XR Talks is a weekly series that features the best presentations and educational videos from the XR universe. It includes embedded video, as well as narrative analysis and top takeaways.
Charlie Fink has a way with words. You kind of have to to write the book on XR. Even with familiar talking points we all use on XR transformation (mobile, enterprise, AR cloud, etc.), the author and futurist finds new angles and historical comparisons. The latest is from VRLA (video below).
One of his underlying premises is that successful technologies take the things we’re already doing and do/make them better. This has been the case with lots of technologies throughout history, and the pattern will likely commence with VR and AR… but in different ways for each.
Another common thread with historical technologies that will apply to XR is that people need to remain at the center. As he stated in his book, people are the killer app. This leads to discussions of social XR apps — a hot topic currently a la image persistence and multiplayer AR.
“The internet enabled Amazon and it became e-commerce, and e-commerce is a killer app,” said Fink from the VRLA stage. “But the real killer app of all of our devices — of the smartphone in our pocket or the PC on our desk — is to connect us with other people.”
But even though these high-level success factors will apply to XR, drilling down to strategic levels requires delineation between AR and VR. They are very different animals. VR for example follows humans’ quest for immersion — everything from cave drawings to theater to theme parks.
“One of the great epiphanies that Walt Disney had and I think it’s very very relevant to VR today is that he created Disneyland because he realized that people wanted to be inside the world of a movie,” said Fink. “It’s man’s quest for immersion that is the essence of virtual reality.”
AR on the other hand is more of a tool. Though there are lots of gaming possibilities, AR will shine as a utility. One example is the multi-billion dollar role it will play in enterprise productivity. But there again, the analysis requires delineation — in this case between AR sub-categories.
There’s marker-based AR (such as Fink’s book), and then image-persistent AR. The latter is all about the AR cloud. ARkit apps are okay in individual sessions but more continuity and functionality require the fabled AR cloud — or a universal browser for the world, as Fink puts it.
“Where we’re really going with augmented reality, with the camera as the interface, is essentially a computer that sees the world — a universal visual browser if you will,” said Fink. “That universal visual browser can act as Google for the real world and for geo-located content.”
Use cases Fink envisions include activating real world signage in useful ways, new dimensions to restaurant menus, or leaving graphical notes in the physical world for your friends (again, social). But given the potential for graphics fatigue, Fink raises the need for a filtration system.
“For this to work of course we’ll need a system of filters because otherwise everything will be talking to you at once,” said Fink. “What’s useful in augmented reality is very specific things that augment the world, and do it in a time and in a way that you want, so that it’s contextual.”
Lastly, yet another delineation in XR classifications is form factor. Head worn AR is optimal in the enterprise, and mobile’s saturation makes it scale for consumer AR. But smartphones still aren’t optimal due to arm fatigue, meaning consumer AR will (eventually) converge with glasses.
“For consumers, augmented reality means something completely different,” said Fink. “You can’t do it for very long as anybody who plays AR-enabled mobile games knows, but that means that the head-mounted display is all the more inevitable.”
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