Augmented & Virtual Reality Eyeglass Market 2020 Industry Research, Share, Trend, Industry Size, Price, Future Analysis, Regional Outlook to Research Report

What does augmented reality do and how will it affect my life with future technology?

The schism between technology and reality is narrowing as innovations in computation and mobile technologies accelerate exponentially.  A hybrid between artificial reality and physical reality is emerging, likened to “invisible information draped across the physical world,” which will mirror human behaviors, and function simply, naturally, and effortlessly.  As technology becomes an integral part of the cultural landscape and an extension of the human experience, social networking, access and means by which people obtain and enjoy products, and social services that increase efficient lifestyle choices become more intrinsically interwoven with consumers’ daily lives.  The maxim “Everything is connected” reigns supreme.  In this age of connectivity, technological convergence, and digital engagement, what would life be like if we experienced reality seamlessly through all of the information and data made available on the Internet, instead of laboriously having to seek it out?  The advent of augmented reality has made this less of a distant fantasy, reminiscent of futuristic sci-fi film such as “The Matrix”, and more of a reality, presently implemented in mobile applications, functioning in real-time.
Augmented reality creates an overlay that connects and integrates online and offline worlds, creating a “blended reality” wherein a “live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment” is present, however its “elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated sensory input such as sound or graphics” (Liebhold 2010). This blended reality provides smart-phone users with “location and time-specific personalized information, such as GPS services, user preferences, and information about their immediate surroundings” (Minyung 2010).  While augmented reality applications that “superimpose virtual objects and information on top of the real world” have been in development for more than a decade, only recently did technological strides in computer vision and object recognition make possible the seamless sophistication found now in augmented reality applications (Joneitz 2010).

Augmented reality, or “AR”, has a broad range of platforms and potential uses. The bulk of my research is focused on the smart-phone market due to its immense user base, and the forecast that smart phones will become the “primary Internet connection tool by 2020, and will be the mobile device of choice” (Marcoux 2009).  The numbers behind projected revenue forecasts for mobile devices are staggering.  By 2014, the mobile industry is expected to “exceed one trillion dollars a year” with additional services including, but not limited to, “context, advertising, application and service sales” generating several tens of billions of dollars per year. Integral to the technological progression of mobile technology, upwards of 50% of new smart-phones will implement a virtualization or augmented reality layer by 2012 (Liebhold 2010).  Society has already begun to see the immersion of applications such as Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter, which take smart-phone users’ locations to suggest places and events that may be of interest or help them find what they are looking for. However, these companies, computer scientists, and techno-futurists are not the only ones excited about the possible implications of augmented reality.  Leaders in “aerospace, medicine, the military, and a wide range of other industries and government divisions” are conducting research and development in augmented reality technologies, trying to find ways to integrate and leverage it into the framework of their sectors (Kroeker 2010).  “I remember when every client had to have a Facebook app, then a viral ad, then it was an iPhone app, and now it’s augmented reality,” says Jonathan Sackett, an augmented reality mobile device developer (Majoo 2009).

What might augmented reality on a smart-phone look like?  Allowing the user to enjoy the information made accessible through an Internet connection, augmented reality could be compared to the user being “inside” of the Google search engine, however, instead of having to click on hyperlinks, your reality automatically navigates to select and display your area of interest.  Essentially your surroundings become curated; walking down the street becomes not unlike browsing inside of a museum. For example, relying on a smart-phone’s internal compass and GPS, when holding the phone vertically while walking down Sunset Blvd in Hollywood, a user is able to see their surroundings through the display on their phone, with a layer of augmented reality embedded atop it. Photographic recognition allows the phone to display names of nearby buildings, popular restaurants, shops tailored to the users’ preferences, history of the area, geographic attributes, and politics of the location, to name a few, filtered in accordance with what information the users seek. Furthermore, transforming the way users are entertained and educated, just as information can be encoded, it will be reasonable to assume that “fictional art and media” can be additionally overlaid, making even neutral spaces “sensory rich entertainment experiences” (Liebhold 2010). To be sure that users are not “bombarded” with all of the potential information readily available, application developers must find ways to “query the information users want and filter from users’ view potentially vast amounts of information they don’t want” (Liebhold 2010). The implications for the future could mean that when driving by a popular restaurant, your phone could display the menu, prices, interviews from the chef, Zagat reviews, statistics of the crowd inside (for example, how many have “tweeted” or indicated that they have a common cold), or simply the availability of tables.

Technology conglomerates such as Apple, Nokia, Microsoft, Google, and many others are realizing and racing to harness the enormous potential of augmented reality.  Google, for example, has harnessed this potential by developing a mobile application called “Google Goggles” in which they leverage their massive database of stored information in order to make possible comparing the attributes recognized on the display of the phone with the patterns embedded in their saved collection of data. On an Android phone, users can search the Web simply by “capturing photos of landmarks or other objects” or “pointing the phone’s camera at local storefronts to retrieve business information automatically with GPS and compass data” (Kroeker 2010).  The immeasurable amount of digital information Google has stored in its database combined with augmented reality applications would make it possible to provide in depth explanations and/or visualization in real-time of the “cultural and social histories of a place in real-time foreshadowing a newsworthy event,” forever changing the role of the journalist, the social butterfly, and those who are simply curious and inquisitive by nature (Liebhold 2010).

