What is augmented reality after all?

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Augmented reality systems represent virtual objects in the real world – like how a particular chair might fit in a room.

Wallin was the big buzzword for the augmented reality game “Pokémon GO”, released in 2016 with a feature that allows players to see a virtual Pokémon standing in front of them, ready to be caught and played with. Now, tech companies like Microsoft and Mozilla — the company behind the Firefox browser — and even retail companies like IKEA and Lego are exploring the potential for augmented reality.

When I research the Augmented Reality Lab at the University of Michigan School of Informatics, everyone seems to be familiar with AR and excited about the technology’s mainstream popularity. My colleagues and I watch videos of impressive augmented reality shows, try new apps, and play with new devices. The research community’s enthusiasm may be why many experts — including some I’ve spoken with — say they expect augmented reality to become mainstream within five years, or predict that augmented reality glasses will replace smartphones within a decade.

But as an augmented reality researcher with experience in industry and academia, I don’t agree with these optimistic views. Most people in the US have never heard of augmented reality – and most of those who have, don’t really know what virtual reality is. And that’s exactly one barrier between augmented reality today and the future where it’s supposed to be everywhere. Overall, there are three main challenges that need to be addressed.

Hardware problems

When I first tried VR goggles a few years ago, they overheated really quickly and then shut down — even when I was trying to do something fairly basic, like put two virtual objects in the same room. Now, while there has been a lot of progress in this regard, other problems have emerged. The HoloLens system – one of the most advanced virtual reality headsets – originally required the user to hold the Microsoft Kinect system and a computer on the user’s head, as it is too heavy and limits the user’s field of view. A different issue is virtual reality experiences that work across systems.

Even “Pokémon GO”, the most popular app that uses virtual reality is actually draining smartphone batteries quickly. And the VR functionality doesn’t make the game much better – or different at all – although it’s fun to see Pikachu standing on the grass in front of you at first. With this small advantage and a huge hit to the device’s performance, every gamer I know, myself included, turns off the device’s VR mode.

No real use yet

Just like the people who turn off the VR mode in “Pokémon GO,” I haven’t heard or seen anyone actually use the IKEA furniture app like they’re supposed to. The app has only 3,100 reviews in the Apple App Store, far short of the 104,000 reviews for “Pokémon GO”. Apparently, it is only useful for people looking to redesign their living space, allowing them to use their smartphone to add virtual furniture to real rooms.

Apple and Google have released apps and demos for virtual reality games built with the new ARKit and ARCore operating systems — such as the virtual Domos. It’s attractive and the 3D models look great. They do what they are designed to do, but they aren’t particularly useful.

This is partly because, like the internet, virtual reality is just a basic technology that requires people to use it. The Internet began as Arpanet in 1969, but it didn’t really take off until Tim Berners-Lee invented the “World Wide Web”—a term now associated with history—in 1989. It was only in 1989 that ordinary people using the Internet could create content online for others to use. first decade of the twenty-first century. This level of development and innovation has yet to happen for augmented reality, although Mozilla is working on augmented reality in everyday web browsers like Firefox and is taking initial steps in this direction.

Marketing challenges

Even people who use Snapchat don’t consider it an augmented reality app — even though that’s exactly what virtual reality should be. It’s a virtual reality technology that knows where to place dog ears, heart eyes, or stubble on its friends’ faces — and sends rainbows out of their mouths. People who don’t know what augmented reality is, or have never consciously experienced it – even if they use it every day – don’t want to buy a product just because it has AR capabilities.

There is also confusion in the labeling and marketing of augmented reality technologies. Many people are beginning to learn about virtual reality, which is generally a completely virtual world that does not include aspects of the user’s real environment. The distinctions get blurrier with mixed reality—sometimes with “MR” marked “XR” the rest of the time. People who don’t know what augmented reality is, or have never consciously experienced it — even if they use it every day — don’t want to buy a product just because it has AR capabilities. Originally, the term meant anything between a completely real experience and an entirely virtual experience — which could Include augmented reality. But Microsoft now says that there are mixed reality products and apps that offer both virtual and augmented reality experiences. This makes it unclear to customers what is actually being advertised — even though they know it may not be very useful and may quickly drain their phone’s batteries.

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