The future of AR is...

AR Week: Editors, experts and industry insiders cast their predictions
The future of AR is...
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AR Week has been a seriously future gazing week for the site. So we decided to ask people straight - what is the future of AR?

We didn't place any limits on how specific or general we wanted those answers to be or what time period we mean by "the future". The responses are bold, imaginative and sometimes contradictory, just how we like it.

We asked AR creators, experts, mentors and investors what their hopes, dreams and realistic predictions are when it comes to the future of augmented and mixed reality. Tied up in this question are how it relates to VR, what could go wrong - from ads to security - and which tech companies will get us there. Add your predictions in the comments below.

"AR will give us superpowers"

The future of AR is...

Tom Emrich

Partner at AR venture fund and incubator Super Ventures

"These next few years we will see a boom in smartphone AR thanks to developer platforms from the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple. These experiences will act as "AR training wheels" for enterprises, developers and consumers alike - preparing us for the need for a new headworn form factor while buying the time for the headworn technologies to become smarter, smaller, more cost effective and ready for widescale adoption.

"In wearing our tech, it will make us superhuman and AR will give us a wide range of superpowers from making us smarter to being able to change the way the world looks around us and beyond."

"It's not a competition of VR or AR"

The future of AR is...

Rachel Sibley

VP, product marketing, Leap Motion

"My belief is [VR and AR] are developing in conjunction in one another and I'm going to come back to use case dependence. These are different tools that are optimized for different environments.

"It's not a competition of one or the other, it's what are the situations this is best suited to? And I see us interacting with these technologies as if it's the early days of photography or filmmaking. We're like, what is this thing? What are black and white movies good for? What if we don't have sound? How do we tell the story? We're trying to figure it all out still. But we have to start looking at them in terms of the value they provide.

"It could scale cultural experience"

The future of AR is...

Catherine Allen

VR/AR producer and specialist who lead the production of two of the BBC's first VR experiences

"What most excites me about augmented reality's future is its role in the arts. It has heaps of potential in this way, to scale cultural experience and make it accessible to broader audiences at lower costs. Imagine, for instance, a live AR performance of Hamlet, that is simultaneously beamed into people's living rooms across the world. The UK's RSC have already done some incredible things with AR: currently they are performing The Tempest in the Barbican, where Ariel is completely computer generated, acting seamlessly alongside human actors."

"In 2020, we'll slit each other's throats"

The future of AR is...

Ryan Pamplin

VP and evangelist at Meta

"I think augmented reality could go two ways. It could go the way that we all become immensely more distracted from each other and from the world. Or, and this is what we're trying to do, we can find ways to make us closer to each other, to our environments, and turn the whole world into our desktop background. That's ultimately the dream...

"It's all of our jobs right now to convince the world that this is the next paradigm of computing. And if any of us trip on the way to the new paradigm it's going to slow all of us down. So today I want [rival AR companies] to succeed, I want to see their ecosystems create amazing, exceptional applications, because it's going to drive all of us forward and our whole industry forward. And then by about 2020, 2021 we'll start to slit each others' throats."

"AR will change our shopping habits"

The future of AR is...

Marija Butkovic

Co-founder of Women of Wearables

"I think AR will drastically change our shopping habits and will affect retail, e-commerce and fashion in a significant way. If you're a customer visiting a retail store, by using AR technology you'll be able to view all the information about the product you want to purchase online, like reviews, similar products and price, while looking at the actual physical product via your smartphone.

Try-it-before-you-buy-it has also proved to be very useful technique of increasing online sales for some brands, like ModiFace technology used by Sephora which allows users to take a "selfie" and then apply a variety of cosmetic products to their faces virtually or Converse Sampler app that uses technology to show how the (virtual) shoe will look wearing it. Conclusion - the near future definitely looks mobile and augmented!"

"It doesn't overload, it delights"

The future of AR is...

Helen Papagiannis

AR expert & author of Augmented Human: How Technology is Shaping the New Reality

"My prediction takes the form of my hopes and wishes for AR, and at its core what AR as an experience and a technology needs to be and do to truly advance.

