In 2018, Augmented Reality passed from the vague promise of interesting things in the near future to tangible software and hardware developments, proving that immersive computing is indeed the future.
Traditional mobile apps on smartphones kept the users' attention While desktop computing faltered with fumes, the VR saw a few ups and downs, but mostly managed to remain relevant. By far the most exciting development this year in this area, however, was AR.
That's why we decided to look back and highlight some of the best innovations that point to the future of AR.
Magic Leap One
When the Magic Leap One finally debuted in August the public's reception was less than warm. With the public in the dark for so long, many reviewers were quite fed up with the hype and hammered the company hard as the device "only" delivered what many considered an incremental step over the HoloLens. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with this attitude, the months that followed have shown that it is fueling excitement and growing interest in what the Florida-based startup has produced.
Of course, like the early HoloLens, the number of actual Magic Leap users seems to be low. However, based on the online chatter, the developers and users of Magic Leap One are becoming more and more frequent. And along with the individuals, the list of companies selling products for the Magic Leap is growing rather quickly.
From the Cheddar Live Stream app, Lowe's flawed (but potentially huge) Showroom app, to Avatar Chat (which is now supported), three users, the Magic Leap software ecosystem is skyrocketing. This pace can even accelerate when the Direct TV app arrives in 2019 and we find out who are the winners in the Magic Leap promotion program.
The device is still essentially in the beta phase and not the most people would wear at home all day. However, the current version is surprisingly well designed, and we've had very few reports of major glitches or product flaws. Taken together, these are all good signs for Magic Leap's next, more consumer-oriented version, which may be even better and may be suitable for mainstream heads and hands.
From the ranks of the Meta born team, the DreamGlass device has not received much attention, but it was a refreshing view of the mobile AR, which offers a new level yet is affordable. By combining the DreamGlass visor with a standard Android smartphone, users get a basic AR computing environment that includes 6DoF tracking, hand gesture recognition, a 90-degree field of view, and a 1080p front camera and microphone.
Starting at $ 619 ($ 799 for the 6DoF version), makes the device an incredibly attractive midpoint between low-level AR viewed through the screen of your smartphone and high End AR by HoloLens and Magic Leap One. With such a low price and easy setup, the only thing that really holds DreamGlass back is the marketing and community of developers involved in developing software for the system.
If the little startup can solve the problem, then it has a shot at the big time. In the meantime, DreamGlass shows us that the momentum of computer-in-pocket goggles will be the most popular setup for the foreseeable future for most competing manufacturers of AR headsets, high-end and low-end future.
An unlikely and largely unknown player has hit the masses in the race for consumable smart glasses, and it's the Canadian startup North. After a certain hype in October, the company released a surprise in November in the world. Instead of appearing on Best Buy or Walmart, however, the Smart Glasses, referred to as Focals, are equipped with special retail locations in New York and Toronto.
The device itself does not break new ground in terms of what we have seen of similar devices (though the integration of Amazon Alexa is pretty smooth). What Focals really is about is the look of goggles we've gotten used to in business equipment. Instead of this woodshop / science-class look, focals are more likely to have a Warby Parker design aesthetic that immediately makes the prospect of wearing smart glasses more palatable to mainstream users.
There are some issues that suggest that the device needs a little more time to mature – which we do in our hands-on test – but no one really expected Warby-Parker-style stores for smartglasses So, just North and its new patent basket in 2018 are worth a look.
Remote communication via AR is still in its infancy, with different solutions on the HoloLens and The Magic Leap One shows us how easy it is to work together in such computer environments. Nothing on the market, however, is as impressive as Spatial, which includes the ability to use realistic avatars that look exactly like you, along with usable virtual arms and hands.
Currently the software tool is only available to business customers. However, as long as the small startup can maintain its momentum, it is only a matter of time before this software reaches non-business users. In short, this is what comes closest to working with other people and their VR avatars (something that happens more than many realize today), but without the limitations of being in a virtual environment. Our hands-on test is just a foretaste of what's possible with Spatial.
The current version is only available for the HoloLens, but the team is working on a Magic Leap One version that offers Avatar Chat more than just a run money.
The AR Cloud
We call this innovation a category rather than a single product, with so many interesting initiatives being taken in this area. If you are unfamiliar with the AR cloud as an idea, it is typically a cloud-based system that allows various AR users to experience multiple devices and in different locations with these virtual AR objects and other systems to share footprints of activity remain persistent, much like your activity on the Internet.
Magic Leap spoke during this LEAP about this concept conference called "magicverse" and explains its use in a futuristic scenario in which a city is superimposed with AR cloud data. However, there are real companies that are working to deploy AR Clouds. Outstanding standouts include 6D, Niantic (an offshoot of Google), Amazon, Ubiquity6, Blue Vision, Microsoft and others. Each company takes a different approach, and because of factors such as market footprint, methodology, and founder experience, there is no obvious early leader in this category (though many insiders in the AR industry have their favorites.)
What will be the most interesting is this How the growing field of blockchain technology influences how some of these clouds are treated and monetized. While so many blockchain fans are focused on cryptocurrency, using block chains in AR (and VR) is probably the most interesting action in the coming years.
2018 was full of surprises, and we made it Many advances in the AR concept videos we see so often. And we have not even seen Apple's alleged smart glasses, a product event that's likely to change everything. Nevertheless, 2019 promises even more innovations and surprises.
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