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July 17, 2018
Our Reality: More augmented than ever
By: Kamen Kamenov

This year’s Google I/O and Apple’s ‘Special Event’ (WWDC) are already in the history books.

Google went BIG on artificial intelligence (AI) this year, integrating it into many of their key products, though Google Assistant reserving a table at a restaurant has to be the winner of the Mind Blown category.

Apple’s main focus was also software. With iOS 12, the company seems to be putting users’ digital well being high on its agenda. Apple devices will soon be providing detailed reports on how they are used with simple controls designed to help limit the less productive, and often unhealthy time which users spend staring at their screens.

Augmented Reality (AR) got a lot more exciting too!

Various new updates were made to both ARCore and ARKit, which enhance AR's ability to make the way we work, play and learn a lot more fun. Both companies announced that the ARCore- and ARKit-enabled devices will soon have "shared AR" capabilities, which I think is particularly exciting. Shared AR has the potential to unlock so many impactful use cases in so many areas, and in this post I’d like to share why I think this is important.

What is shared AR and why should we care?

Think of the last time you started planning a trip to a new place. What was the first thing you did? My guess is that you thought about whom you’d like to go with. As humans, we are naturally driven to share great moments in life. Sharing gives us a feeling that’s hard to match, and that’s exactly why shared AR is a big deal. It enables the creation of experiences that cater to this fundamental characteristic of human nature.

Some of you may recall Google I/O 2016, when the only way for the audience to see the AR velociraptor that was being projected on stage, was if the demo device was connected to a screen. How exciting would it have been if people in the room could see the velociraptor on their own devices at the same time, each from their respective angle.

The new shared AR capabilities in ARCore and ARKit solve just that. Now, two or more devices have the ability to create a shared point of reference from the visual features of the environment and see and interact with the same experience, at the same time. To demonstrate this, both companies built simple games, which seemed just as fun to watch as they were to play. Not only that, but experiences can be played between people on devices with either operating system (OS). This is incredibly important as it will help make AR and shared AR a true reality, and because we should not be made to discriminate the friends we can play a game with based on their phone’s OS.

LEGO is one of the first major brands to take advantage of this: Check out the demo of the epic new LEGO shared AR.

Action shot taken from Apple's WWDC event in June, 2018.

Action shot taken from Apple's WWDC event in June, 2018.

I am also excited by all the other possible use cases we will start seeing come to life. As is often the case with XR (X-what?), the majority of them will likely be in gaming, but the possibilities go far beyond: education, creative expression, shopping, training, the list goes on ...

Take education and its well-known traditional classroom model.

Too often students disengage in class as their science teacher drones on about a subject like the solar system in a monologue with no interaction. Imagine the level of engagement if those students could actually see the solar system come to life right in front of them and explore and learn about it together by taking a trip to outer space right there in the classroom.

From next Monday, no student should have to look at a lifeless 2D image of the solar system ever again. We are not there quite yet; there are some challenges that stand in the way of an experience like this becoming truly widespread. To mention only a few:

  • Equipping schools with enough units of the right hardware would be costly and many schools would argue they have more burning needs.
  • These types of experiences are new and relatively few people have mastered them. Managing them at scale for schools globally could be tricky.
  • Content availability, maintenance and continuous update can be a huge challenge. It will take some time to build enough of it to truly engage students of different ages across the world.
  • AR is evolving at a rate so fast that today’s highest end hardware will likely be obsolete within a year or two, requiring new spend on better hardware, making it difficult to justify the investment.

Nonetheless, these are just bumps in the road. Lots of progress is consistently being made. Google’s Expeditions AR is taking shape in more and more schools across the globe. It’s amazing to see creative XR teams all over the world work with brands, schools and other institutions to build the amazing stuff we are increasingly growing to expect. At this rate, next Monday might come sooner than expected.

For further questions, get in touch with Kamen via kamen.kamenov@accenture.com

Here are my sources for this post, in case you’d like to do some further reading:

  1. https://events.google.com/io/
  2. https://www.apple.com/apple-events/june-2018/
  3. https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/08/8-big-announcements-from-google-i-o-2018/
  4. https://twitter.com/KhalidHamdan0/status/993998625851301889
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VMSkBzMsjc
  6. https://www.blog.google/products/google-vr/experience-augmented-reality-together-new-updates-arcore/
  7. https://www.apple.com/uk/newsroom/2018/06/apple-unveils-arkit-2/
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w1V0VyVsPM
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWzKZoJapdg
  10. https://www.vrfocus.com/2017/05/ar-vr-mr-rr-xr-a-glossary-to-the-acronyms-of-the-future/
  11. https://edu.google.com/expeditions/ar/#about

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