I just went to an augmented reality meetup at the Google Launchpad with a friend. A quick recap of the topics discussed and my own thoughts:

  • Sivan Iram of Lumus presented on waveguide technology for AR optics
    • Newest product is a dev kit (costing around $3,500 IIRC), which is a pair of glasses that can project 3D images
  • Carter Agar of Lenovo presented on a headset-smartphone-controller combo that allows Jedi lightsaber duels in AR. Costs ~$200 and expected to come out December 2017 to tie in with the next Star Wars movie.
    • Based on success, will consider creating 2nd gen
    • High cost of device expected to be offset by strength of Star Wars brand
  • Edward Tang of Avegant joined in a panel discussion on the state of AR and the biggest challenges.
    • The biggest challenge in his view? Optics, of course, which is what Avegant tackles with lightfield technology.
  • Stefano Baldassi of Meta demonstrated an AR headset that allows the user to:
    • Drag items (e.g. a model of the human body) off a virtual shelf, enlarge it, rotate it, pull pieces apart, etc.

A few areas in which panelists were in agreement:

  • Big tech companies will ship dedicated consumer AR devices by 2020
    • Apple recently announced ARKit for iOS 11
    • Facebook, Amazon, etc. have announced intentions to pursue AR
  • AR market from now until 2020, and likely beyond, will be mobile devices
    • Headsets don't and won't have sufficient consumer adoption; this problem is currently seen in VR as well
  • We've yet to discover good AR / VR UIs
    • In early days, mobile UIs were slightly adapted desktop / laptop UIs. Similary, VR / AR UIs are basically mobile UIs right now.
  • Within 10-15 years, AR headsets may replace smartphones as primary devices.
    • Just as PCs continues to exist, smartphones will continue to exist, but be relegated to secondary devices

A few thoughts / questions of my own:

  • If major companies won't deliver flagship AR devices until 2020, there won't be a major hardware platform like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive for VR for quite some time.
  • How good is mobile AR?
    • Is it a means to get consumers interested in dedicated AR headsets?
    • Can it deliver experiences that make people excited about AR?
  • If AR platforms remain fragmented for several years, how can fusing many sources of data together, which I see as the greatest potential of AR, be achieved?