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Augmented Reality Is Not Just Wearing Glasses
Jon Peddie
MAR 17, 2016 12:55 PM
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Augmented Reality Is Not Just Wearing Glasses

AR captures and blends data in real time

by Jon Peddie

Augmented reality (AR) uses a personal display, up close to the user to show him or her information, text, drawings, 3D objects, generated by a computer, either locally or remote. The overlay information is registered to the scene by a forward-looking the camera and can show the skeletal structure of a building, or the location of a store, or the pipes beneath the sidewalk. It can translate in real time street signs, menus, newspapers, and manuals.

In the very near future we will all be wearing AR glasses, just as we wear corrective and sun glasses today. The AR glasses of the future will be lightweight, they won’t be obnoxious or call attention to themselves, and they will be capable of providing us with a wealth of pertinent information, as well as being a logging device of our lives—think of it as your personal black box recorder. The AR glasses of the future will be always connected providing you with information and sending information about you (with your approvals and to your private storage locker). In one sense AR glasses will be the ultimate narcissist’s dream. They will also be the honest witness in any insurance claims, or disputes with service personal.

However, the benefits of AR are not limited to the future or just glasses. A smartphone or tablet can today deliver AR capabilities too. Basically any device that has a forward facing camera and back facing screen, could be an AR device. Theoretically a digital camera with a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capability could be an AR device. So could your car if it has forward facing cameras as are being proposed for autonomous driving. And if a car can, so can a boat, truck, bus, or a train.

AR is not just a solitary experience either. Using the camera and a Wi-Fi or mobile phone connection, a technician or first responder can show the situation to an expert at a remote location and get guidance.

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A technician can use a tablet to “look at” a device and be given instructions on how to fix it or use it (source XMReality)

In addition to AR glasses, also known as “smart glasses,” tablets, and phones, there are AR helmets. Helmets for motorcycle riders, and for factory workers. Helmets with heads-up displays (HUDs) are a logical and practical implementation of an AR system, and the helmet offers more storage space for electronics and batteries.

Description: According to BMW the motorcycle helmet of the future will do much more than simply protect ...
BMW’s AR motorcycle helmet with HUD screen on right (Source BMW)

The HUD in a motorcycle helmet could be the GPS-based navigation system for couriers as well as law enforcement, or even the pizza delivery person.

Equally interesting is the Daqri helmet. It too has room for a lot of electronics including an Intel 3D RealSense camera, an IR camera, an inertial measurement unit (IMU—often referred to as gyroscope, even though it really isn’t), and of course a projected (on the visor) display.

The Daqri smart helmet is also a certified hard hat (Source Darqi)

AR is a head’s up display for the user, and can simultaneously be a telepresence device—the user of an AR system can take family and friends on a tour with him or her. I’m reminded of the movie Her, where the protagonist Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes fascinated with a new operating system (like Siri) and carries a smart phone in his pocket with the camera facing outward so Samantha, the intelligent computer operating system, can share his experiences with him.

Theodore carries a camera in his shirt so Samantha can see what he’s seeing (Source Warner Bros. Pictures)

Augmented reality is not a new concept, Ivan Sutherland built the first working device in 1966, and Professor Steven Mann began real-world experiments with it in the early 1980s.

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Steve Mann field tests his prototype AR system at MIT circa 1980 (Source Steve Mann)

In the near future the adornment of powerful AR glasses will be as common as a watch or mobile phone, and by 2025 we’ll wonder what life was like before AR, much like we do today about the web. 

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