Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality: Current Applications and The "New Normal"
In 2016 Apple unveiled wireless earbuds and proclaimed the end of the headphone jack. While most people mourned their wired headphones, Trifecta team member Rob Morris saw the future…the true dawn of augmented reality (AR) everywhere. What in the world do wireless earbuds have to do with AR? That’s what the rest of us asked when Rob pronounced Apple was using earbuds to set the stage for an AR future.
"Apple is getting us used to wearing things that wirelessly sync with our phones," said Rob. "After creating a watch and earbuds wirelessly connected to your phone, what's the next logical step? Glasses!" Rob continued, "All of this is building an iPhone ecosystem that culminates in augmented reality glasses."
And thus began a conversation about the future of mixed reality, wearables and how some of our current AR practices fit right in.
AR Glasses in the Future
In March 2019, rumors began swirling that 2020 would see Apple do exactly what Rob predicted back in 2016…AR glasses wirelessly synched with your phone. In a recent Economic Daily News report, Apple is purportedly planning to use iPhones to handle everything from computing and networking to indoor and outdoor positioning for their AR solution, synched to a pair of AR glasses. Read why we think this development is significant.
AR in Architecture Right Now
An immediate application for such a product might be architecture. In December 2018, our team presented at the American Institute of Architects (AIA). in Washington, DC regarding the convergence of AR and architecture. We’ve already created applications allowing users to “place” a digital building design on-site at the location it would be constructed, lock it down and walk around it (or even inside it).Currently this is all being done with a tablet or phone. But with AR glasses bridging the viewing gap between your eyes and a hand-held device, the ability to truly visualize future designs moves to a whole new level. AIA is currently investigating this and other future trends for potential application in their profession, leading to what could be a transformation in the way architects design, iterate and showcase work.
Connecting AR Everywhere in the Future
This hardware trend is smashing head-on into a cellular network trend. Trifecta’s team traveled to Barcelona, Spain for the 2018 Mobile World Congress and noticed two letters on the lips of nearly every company there…“5G.” According to Trifecta President Armand McCoy, “From what we saw in Barcelona, 5G cellular connectivity is on the very near horizon and when fully realized (and if you believe the hype), will sport wireless cellular Internet speeds rivaling current fiber speeds.” The significance for augmented reality is profound. Imagine the ability for your iPhone/iGlass system to receive detail-rich virtual environments, overlaid and connected to the real world, through a wireless network. Suddenly AR experiences can exist around every corner, automatically appearing on your glasses. Watch Our Takeaways on MWC & 5G.
AR in History Right Now
While the implications can be scary, there’s also opportunity to engage people more directly with their community and environment through real-time, on-site AR. Trifecta is already chipping at this iceberg with on-site AR experiences through a mobile device. Last summer our team released an AR treasure hunt in Oklahoma City called Folk Secrets. “Clues to a treasure were hidden at specific locations in the OKC metro area, but not in the present,” said Shelbi Rosa, Trifecta Art Director. “To find the clues, players had to visit those locations and then travel back in time. To do this, Trifecta created an augmented reality mobile app capable of opening AR portals or ‘time doorways.’” With their mobile devices, players could walk through the time doorways and enter those exact locations the way they might have looked one hundred years ago; then explore local history while searching for clues. As 5G connectivity and AR glasses take the stage, the ability to create these types of on-site learning experiences accelerates dramatically.
AR Makeover in the Future
Most people are familiar with Snapchat’s efforts to attach funny images to your face using a form of AR technology. As we migrate from mobile devices to glasses with ultra-fast internet connection everywhere, the possibility of completely reshaping your appearance becomes a reality. Imagine if your glasses via a 5G network immediately identified other people and added highly realistic digital elements to their appearance instantly, based on a profile they created on the web. Their online avatar literally becomes them. Or elements of your clothing were designed to produce digital experiences like pop up menus or games when looked at while wearing AR glasses.
AR on Your Wrist Right Now
Trifecta has taken a dip in the shallow end of the wearable AR pool through a project called Wristworld. “In collaboration with Loveworks Leadership in Norman, Oklahoma, Trifecta is working with a group of middle school students to create an AR video game attached to a slap-band bracelet,” said Kenna Jackson, Trifecta Emerging Technology Director. “Along the way, students are learning a lot about tech startups, the toy industry and how to launch a product. But behind all of that, they’re blazing a trail into the new frontier of a combined physical/digital world.”
A Non-Dystopian Future
While all of these developments are exciting and push technology into uncharted waters, it can also be a little disconcerting, or even dystopian sounding. At Trifecta we’ve developed a “code of conduct” for our use of AR and VR. While new technology has always been used for good and bad, we aim to use it to make the world better…to engage people deeper in the “real” world through the use of the “digital” world. In fact, our goal is to build a “non-dystopian” future.
How We're Building it Right Now
In collaboration with medical professionals, we’re building a home therapy system for kids with cerebral palsy using a virtual reality gaming system. A growing body of research is showing VR’s ability to accelerate neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire itself), which is necessary for a child with cerebral palsy to improve.
A great example of this is our work on a project called Viribus VR. Now in the prototype phase, the Viribus VR system will use the VR environment to help kids strengthen their muscles, push their brain to wire around damaged areas and hopefully improve their quality of life in the real world…virtually. Watch IGNITE OKC "Rewiring the Brain with Virtual Reality"