Instead of merely displaying information from users’ surrounding environment, the possibility of creating a new environment with the help of user/developer input and “layers” of data becomes an additional viable reality, already made possible through an application called “Layar” available on Android phones.  This reality browser retrieves point-of-interest data on the basis of GPS, compass, and camera view (Kroeker 2010). Other popular mobile application examples include GraffitiGeo, available on the iPhone, which lets users “read and write virtual Twitter-style comments on the walls of restaurants, movie theaters, and cafes” (Kroeker 2010), Wikitude, which “presents data about nearby points of interest” or Yelp, which provides “reviews of nearby restaurants, shopping and nightlife possibilities” (Bunz 2010).  Travel augmented reality applications can help users find their way home by displaying on their mobile screens arrows where to turn and directions overlaid on top of a live view of their location, direct them to the nearest train or subway station, and even serve as a tour guide, providing in depth information about their area of interest. Other examples of augmented reality applications help ease users’ day-to-day strain and decrease inconveniences by helping them find their car in a crowded lot, testing the size of the parcel packed before going to the post office, arranging and viewing new furniture, or presenting nutritional information and reviews about the food they are buying in the grocery market (Bunz 2010).

While augmented reality applications increase at an exponential rate, a “killer app will be needed to make AR technologies truly catch on in the consumer space” (Kroeker 2010).  Paving the way in “augmented identity,” “The Astonishing Tribe” or “TAT”, a Swedish software technology and design company, may be the company to deliver this killer app. TAT’s app, “Recognizr”, combines “computer vision, cloud computing, facial recognition, social networking, and augmented reality,” “taking social networking to the next level” (Joneitz 2010).  Dan Gärdenfors, head of user experience research at TAT explains, “We thought the idea of bridging the way people used to meet, in the real world, and the new Internet-based ways of congregating would be really interesting” (Joneitz 2010). When a user of Recognizr points their smart-phone over a subject’s face, the face is detected, sent to a face recognition software company, Polar Rose, and analyzed and compared with snapshots of other users in their database. Polar Rose then instantly sends back the person’s name along with virtual links and icons to their social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc., which toggle around the subject’s head without obscuring their face (Joneitz 2010).

It is rumored that Apple is in talks of acquiring or has already acquired this technology, which would have tremendous implications for the future of the iPhone by the way of FaceTime recognition, authentication when unlocking users’ phone, and iPhoto sorting and organization of faces (Ricknäs 2010). As Wood, director of research at CCS Insight purports, “The acquisition reflects Apple’s ambition to turn the mobile phone into the hub of your life, and this will give that another dimension” (Ricknäs 2010).  Providing a glimpse into augmented realities’ potential, The Institute for the Future, an independent nonprofit research group focusing on technology and society, predicts that digital augmentation will be wearable by “special eyeglasses equipped to show digital data overlaid on the real world,” or even by 2020, contact lenses, which are already in development in University of Washington, ingraining this technology into our very being (Liebhold 2010).  Arguably even more impressive, stemming from augmented reality is the idea of “augmented virtuality,” wherein instead of interacting with the physical world using a “computer”, users “interact with your computer using the physical world.”  Developed by the MIT Media Lab, SixthSense uses “natural hand gestures” to “interact with the computer, projecting the screen on your hand or any other surface using a tiny small wearable gestural interface” (Bunz 2010). Augmented reality has the potential to “make the world into a stage on which we can be the actors, participating in history as drama or simply playing a game in the space before us” (Bolter 2007).

While we are not exactly sure of the consequences, challenges, and opportunities that augmented reality poses, as futuristic and far-fetched as the technology may seem now, it is safe to assume that it has the potential to completely transform society.  As Liebhold so aptly states, “When we invent new technologies, they in turn re-invent us” (p.10, 2010). The exponential speed of technological advancement in computer science and innovation equates to an imminent and massive growth opportunity for humans in terms of problem solving and participation. Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist illustrates, “Facebook and Google were started by a couple of kids with an idea,” emphasizing that this success was a “direct result of collaborative decision making.”  Moreover, he proposes, “What’s really important is that we are gaining exponentially in understanding our own intelligence; we’re going to enhance humanity” (Wagner 2010).  As information about one’s surroundings and social connections become more easily accessible and ingrained with reality as opposed to a part of it, one’s understanding of the world around him or her will become more comprehensive. These augmented reality applications provide conducive platforms for synthesizing new and unique forms of varied passions, interests, and life experiences, essentially providing a foundation for users’ creation of art and entrepreneurship.  The ability to experience the surrounding environment in new, interactive ways with this increased overlying data will potentially change individual behavior, shape the definition of culture, and encourage technological and intellectual progression. In this new technological economy, creativity, intelligence, vision and determination will be the only barriers to achieving anything. As the irreversible trend of access to information becomes increasingly seamless and streamlined, individual and cultural perception will shift as the ability to make sense of the world evolves.