The Economist – AR will Be Big in Business First

An opinion piece on The Economist dated February  4th 2017, offers the opinion that Augmented Reality will be big in business before it is accepted more widely.

Wearables are discussed and the idea is to build a pair of “smart glasses” that do everything a smartphone can, and more. Augmented Reality (AR) would “paint computerised information directly on top of the wearers’ view of the world”.  The article’s main thrust is that if AR can be made to work as its advocates hope, AR could bring about a new and even more intimate way to interact with machines.

The technology is advancing rapidly. Several companies already make fairly simple glasses that can project flat images for their wearers. They are increasingly popular with warehousing and manufacturing firms, who can use them to issue instructions to employees while leaving their hands free.

Firms such as Magic Leap, Meta and Microsoft, are building more capable headsets that can sense their surroundings and react to them, projecting convincing, three-dimensional illusions onto the world. Microsoft is already running trials of its HoloLens headset in medical schools and architectural practices.

Social factors often govern the path to mass adoption, and for AR, two problems stand out.

  1. Aesthetics: HoloLens is an impressive machine, but few would mistake it for a fashion item. The author argues the case for beauty, as with Apple’s products.
  2. Goggle Glass was accused of being ‘sinister’ with people worrying that users were covertly filming everyone they came into contact with.

Both of these problems are solvable since computers and costs both shrink over time.  It may well be possible one day to build a capable and affordable AR computer that looks like a pair of fashionable glasses.

The article concludes by stating that Augmented Reality will first become popular in the world of work, before being accepted amongst the masses, and follow a similar route to popularity as the mobile phone.

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