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Augmented Reality: Future or Fad?

Posted: Friday 13 September, 2013

In 2007 Microsoft laughed at the iPhone and we know how that worked out for them. When the iPad was released in 2010 people were saying tablet computing would never take off. In 2013 sceptics seems to be taking aim at wearable technology. What people often forget is that these are not new ideas. These ideas have been implanted into our consciousness through science fiction writers for decades. In Star Trek wireless communication, video conferencing, tablet computing and computers that you can have a conversation with were fantasy, now you can purchase this technology at your local mall.

When trying to determine if a particular advancement in technology is a fad or the future we should probably define what constitutes a fad. Consider watching a movie at home. Initially people watched silent films at home using an 8mm projector. Then a change came and people began using a VCR, followed by DVD, BluRay and now digital downloads. In hindsight we could say any superseded technology was a fad, but in reality, at the time, it was part of the “future” and a progression toward a better solution.

In 2002, Microsoft released the world’s first “tablet PC.” It never really took off and was perhaps a fad. Why Microsoft failed when Apple succeeded could be attributed to a number of factors but, perhaps the iPhone and its app-store gave people a glimpse of what was possible with mobile computing? Augmented reality could be at that point now. People for the past few years have questioned the viability of augmented reality as an approach to solve problems, labelling it “gimmicky” or “just a fad.” What we’re seeing from hardware and software developers is a commitment to augmented reality and as a result the technology is improving and disrupting ‘traditional’ approaches to everyday tasks.

At Augview we have a vested interest in augmented reality and with that in mind my views of course are understandably positive towards its future. At the same time however, I am a rationalist and if not for constant affirmation that augmented reality is part of the future, I would surely question its usefulness. So, what factors make me think augmented reality is here to stay?

Recently we opened a new office. A technician came to our premises to connect our phone and part of his tasked involved finding our connection point in one of the multiple access pits outside. Here is what he said: “The application made it very fast and easy to identify the underground services and the associated access pits I was looking for. There was no guess work in wondering where the existing services were in the ground or if I was at the right location for the services I needed.” Using augmented reality he was able to reduce a task that took him up to 30 minutes down to less than a minute. With those kinds of gains in efficiency it’s easy to argue a case for augmented reality.

Earlier this year a number of companies announced they were going to produce augmented reality glasses. The overwhelmingly positive response to these products (Meta and Google Glass) has spurred significant developer investment into augmented reality solutions. Forecasts predict that investment in AR software will be over $1 billion next year and with multiple companies doing innovating things in this field it’s not unfathomable to think that augmented reality could change the way people absorb digital content much the same as the internet changed the way people consumed news and information.

I think the future is bright for augmented reality, especially with the likes of Microsoft, Google and Apple all building augmented reality hardware and software into their devices. Whether augmented reality captures the market for decades like VHS or fades away remains to be seen, but from my perspective, when Google, Microsoft, Apple, Hewlett Packard and other multi-billion dollar companies start backing an idea, it’s fairly safe to say it’ll be around for a while.

Posted by Jason Churcher
Tags: augmented reality, market, future, AR
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