Softability Studio and AR developments last year (2018)
Even though last year we saw a lot of activity in utilizing AR it was not its breakthrough year yet and this year will likely be neither. The inability of AR hardware, i.e. wearable smart devices, and software to fulfill many of the common AR use cases on the market is a big explaining factor here.
Nevertheless, during year 2018 XR Studio got very active with AR. We organized several AR events where we demonstrated the different smart glasses we have used in our projects and how AR can be utilized in multiple use cases: sales & marketing, maintenance, production and operations. We also created an AR mobile application to a customer that manufactures and sells street lighting poles internationally and launched our own VIESTI remote support solution.
There have already been sneak peeks on the multiple AR trends in year 2019 and we are excited to see how they evolve this year and how Softability Studio can leverage them for the benefit of our customers. But as earlier mentioned, this year will likely not be the breakthrough year for AR but we will nevertheless see a lot of developments in AR/MR software and hardware towards their production use: finally escaping from the proof-of-concept and piloting phases that were all too common during 2016 – 2018.
New and long-awaited devices are slowly coming to the market
Wearable smart devices are not yet ready for consumer use, but these devices are already bringing value to companies. New technologies such as these usually break themselves through in company use where their value is better demonstrated while leaving time for consumers to get used to these new technologies.
This year North´s Focal smart glasses, Bose´s AR sunglasses, Vuzix´s Blade smart glasses, Snap´s third-generation glasses and Tencent´s spectacles looking smart glasses are trying to succeed in where many have failed: to find their place on consumers’ faces. From these third-generation smart glasses we will first try Vuxiz´s Blade smart glasses during beginning of 2019. We will test how well these smart glasses run our VIESTI remote support solution and demo the glasses to our industrial customers. Although such devices with an integrated camera have their own challenges with privacy, we hope that at least information security (new OSs with up-to-date security patches) and work safety (HSE) issues have been taking into consideration this time; leaving these issues unsolved hampers the adoption of these devices in companies.
From both Google and Microsoft, we expect to see a new generation of devices this year, which will most certainly affect the AR/MR markets positively. From both devices, Google Glass V3 and Microsoft Hololens V2, we expect marked improvements that will make them more suitable for everyday use.
However, the expectations on the new Mixed Reality (MR) devices are very high. For example, Microsoft Hololens V2 should at least double the current Developer Edition´s narrow field-of-view, decrease the device´s weight and size, increase performance and battery life as well as lower the price. Realwear´s HTM-1 and HSE-certified HTM-1Z1 are also potential smart glasses for business use, especially if they solve the information security issues e.g. with a new Android operating system update. You should also not forget what Magic Leap will eventually bring to the market after One: Creator Edition.
Adding AR to more senses makes it more approachable and enables natural interaction
Even though the focus in AR development is very much in the sense of sight, AR based on hearing might breakthrough faster. A good example for a new kind of augmented voice reality solution provider is Voconaut, who won the 2018 X-Reality Challenge contest in Finland with their solution. Indeed, this year AR is added to more senses, which makes it more approachable and enables natural interaction. It is interesting to see how augmented voice reality as well touch and gesture-based control of wearable devices evolve this year. Companies like Leap Motion, CrunchFish and Augumenta are already offering hardware and software that allows you to program different gestures to control e.g. mobile and wearable devices (AR/MR/VR).
AR Cloud brings augmented reality closer to real life experience
AR Cloud offers the opportunity to store information from the surrounding world, its shapes and objects. AR devices can utilize this information in their applications offering such capabilities as virtual object´s occlusion (hiding virtual object behind a real-world object), saving virtual object’s location and state as well as multiplayer scenarios. The experience offered by such AR capabilities is closer to real life behavior and makes AR feel less distant from our everyday life.
AR content production´s future and what WebAR and 5G bring to the table
Year 2018 was important to platform providers as they invested in productivity tools that make creating AR experiences more easy and efficient – Adobe debuted Project Cloud in Creative Cloud, Facebook renamed its camera effect to Spark AR and expanded it to Instagram.
This means that year 2019 will be likely full of new and fancy AR creations. Many new creators will present new, unique and valuable ways to utilize AR and help to define new use cases for the technology. This phenomenon is already visible e.g. in Facebook´s active Spark AR community group. XR Studio is also focusing on developing and selling customized AR/MR solutions and VIESTI remote support solution which can also be customized to support customers’ specific demands.
Web based AR technologies (WebAR), which also developed greatly during year 2018, help spread AR to the wider audience. This year we expect the technology to develop from high-tech demos (e.g. Google Crome AR) to a working solution for a larger set of supported web browsers and mobile devices.
One of the most important enabling future technologies of AR is 5G. The network´s promise of speed, low energy consumption and low latency creates a combination that takes AR and VR experiences to a new level. Year 2019 will be critical to 5G’s wider expansion and success, but some operators and device manufacturers have already started carefully to disclose this advanced network.
Even though 5G is not assumed to spread widely before year 2020, the available limited number of 5G compatible networks and devices in 2019 will be used to show that the developing AR Cloud connected to fast a 5G network, combined with rich content and a wide spectrum of supported AR devices offer totally new and interesting AR experiences with a great user experience.
AR has a significant role in indoor navigation
One of the most common ways to use a smart phone is to navigate from one point to another with the help of GPS navigation. Even though today´s map applications are highly advanced they mostly do not recognize buildings’ indoors.
There are already good international and Finnish examples or AR based indoor navigation solutions, like Immersal (build on top of ARCore), Insider Navigation, GuiteBot/ViewAR, etc. When AR Cloud develops it will hopefully one day serve all the outdoor and indoor spaces in the world as a map. This would offer a great opportunity e.g. to marketers to sell and place smart location based advertising all around our surroundings.
Although we are not expected to see a big breakthrough of worldwide AR maps this year, we will definitely see AR based indoor navigation spread in large, populous buildings like airports, shopping malls etc.
AR solutions bring value to companies, but other factors are slowing down the breakthrough
Assisted reality, AR´s new more descriptive name, is the most common way to utilize AR these days. Head worn and mobile devices allow visualizing work instructions to workers on eye level and hands free, depending on the device, as well as sharing information with real-time remote support between a technician and an expert. For example, Boeing, Toyota, GE and NASA are already using these solutions and their work productivity has increased over 40% in some cases. XR Studio’s VIESTI remote support solution is based on the idea of sharing information in real time. With VIESTI companies can offer to their technicians and experts remote support through live-video utilizing AR where possible. Experts can handle support and service requests through VIESTI and guide technicians all over the world with clear visual work instructions.
This year we are expecting to see a lot of different AR solutions that will turn from simple demos and pilots to actual usable production level solutions supporting global business. However, this development is slowed down by IT team´s resistance to change, long and complex procurement processes, demanding information security requirements, difficulties to provide IoT data comprehensively and lack of smart wearable devices suitable for everyday use.
Military, aviation and space, oil and gas, automotive as well as pharmaceutical industries are examples of sectors that are already actively using AR for better business. Is 2019 the year for your business to do the same?
The original article about AR trends in 2019 is readable from here: