Consumer technology, such as with AR and VR, sometimes can act as a detractor for some of the enterprise focussed use cases. Developments can easily get compartmentalized and put in a box marked trivial. At 451 Research my coverage of Industrial IoT, AR, VR and autonomous robotics focusses on enterprise use, but as a techie and early adopter the influences of the consumer space are worth considering.
Three is a magic number
Putting together any Augmented Reality experience used to be quite tricky and involved a lot of programming skills (I should add I am software engineer by trade). The introduction of core operating system functions to assist AR with Android’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit started to make it much easier to produce applications. Apple recently announced ARKit 3, it is amazing we are already deep into version numbers on this. It adds some significant underlying function for developers to use such as people occlusion. With this the camera detects people in a scene and for the viewer digital objects might be obscured by someone walked in front of them. Full AR behaves as if any digital objects are completely integrated with the physical world. ARKit 3 also brings multiuser sessions to the platform, allowing for more shared AR experiences. Possibly even more interesting is the announcement of Reality Composer to allow anyone to put together elements of an AR experience. It is part of the XCode development environment but it is also being released as an app. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the understanding of AR’s potential across the board for people.
“On me head son”
In a previous article I mentioned the impending arrival of the Oculus Quest VR headset. Well it’s here and in short, it’s very good! The new headset is a £400 standalone VR device, it does not need a £1500 computer driving it. It comes with two hand controllers and provides full room scale VR with six degrees of freedom, i.e. you can look up and down, left and right but also move around and the virtual world adjusts your view. The hand controllers provide are fully tracked too. It is incredibly easy to use, you just pop it on and get on with it. To set up an area to use it a camera shows the world to you, you simply draw a guardian area around you with a controller whilst wearing the headset, which will then warn you if you are going to bump into anything when you are in full VR. It is therefore using AR to set up the VR. The quality of the games and applications is very good, it is clearly not packing as much punch as a high-end computer but it by no means horrible to look at. The killer apps of Beat Sabre and SuperHot VR are as good as the originals. In our house it has had much more use than the fixed setup because it is just a pick up and play device. It could do with being able to deal with more than one user sharing the device, at the moment it gets bound to one Facebook ID. However, I am sure they will sort that out. The device has proved very popular and, in the industry, it is incredibly useful with people able to just quickly hand one to you for a demo.
At I am writing this the app stores are probably being deluged with requests to download the new Niantic (of Pokemon Go fame) Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. I just spent 10 minutes having a quick look at it. It will obviously be a hit because as a brand it has even wider appeal than Pokemon. In the first few minutes if is also apparent that it is much more AR focussed than Pokemon Go was. The previous game involved location triggered events and the AR capture of the little critters was not a necessity. In Wizards Unite very well rendered characters appear locked into the scene as you perform gesture swipe spells to overcome whatever the problem is. It has a map view of the actual world with roads and places but transformed into wizardy type places such as forts. Proximity to real places with virtual events overlaid is still the order of the day. It is free to play, but it does of course have in game purchases. These micro transactions will soon build up to a nice earner for Niantic.
What on earth?
If you think Wizards Unite is going to be big, then we have another summer AR blockbuster to discuss. Microsoft is bringing us Minecraft Earth, an AR power version of… well… Minecraft. It is worth taking a look at the reveal trailer for it. Between it and Harry Potter we end up with a huge install base of players and users who will be crying out for better ways to engage with their AR experiences than holding up a phone and looking through it. Bring on a wave of consumer AR smart glasses and devices!
Let me see
There is a lot of speculation about Apple in the AR device space in 2020 and at the 10th Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara there were many AR lens manufacturers and full smart glass products lining up to possibly be the next must have device too. The Chinese nreal consumer glasses were certainly looking interesting, and looking to be around £500. However, legal action from the very well-funded Magic Leap has just been initiated over alleged intellectual property breaches. It is usually a good sign for an industry when stakes are so high that these kinds of things kick off. We will have to wait and see what happens but ss always, it is exciting times for tech.