On a daily basis, Ben Kittrell translates the jargon-filled world of technology for clients of his tech consultancy. The Words that Frustrate (WTF) series aims to offer readers some clarity in an industry dominated by techies’ confusing argot.
Thanks to the Oculus Rift device, you probably heard last year’s buzz on virtual reality. The device, originally hacked together by 18-year-old Palmer Luckey, lets you immerse yourself in a virtual 3D world. It’s a lot like “The Matrix” without the brain jack and barber chair.
This year, we’re going to hear a lot more about virtual reality’s next-gen brother, augmented reality. Where virtual reality lets viewers explore whole new 3D worlds, augmented reality instead adds a layer on top of the real world.
Companies have been using this technology for a few years, though mostly for novel apps. You may have received a greeting card or bought a children’s toy that uses a phone application to show a 3D virtual figure through the phone’s camera. It’s quickly going to a new level, though.
Imagine walking through the grocery store, and as you shop for food, virtual information like reviews and prices pop up in thin air. Or you could be driving in your car at night and see outlines of the road projected on to your windshield. Eventually we might even have facial recognition that reminds us of people’s names at parties and networking events.
Microsoft is currently developing an augmented reality headset called Hololens. With Hololens, virtual holograms integrate into your surroundings, from to-do reminders “stuck” on the fridge to a virtual TV on the wall. The Hololens won’t just be for personal use: professionals would be able to see 3D models in real space, like car engines or DNA strands. Or it could be used for remote training where the trainer is able to draw instructions over the student’s work.
Luxury car company Jaguar is working on a windshield display that will virtually overlay useful driving information onto the road, and expects to have the device installed in vehicles within a decade. Optimal driving routes that seem to project directly onto the road will take the place of tiny GPS screens, virtual cones will train new drivers, and “Ghost Cars” will let adrenaline junkies safely race on closed tracks.
Augmented reality is a great example of a proactive technology that feeds us information as we need it instead of having to go look. As many futurists would say, the eventual goal is for technology to disappear. Instead of fumbling with electronics like phones, computers, gaming systems and more, technology will be embedded into our clothes, homes, cars and even furniture. Augmented reality is one big step into that future.