The first was virtual reality. It was going to be the lemon pear. Some of us have seen us locked in our homes at this point, but not because of the coronavirus, but because we are constantly connected to these virtual worlds. Very “Ready Player One”. That did not happen and virtual reality has become a niche in the entertainment market.
The expectations in augmented reality were even higher, they still are, in fact, but the idea came up several years ago and everyone who has tried to be successful in this segment has failed. Augmented reality is little more than fireworks at the moment, but despite this, he continues to try to break through.
A revolution that could be and was not (for now)
Some of you may remember Google I / O from 2012. Sergei Brin appeared on the scene with Google Glass and warned the audience that they had “something special for you”. It sure was, but if you don’t know the story, you might want to watch this 11 and a half minute video. I think it’s worth it.
In fact, the introduction of these augmented reality glasses didn’t seem like much since more than just focusing on the area of augmented reality they were a tool for taking photos or videos and keep the Google Assistant always available.
The product deflated, partly immersed in the privacy invasion debate, but Google has never stopped giving up its Google Glass, which redirected to the business environment.
The latest Android-based model costs $ 999 and they project information while we wear them, which allows them to be more useful in various scenarios. Google doesn’t advertise too much this product, which was aimed at small niche markets – with a few exceptions – and we are far from this theoretical product for the masses that the company had promised in 2012.
Microsoft has also been trying for some time with Hololens, another product that also generated this “wow” effect on their demos. Fascination seemed inevitable when we saw technology in action that seemed to take us one step further in technology, even if it came at an astronomical price tag.
HoloLens also failed to curdle too much, and as in the case of Google Glass, Microsoft ended up assigning this product to industrial, commercial and even military environments. The apps look clearer, but again we were still short of massive revolution. The revolution does not appear to be small.
The third of the great protagonists of the latter is the one who promised the most and disappointed the most. Magic Leap and its absolute secret They made us think that maybe they could have the key to unlock Pandora’s Box.
They didn’t have it: when they finally launched their first product, it was clear that the expectations created had been absurd: They only sold a few thousand units and we recently learned that they were even looking for a buyer for a company that ended up laying off a large part of its workforce.
Three big attempts, three big failures. Where has augmented reality gone? Well, at the moment not for the glasses, of course, but for this device that we wear all day with us.
Augmented reality finds refuge in our mobile
It is possible that all of these companies failed in their attempt to pose this augmented reality revolution, but what is curious is that the one who really demonstrated the potential of this technology was a small video game developer. It’s called Niantic, and everyone talked about it in the summer of 2016.
It was around this time that this company launched Pokémon GO – before having already shown its abilities with Ingress – a video game that take people off the streets with their cell phones as the only excuse.
The virtual monster hunt worked well for Niantic that summer, but although the phenomenon exploded, the revenues kept coming in and, in fact, recently announced record earnings in 2019. Pokémon GO fever has attempted to spread to other titles that have certainly toured, and showed that the mobile is a perfect vehicle to try to show the advantages of augmented reality.
We have seen it of course with the Google and Apple efforts offer solutions based on this technology. Its development tools, ARCore and ARKit, have allowed us to take advantage of incredible applications and tools that again arouse a certain fascination.
They certainly have all these tools that add filters in real time to our photos or videos – the MSQRD phenomenon has proven it, Facebook published the checkbook to make it their own after its spectacular success – or those who offer practical utilities like Google Translate and Google Lens.
When the river rings, does it carry water?
The problem is, fascination is not enough. In many cases, the “wow” effect passes – not with Pokémon GO, one of the few exceptions – and the practicality of augmented reality is diluted. As with virtual reality, expectations have been clouded by reality: The tools and the games are great, but they were just the solution to any problem we had.
This is, of course, what these companies are trying to change. Google has shown some brushstrokes with the integration of augmented reality in Google Maps: Finding the destination point is now even easier with these arrows superimposed on the real scene which indicate for example where to direct our steps.
The truth is, doubts about whether or not augmented reality can be a revolution are still there. We believe that a company like Apple, little given to invest arbitrarily in projects, have put so much emphasis on this area.
Tim Cook called the technology a “big idea” and Apple’s commitment is clear on iOS and iPadOS, and its latest iPad Pro have, for example, a LIDAR sensor for this area.
Years ago, in fact, they talk apple augmented reality glasses, which will theoretically become a laptop with the same projection – perhaps more – as the Apple Watch.
All of these big bets suggest that something really has augmented reality that has to be potentially revolutionary. It’s hard for technology today to convince us of this bright future: all we see is usually more and more fireworks, but it is clear that when the river rings, the water wins. Where should you wear.