The world is about to be painted with data. Every place. Every person. Every thing. In the near term this invisible digital layer will be revealed by the camera in your phone, but in the long term it will be incorporated into a wearable device, likely a head-mounted display (HMD) integrating phone, audio, and AI assistants. Users will control the system with a combination of voice, gesture and ring controller. Workers in factories use monocular displays to do this now, but it’s going to be quite some time before this benefits consumers. While this coming augmentation of man represents an evolutionary turning point, it’s adoption will resemble that of the personal computer, which took at least fifteen years. Mobile AR, on the other hand, is here now, and in a billion Android and Apple smartphones, which are about to get a lot better. Thanks to AR, we can start building the world’s digital layer for the smartphone, right now, without waiting for HMDs to unlock the benefits of an AR-enabled world.
Follow the Fox on Google walking maps. AR making what we already do better.
The game changer is the persistent geolocation of AR content, and the ability to anchor objects in space so these virtual objects can be visible to an unlimited number of simultaneous users. It takes the tools that created Pokemon Go and integrates them with camera in your phone. Now the camera can reveal posts that you made in a specific, persistent location. Heretofore, mobile AR needed a marker to activate content.
Google just integrated Lens into the Pixel and many other Android phones. Lens is a computer vision system that can detect more than just surfaces and planes, but also people, animals, vehicles, appliances, office equipment and other common objects.
6D.ai is creating a real-time 3D map of the world.
Once an object is labeled, it can be made interactive. But if the camera integrates the browser, it has to be clickable. Detection itself is insufficient. Our eyes have done that. The first thing a Universal Visual Browser (UVB) needs to do is notify us that digital content is hidden there. The next thing it must do is filter, because most of what’s posted to the AR cloud is going to be irrelevant spam.
Screenshot of AR City by Blippar in the App Store.
One of the most important things a UVB browser needs is a standard like HTML. This universal standard makes everything happen on the Internet. It’s an open system that allows for many browsers to exist because they all share this common architecture. Mozilla recently released a 3D AR/VR capability to its browser. It needs to melt into the camera stack to be truly useful to AR.
Because AR Clouds are going to be so valuable I don’t expect the big companies to be quick to establish standards and interoperability. Geolocation will just be one of those things that get added to app after app, augmenting them.
Most of all, if the world is going to painted with data, which means text, images, messages, graffiti, animation and advertising, who’s going to paint it? At first, most of the painting will be done by platform providers. These startups are building their own AR Clouds for themselves and their customers. At a certain point, most of the painting will be social media. It will be pictures of food and selfies.
Even rubble will be painted with data, just as this Graffiti is painted on the physical world by British street artist Banksy. Photographer: Ahikam Seri/Bloomberg News
We’re going to need a system of filters, much more fluid than the ones we use today. Given the power of facial recognition, and growing concerns about privacy, the system will get elaborate, fast. Ultimately, we’ll all be weighed down with a blockchain. A million character numerical sequence that is the key to our digital lives. If you lose your blockchain or it is somehow stolen, you might cease to exist altogether. You might not be able to eat. Seriously. Being painted with data has its downside.
This is AR without filters.
Computer vision can bypass optics and just work with AI like Alexa through sound. Maybe someone in your social graph is detected close by. A light blinks gently next to them. Alexa whispers their name in your ear. Love that use case. Again, the person I identified would have to have a filter that allowed them to be found.
An idea whose time has come: Bose prototype AR glasses utilize Alexa, which may be a more effective way into the brain than optics.
Mobile AR is going to boom as AR is integrated into apps we use every day. To consumers, they’re not going to see AR, they’re going to see better apps. Soon, the words “Augmented Reality” will sound a lot like “the world wide web”.
Look at what GPS did for mobile. Empires like Uber were built. The gold rush has yet to begin. There are a lot of startups. Some will succeed. Some will consolidate. Everyone will pivot. But let’s keep our eyes on the prize: better mobile computing. Persistent geolocation, the key feature of the AR Cloud, has already started seeping into Google Maps. How long before Facebook and Snapchat implement geolocation, merging it with the social graph?
The world is about to be painted with data. The canvas is as broad as the physical world, and blank as a fresh sheet of paper.