We all know that moment when our attention slowly turns inward and our thoughts start to wander. Suddenly, in our minds’ eyes, our boss congratulates us on the new promotion, we find ourselves on a desert island with loved ones, or we win the lottery — a daydream, in other words. Just in a blink of an eye, we live through a striking, magical, and private tale.
This article is a sort of daydream about what impact augmented reality might one day have and looks at the tangible future and shows how digital advances can increasingly shape our everyday reality.
AR Changes How Humans Interact With Technology
Tactile interaction between humans and digital technology goes back to the early days of computing, when technicians would manually feed punch cards printed with instructions into huge mainframes for computers to process. A major shift came in 1968 when the invention of the mouse revolutionized how humans interacted with computers. The mouse has been our primary tool for engaging with technology, whether for work or play, ever since, by providing a way to navigate the graphical user interface. The confluence of technology and users reached another level when voice-controlled technologies such as Siri and Alexa enabled people to instruct computers and devices using voice commands.
And now, there is another breakthrough that will fundamentally change the way humans interact with technology again: augmented reality (AR). AR will, as its name suggests, augment our reality, or add to what we see and what’s around us. AR will enable us to interact with digital content and experiences in our real physical world through a technological intermediary. AR is similar to virtual reality (VR) in that there are rich, immersive experiences for people to interact with, but the key difference is VR doesn’t have a connection to your physical environment, instead taking the user to a completely virtual world.
Until now, we have mainly experienced AR through a cell phone camera. However, with consumer AR glasses hitting the market and rumors of Apple’s glasses joining the mix, AR is no longer limited to what we can do while holding a screen in our hands. AR glasses have depth-sensing cameras to enable computer vision; perform plane detection, which detects vertical planes like walls and horizontal planes like the ground you’re standing on; and observe human interactions, such as selecting items. The systems’ AR uses software programs to build and edit pictures to display digital content amid physical space and a microphone and speaker to allow voice-enabled commands using conversational AI.
What makes AR so revolutionary compared to other technologies is the ability to place digital content in physical space and provide context to what exactly the user is seeing. It allows the creation of a digital world placed atop the physical world, but instead of just replicating objects, it spices things up with a fantastic extra layer, a complex technological advancement. Dynamic lighting and drop shadows, computer vision, and plane detection are necessary to create this “near-to-real” experience that helps the technology manipulate our minds — and could allow us to transport our daydreams into our virtual experiences as well.
AR Will Revolutionize Human Interaction
In human communication, the words being spoken are only a fraction of the message being relayed. The pitch and inflection of our voice, the speed, the rhythm, and the chosen pauses between words can convey far more than what is literally being said. In addition, our gestures, posture, and facial expressions usually allow for various subtle signals – many experts agree that at least 70 percent of all communication is nonverbal. Verbal or nonverbal, both complicate and facilitate our communication. Until recently, computers could only transmit the simple meaning of words, and emojis were necessary for us to express digitally the more subtle shades of meaning in our feelings and emotions.
However, AR and its collection of technologies (natural language processing, computer vision, conversational AI) will fundamentally change how humans interact with one another digitally. By listening to people’s natural speech, tone and voice can be interpreted, and the increasing use of video will allow technology to dig even deeper. Smart technology may soon be able to understand our non-verbal communications better than we can ourselves.
Some Daydreams About How AR Could Influence Human Interaction
4 Ways Augmented Reality Could Change Human Interaction
- Providing insight into communication
- Enabling real-time language translation
- Fact-checking disagreements and debates
- Gamifying recreation
AR will soon help you analyze the person you’re talking to and give you insights into their mood or attention based on their body language or whether they keep up eye contact. Maybe you could one day find out whether your loved one truly loves you (or just likes you for the pancakes you make every Sunday).
How often have you visited a foreign country and desired to speak the local language to communicate better? Thanks to conversational AI, you can soon break down language barriers. Real-time translation allows two individuals who speak completely different languages to interact and dive deep into a discussion without having to learn a single word with Duolingo. While this isn’t directly related to AR, when you combine AR’s other capabilities it becomes easy to imagine two people who speak totally different languages to be experiencing the same thing at the same time, and I believe it’s through these shared experiences we can connect and heal the world.
Humans are prone to making cognitive errors or basing decisions on incorrect information. With a live fact-checking tool, visual or spoken information can be provided in real-time to add context to the conversation. In a world of fake news and facts that don’t matter, careful consideration will need to be given with regards to who determines what’s a fact, or what’s actually correct. At best, humans are as far removed from this as possible. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming better at parsing vast amounts of data in milliseconds. They lack the emotional attachment (bias) that humans have and can help identify fake news — given they are fed with the right training sets and get unbiased commands, of course.
What if exploring our physical world were as fun as playing a video game? What about if we could make learning about local geography an enjoyable, immersive experience? Also, what if you could compete with others to see who can hike a peak the fastest? Gamification in AR will be a big driver in what I hope will inspire people to get outside and explore the beauty nature has to provide. AR gamification can even assist in the process of breaking the ice with someone new, whether on a first date or onboarding a new colleague. Instead of talking about the weather, you can simply play AR games and quizzes together. It’s through these shared experiences that true human connections are made.
AR Turning the Business World Upside Down
We’ve looked into the underlying goals and technologies of augmented reality in our private lives, but the dream’s not over yet. Let’s take a glimpse at how industries will transform in the near future thanks to virtual reality.
6 Use Cases for Augmented Reality in the Business World
- Fashion and e-commerce
- Cell phones
- Remote work
- Fitness and coaching
Fashion and e-commerce
Have you used AR tools with which you can place a couch or chair you’re about to buy in the space you’re going to use it? They’re useful but pretty basic. Imagine you’re stepping into an AR fitting room where your measurements are taken automatically, allowing you to order clothes that fit you much better. You will also be able to virtually try on different looks to see whether this season’s latest trends look best on you.
Why would you need a TV in your home if you have AR glasses and contact lenses? With increasing technological advances, it won’t take long until any surface can become a screen. You can view the same (or a different) screen with someone else physically present in the same location.
Say goodbye to your beloved device. In two to five years (and possibly much sooner), you won’t carry a cell or smartphone anymore. Instead, your AR glasses or contact lenses will be your primary interface with technology, whether that’s for making phone calls, seeing friends’ social media updates, or viewing reports at work.
With AR you’ll be able to take your work office anywhere! Simply put on your AR glasses, sit down at your AR desk, and find your papers and files just as where you had left them last, so you can easily pick up where you left off. A great asset for digital nomads, remote workers, and frequent travelers.
AR will allow assembly line workers to see exactly the part they need, where it’s to be put, and how it’s assembled into the product. Inventory systems are automatically updated as production is completed, and errors are caught before sending them to customers. It will not only ease up a worker’s task and make time for an extra coffee break but enhance productivity and efficiency.
Fitness and Coaching
It’s time to sweat. Imagine a workout with a digital trainer who can monitor your training and tell you when you need to go a little deeper in a squat or change your release point when throwing a curveball. Training with augmented reality will allow for a degree of personalization and flexibility that we’ve never seen before — but don’t get too excited yet. You’ll still have to do the physical activity yourself, AR is just there to make those home-based workouts more fun.
Well, now it’s time to open your eyes. In the last few minutes, you have embarked on an exciting journey into a very possible and very near future. However, when you return to reality, it certainly won't be long before our daydreams start to take shape.