The future of AR is sophisticated and beautiful. It enhances and is in sync with the physical world; it does not replace or supplant it. It does not overload; it aids and delights with elegance. It creates goodness, uplifting and enriching our lives. It ignites and invites curiosity and creativity. This is what we must strive for. May these new realities be deeply fulfilling and greatly benefit humanity."

"AR driving aids will need security"

The future of AR is...

Chris Boyd

Lead malware intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes

The future of AR will likely settle into three main areas - gaming, military, and medicinal. The biggest challenges will be in ensuring the technology deployed is secure. Equipment breaking down in the middle of combat, or finding the technology compromised by hackers during an operation, isn't something the armed forces or a doctor needs to be worrying about.

"Even outside of more dramatic edge-cases, if someone built an AR driving aid similar to Google Maps but it wasn't properly secured, it leaves the door open for data manipulation - a popup on your desktop is annoying, but a popup in your AR glasses, or across a portion of your windshield, could be deadly. Smart AR companies will invest heavily in security testing and ensure they don't make it easy for those up to no good - their business and reputation may well depend on it."

"The tech has started to consolidate"

The future of AR is...

Dion Price

VP business development at WaveOptics

"It's exceptionally rare for many of the world's largest consumer electronics giants to state such significant interest in an emerging technology trend such as AR. With the level of interest and investment in AR from the tech giants of the world, it is very likely that the space will undergo some huge changes in the midterm as the multiple approaches to solving the challenges presented by mass market AR come to fruition.

"The various technical solutions to AR (combiners, light field, holograms etc.) have already started to consolidate around waveguides as the preferred commercial path forward."

"AR will raise the profile of VR"

The future of AR is...

Harry Engels

Head of marketing at VR and 360 production studio Visualise

"Keiichi Matsuda's 'Hyper-Reality'is a fascinating, yet equally terrifying, vision of what a mixed reality future could look like. As this technology develops and we're able to pack more power & capability into wearables, AR will undoubtedly become a part of daily life. In business meetings a person's LinkedIn profile will appear above their head so you know who they are, where they work, and who your common connections are. CityMapper will display arrows on the pavement directing you to your destination whilst nutritional information will be displayed when you look at different plates of food.

The development of AR glasses will have a huge effect on VR, bringing it to the masses. It won't be the best way to consume VR because of the distractions in your peripheral vision, but it will raise the profile of VR without a doubt."

"Expect a new retail reality"

The future of AR is...

Muchaneta Kapfunde

Editor in chief of FashNerd

"With retail and AR destined to become inseparable, we should all be poised for a new shopping reality. As AR continues to impact every industry in a profound way, we are seeing the most changes in retail. This is a sector where AR is revolutionising the way we shop by bridging the gap between digital and physical worlds. A radical store re-invention will offer retailers new ways to increase convenience and personalisation, and consumers the opportunity to experience re-envisioned shops.

With the best yet to come, the speed of AR growth will be dependent on two factors: the technology and the environment that nourishes the possibilities of AR adoption."

"I'm seeing a lot more location based apps"

The future of AR is...

Thomas Gere

Co-founder of the Realities Centre in London, VR/AR investor & mentor

"We are seeing a democratization of AR at the moment in terms of development. Thanks to the big releases of AR camera technologies from Facebook, Snapchat and now Apple's AR Development kit, this has eased & accelerated the development of AR use cases and therefore applications. We are seeing a lot more implementation and adoption of high technologies in computer vision and machine learning; and this is going to accelerate.

The main impact is more intelligent cameras and features, making the end users experience more rich (e.g. great object tracking tech in ARKit). Apple and Google are cleverly preparing the ground for AR wearables with version 2 of Google Glass most probably coming. I am seeing a lot more location based AR content coming soon too, harnessing neural networks to tap into existing information and making AR app development even easier, and more useful to users. It's all very exciting!"

"AR will be the next computing platform"

The future of AR is...

Sam Cole

Co-founder of FITAR

"AR will be the next computing platform after the smartphone. I think that the reservations you hear about that are largely technical, but those will be solved in time. The other issue is surely we are not all going to be wearing headsets all of the time. But if you look back before headphones were widely used, nobody would think people would be walking around with noise cancelling Beats by Dre headphones. It's a similar kind of immersion. You are choosing the sounds you want to hear. We will get over that.

