As we examine in our ongoing Space Race series, one of AR’s most opportune areas is geospatial experiences. Because AR’s inherent function is to enhance the physical world, its relevance is often tied to specific locations. This is a foundational principle of the AR cloud.
For this reason, one of AR’s competitive battlegrounds will be in augmenting the world in location-relevant ways. That could be wayfinding with Google Live View, geospatial gaming experiences from Niantic, or location-specific social AR experiences like Snap’s Local Lenses.
To synthesize these dynamics, we’ve examined conference panel discussions on geospatial AR in parts I, II, and III of this series. To continue the discussion, Part IV now examines a recent discussion at Localogy Place, emphasizing the importance and evolution of location data.
Featuring NextNav and Here Technologies – and moderated by AR Insider’s own Mike Boland – the embedded video can be seen below, along with summarized takeaways.
Depth of Engagement
NextNav and Here are both big on 3D data. Their common path is to apply and develop emerging technologies that unlock additional dimension in location data. In many cases, that includes 3D mapping to build user-facing digital experiences that match our 3D world.
For example, Here recently took a big step in this direction with its platform for developers to build 3D cities. It provides the enabling tools to build 3D mapping for various use cases. That includes everything from consumer local search to municipal productivity and planning.
Meanwhile, NexNav innovates in the area of Z-axis data. While most mapping is ruled by lat-long (X & Y) coordinates, the Z axis brings vertical depth into the equation. This unlocks use cases ranging from food delivery to emergency response to AR (more on that in a bit).
In all cases, the core value driver is data, which isn’t always easy to obtain. For example, NexNav adds value by tapping several unique data sources including its network of carrier and app partners that pull relevant device signals (think: altimeter) in a privacy-friendly way.
Meanwhile cloud platforms (AWS and Azure), game engines (Unity and Unreal) and AR platforms (Niantic Lightship) are increasingly focused on location data. These deep-pocketed and highly-motivated entities could accelerate the collection of spatial maps and the AR cloud.
Enablers & Accelerants
Spatial mapping’s enabling tech will also be democratized so that collection can be crowdsourced. For example, LiDAR is now in high-end smartphones but will soon trickle down to commodity hardware. 5G will meanwhile enable high speeds and millimeter-precision tracking.
Beyond these enablers, the wild card will be consumer adoption. Like anything else it will take a while to educate and acclimate consumers to use and expect geospatial 3D experiences, including AR. Efforts such as Google Live View could accelerate that acclimation process.
Speaking of Live View, AR in general will be a primary endpoint for all of the above mapping efforts. Spatial maps and digital twins of cities will let AR devices better understand their surroundings, and reliably annotate the world through graphical and informational overlays.
And all of the above lays the tracks for AR’s real endgame — smartglasses. That will take a while to materialize technologically and culturally. But the roads are being paved today through 3D data networks, so that a content-delivery infrastructure is in place when that day comes.
We’ll pause there and cue the full discussion below…
Header image credit: Esri