VR headsets are the part of the embodied virtual technology family which is getting the most attention, but it’s augmented reality that the experts think we’ll actually be spending the most time with on a day-to-day basis.
Augmented What Now?
What’s augmented reality? In short, it’s a family of technologies that take the real world and insert a layer of digital information between it and your senses. Think of something like Robocop or Terminator vision from the movies. When one of those characters looks at something in the real world, they get an info readout telling them something about it.
That’s one form of AR. Another is taking digital renderings and projecting them over the real world. A simple example would be a virtual chess board projected onto a real table. To you it looks as if there’s really a chess board on that table, but it’s just a virtual illusion.
Why Do We Want AR?
Augmented reality has a whole bunch of compelling applications that make it an attractive future technology. For one thing, it could replace every single monitor or other display device that you own. No need for monitors, no need for tablets, and no need for smartphones. You can just create as many virtual display devices as you want. You’ll wear the computer powering all of this on your body or it will connect to the AR system wirelessly.
We’re already living in a world that has an “internet of things”, which is to say that things like cars, toasters, and thermostats are now also connected to the internet and have computing power of their own. This means that a wearable AR system can pull information from that intelligent environment to keep you up to date and integrated in a much more natural way than we currently have.
AR is set to eliminate the dividing line between the real and the virtual. VR wants to transport us to a totally virtual world, which is the big difference here. Ironically, AR headsets may also be the future of VR too, since it’s likely that future AR systems will have the ability to vary how much of the real world they block out. We already have VR headsets with an AR pass-through that technically can do this, but at the cost of an AR experience that feels too disconnected from reality.
Augmenting Your Knowledge
In this section of my site I want to highlight wearable AR technology that already exists, that will soon be available, and that we can expect in the future. I will also be talking about a whole bunch of stuff related to AR hardware, and not all of it will be wearable in nature.
I won’t be talking about AR software apps in this section, because it’s such a big subject in its own right. So instead I have created a separate section just for that purpose.
Basically, after you’ve been through this section of the site you should have a good understanding of what augmented reality is, what the hardware looks like in general, how much it costs, what you can do with it, and which products are actually available today.
A Moving Target
Just as with VR, the AR market is developing rapidly; chances are something you read will always be a little outdated when you do read it. I’ve tried not to make this section too time sensitive, with a good eye on the future at the time I write something and a focus on general truths and principles wherever possible.
Must Be Seeing Things
Augmented reality is one of those technologies that really make me feel as if I’m living in the sci-fi future we were promised in all those books and films published over the course of the 20th century. It’s one of the first steps in truly releasing the potential of the human imagination. A way to create our own waking dreams – not just for entertainment but for a complete transformation of how we create, learn, and communicate.
We’re also going to see entirely new art forms and methods of expression come about, thanks to AR. Imagine a story that plays out in your own home, or having Siri or Alexa standing in front of you as a projection of a real person who appears solid.
Even more wild is the possibility of a world where people don’t bother with physical decorations for their homes. You can simply project things like paintings, wallpaper, and furniture that only serve to look nice using AR. If you aren’t wearing AR gear, the world of the future might seem very weird indeed without signs or pictures of screens that can be seen with the naked eye.
It’s going to be a fun ride!