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One analogy for AR is that it could develop into a sort of real-world massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. Think: World of Warcraft, but perhaps less violent. Of course, we’re not there yet, but this is what the AR cloud could bring, a la multiplayer functionality and image persistence.
This is also the vision of Ubiquity 6 founder & CEO Anjney Midha. As he discussed at the recent Techcrunch Disrupt (video below), he’s working towards a world where social activity, content discovery and all the things we do in the real world (and online in 2D), are elevated through AR.
“You could either play with large numbers of people in a public space.. or with your friends and family in private spaces,” he said. “Once you have a city mapped, which is what we’ve been doing for the last year, you can fill it with shared AR experiences like a large-scale cooperative game.”
Some version of this already exists in Pokemon Go. But that isn’t true multi-player AR. Though it got people outside playing together, they didn’t interact with the same persistent graphics in a shared space. The latter is a functional leap that could launch all kinds of new AR use cases.
“I think it was a fantastic starting point because it proved 500 million people around the world wanted to interact with digital things like characters they cared about in real-world locations,” he said. “But the thing people should not draw a conclusion about is that this is where we stop.”
Speaking of starting points, this all drives towards smart glasses, including Apple’s rumored 2020 glasses. Given Apple’s M.O., Midha believes they’ll likely resemble the fashion accessories and sunglasses that are already socially accepted, rather than forcing new consumer behavior.
“Apple has always tried to make people excited about [its] products as fashion or luxury. They’re proud of the form factor,” he said. “With glasses, the luxury-like form factor that all of us expect from a pair of Oakleys or Ray Bans is the closest you’re going to get as a starting point.”
Required components for AR glasses according to Midha include two outward facing cameras, a gyroscope and an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for localization. Interestingly, this could be Snapchat’s clever play with Spectacles: getting people acclimated to sensors in their eyewear.
“That’s the secret strategy or the Trojan horse: How do you get enough sensors in people’s hands at a cheap price or on their face,” he said. “That sets them up for very immersive AR experiences or any kind of VR experiences a year or two years from now.”
Meanwhile, the sensors and resulting AR might not even be graphical. As we’ve examined, audio has lots of AR advantages and nearer-term viability. Among other things, it’s easy to absorb and parse while engaged in daily activities. We often joke that the original form of AR was radio.
“Visual AR is one of those starting points that people just kind of assume AR is, but turns out humans are very good at parsing audio,” said Midha. “AR can be audio and still pretty immersive, as long as you have visual feedback that’s responding to the real world using cameras.”
The other benefit to AR Audio is its subtlety, thus sidestepping the technological invasiveness and fashion crimes of bulky glasses. In fact, the first step to validating such a use case is to condition the user behavior for an all-day wearable. And that’s exactly what Apple is doing with AirPods.
“AirPods have been a pretty large-scale sort of sleeper hit for people who have that affordability,” said Midha. “And then as you get larger and larger scale, prices drop and I do think people will start to interact with AR first through audio before having to pull out a display.”
But for now, mobile AR is the gateway drug. As we’ve examined, it’s a sort of training ground (for users and developers) to acclimate to AR and gain native footing for the glasses era. But though that makes it a sort of stepping stone, mobile AR will still get to celebrate its own successes.
“We started the company for this notion of ambient AR that lives in a very easy way through glasses — a visual medium constantly figuring out where you are and layering AR experiences,” said Midha. “But there’s no reason you can’t hit a lot of valuable milestones along the way.”
Watch the full interview below.
Disclosure: ARtillry has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.
Header image credit: TechCrunch