Smartphones makers are anxious to optimise their devices with the innovation around. One such collaboration coming soon is with the augmented reality
We are told that augmented reality (AR) is frivolous and is specific to gimmicks and games. But there’s an important transformation under way! It will soon begin to transform enterprise communications, logistics, manufacturing, analytics, product design, training, marketing, field service and more.
Along with a smarter phones, even business meetings will change. With ubiquitous augmented reality, multiple devices can see the same thing in the same space. Picture this. All tablet users sitting around a conference table while looking at their screens. The meeting participants will see the same 3D graphs floating in space above the table, the same virtual prototype, the same globe or the same holographic talking head. PowerPoint presentations will soon be replaced by data presented as 3D holographic and as augmented reality in the middle of the room. Best of all, remote participants will also see the same images. For all of this the buzzword here is “augmented reality collaboration”.
The ultimate and eventual hardware platform for augmented reality will be glasses and goggles. But until technology makes such advances, augmented reality will live on smartphones and tablets.
The industry is focusing on mobile devices because they’re ubiquitous. They also have the basic necessary hardware ingredients for augmented reality viz., connectivity, screens, cameras, processors, motion sensors and the ability to run apps.
One day augmented reality would be the reason to buy smartphones or tablets of one brand over another. This change is obvious and inevitable. It would be no surprise that smartphone makers would then innovate with new hardware features to boost augmented reality. Come to think of it, it’s actually already happening. Silicon Valley is suddenly exploding with chatter about an industry-wide race to optimise smartphones for augmented reality.
This is what industry nerds are whispering about.
The iPhone Laser
A report from Fast Company says Apple is trying to build a rear-facing 3D laser system into its upcoming iPhone 8. It’s also a possibility that this new component might get introduced in a later model.
This laser system involves a laser beam generator, lens and chip. The purpose of this system is to quickly and accurately measure distance. This helps not only the camera for faster auto-focus, but also for better placement of virtual objects in physical space with AR apps. Virtual material can interact more accurately with the real world when fed with more exacting information about surfaces and objects. And it also greatly enhance utility such as, to enable quick measurements in industrial settings.
The company claims that the phone’s screen, called a “hydrogen holographic display,” will be able to show 3D holographic content without needing to wear any special glasses. Red founder James Jannard says the lens isn’t lenticular, but uses technology that has “multi-view” or “4-view” display technology, instead of a 3D “2-view” approach.
It will be modular, with attachments that enable the shooting of “holographic images”, among other things. It’s all pretty cryptic and sounds unlikely. However, in the past, Red has delivered on unlikely promises with its cameras.
The phone will start at $1,195 unlocked, according to the company, and is available on pre-order.
Surface Phone and Huawei Mystery
Brad Sams, Thurrott Executive Editor, mentioned in his recent podcast that Microsoft is working on a Surface-branded Windows 10 device which would be optimised for AR. He said that prototypes of the devices are already being passed around on the Microsoft campus.
The most telling and promising aspect of this rumor is that apparently the project is beingheaded by HoloLens chief Alex Kipman. This means that as it was with the Hydrogen One, the Surface phone would be designed primarily for augmented reality.
Meanwhile, there is also rumor around Huawei’s upcoming Mate 10 smartphone. The leak hints vaguely at augmented reality-specific hardware, but it’s unknown exactly what those components are or how they boost augmented reality.
Understanding the Augmented Reality Push
Given all these rumors and announcement, it is clear that smartphone makers are scrambling to beat each other to market with compelling advantages in AR.
A casual observer could be forgiven for assuming that Google is way ahead on the augmented reality hardware front. Given that fact that Google’s first Tango system in 2014 seems to be ahead of the pack. Tango system involves advanced hardware for rapidly mapping indoor environment which is ideal for augmented reality applications. However, Asustek ZenFone AR and Lenovo Phab 2 Pro are already supporting Tango
The problem is that these phones represent an insignificant percentage of the Android market. As a result, Google’s Tango-specific APIs are not widely used and Tango software is rare. Although, this may change eventually, as the Moore’s Law is bringing down the cost of Tango’s expensive hardware.
The best thing about Tango phones is that they provide a guidebook to the future of smartphones. In order to support augmented reality, smartphones will need special sensors and massive processing power.
Meanwhile, the biggest event ever to happen in the world of augmented reality is the recent announcement by Apple of its ARKit for building augmented reality apps for the upcoming iOS 11 platform. This gives developers the access to a billion theoretical users, when new iPhone and iPad software hits.
All these changes and advances will lead AR on mobile devices to go mainstream fast. Smartphone buyers will start choosing phones based on its augmented reality capabilities, much like they now choose based on camera quality.
This prediction extends to enterprise employees in BYOD (bring-your-own-device) environments. Just as in-house apps and back-end systems developers can count on BYOD devices sporting camera electronics, they’ll soon expect them to do advanced augmented reality.
Today, most enterprise decision-makers assume augmented reality applications will be served up on displays or with special goggles and other futuristic hardware indicating the augmented reality is a challenge for the far-off future. Well, it’s about time we re-adjust to these assumptions.
With each passing day, it appears that enterprise augmented reality will soon be deployed widely via smartphones and tablets, including BYOD electronics. This shift should and will affect buying decisions.
It is also important to remember that industry goes wherever Apple goes with components. Dedicated augmented reality hardware like Apple’s rumored laser part means the electronics industry will scramble to produce them by the hundreds of millions. This and other categories of AR-specific components will drive the smart glasses, the real futurea ugmented reality platform.
The bottom line is that the arrival of AR is imminent and it will be made enterprise-ready with special-purpose hardware built into mainstream devices (making it compatible with BYOD policies).
In short, augmented reality will transform phones and phones will transform augmented reality. And all this is going to happen faster than earlier expected.