"People always point to Google Glass and say it was a massive failure. What it didn't have - which future ones will have - is much more use cases. We are very bullish on it. It's the time horizon thing. Whether it's a five year thing or 10 year thing. It will be interesting to see what happens with Apple's ARKit and to make AR more mass market is to make hits like Pokémon Go."

Team Wareable's AR predictions

So those are some of the thoughts and predictions from people in tech - here's what Wareable editors and writers, who haven't already given their opinion this week, have to say.

"AR has all the endorsement it needs"

The future of AR is...

Michael Sawh


"2017 will be known as the year we spoke a lot about AR, but didn't see anything that we could get our hands on and say, okay, this is happening and this is mind-blowing.

"Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google. All the major players are talking about it and that's all the endorsement you need to know that AR is going to be huge. One day.

"When that day is, I'm still not really sure. With VR, it just made sense for a lot of industries. Whether it was adding a new dimension to storytelling for moviemakers, helping doctors teach students about performing complicated surgeries or getting to feel like you are at a gig or game when you can't afford to be there.

"I feel AR will have its niches in those places as well and maybe more when the hardware arrives in a consumer-friendly form, but I feel like we are long time away from that. Many of the people above me talk about use cases and I think that's key. Yes, AR is capable of creating amazing things and these demos are pretty special, but how are we are going to truly make it part of our daily lives? How that question is answered excites me, but realistically, it feels like that question won't be answered for many years yet."

"I want hologram football highlights"

The future of AR is...

Conor Allison


"Broadcasting, and specifically sport, is a space that's likely to be one of the first to truly exploit next-level AR. Why, you ask? Well, the oldest reason in the world — money… and, more specifically, advertising. But AR won't just be about the cynicism and greed. We'll all be sat on the couch having the game complemented in an unobtrusive way.

Read this: #Trending - AR and sport collide

"Take football (soccer, for US readers); screen size will be amplified to give you a wider view of the pitch, almost as if you were in the stands looking from left to right, highlights will be formed into Subbuteo-like holograms on a tabletop and stats will be fed at will. The biggest draw of seeing sport live is losing yourself in the natural atmosphere but it's not hard to imagine a scenario whereby the likes of yellow card/goal tabs and names follow players around in AR."

"Apple ARKit will be a major catalyst"

The future of AR is...

Hugh Langley

US editor

"I believe the AR explosion is going to happen faster than most people are expecting. I think we'll look back in years to come and see Apple's ARKit as one of the major catalysts, not for the tech itself - which is still mighty impressive, mind - but for sheer scale, putting AR in the pockets of millions of people overnight. Most of all, people need to get excited about AR, which is hard right now when you can't see much of it - but that's about to change.

"Between Apple and Microsoft's Mixed Reality, proper AR ecosystems are emerging, while companies like Avegant are cracking the tech when it comes to visuals. A few more predictions - Google/Samsung/others will offer their own version of ARKit (we have Project Tango, but it needs bigger scale); Snap will unveil an entire AR platform that crosses smartphone and glasses; and Ikea will be one of the biggest names in AR in its early days."

"AR doesn't really exist - that's exciting"

The future of AR is...

James Stables


"It's important to remember a key thing about AR, MR – or whatever you want to call it: it doesn't exist – at least, not how we romanticise it. Sure, it looks like it exists. Google Glass definitely existed, as does HoloLens. And we know what AR could do, in terms of offering us a new, richer, world view.

"The awkward problem is that AR doesn't do any of those things. Glass is dead. HoloLens can only be bought as a dev platform, and again, it doesn't _do_ anything. Magic Leap also doesn't exist. What else is there? The only thing that's provenly existed is Pokémon Go. Sure there are some AR studies in enterprise – experiments, if you will. AR will arrive, it will do the things we want it to, and it will change the world. But it's important to remember that it's still barely more than a proven concept. And that's the most exciting thing about it."

Main image: From Strange Beasts by Magali Barbé


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