $5 million in funding, Lightform is planning to turn old projectors into augmented reality machines, and hope to ship these refurbished devices for cheap next year.
Even though Black Friday rose to prominence because of the hectic dash to store shelves, both traditional retailers and global giants like Amazon have recently shifted to the internet to hold their most popular promotions. However, things could go one step further in the near future, as AR technology will soon change the way we shop online. Startups like Obsess and Youvisit have used augmented reality to allow customers to browse their wares virtually, which could lead to a far more immersive – and significantly less stressful – shopping experience next November.
A key requirement in augmented reality’s complete mainstream adoption is the need for content creators to easily produce next-generation video experiences featuring the technology. For anyone looking to get involved in AR and VR as soon as possible, Seattle-based company Pixvana today announced it has raised $14 million in funding towards their storytelling platform Spin Studio. With the promise of interactive mixed reality content up to 8K in resolution, Pixvana has even managed to use their own technology to aid their own pitches to investors, which is a glowing endorsement of the strength of its platform. AR in the office in the next few years may not be a pipe dream after all.