#Augmented Reality

The Augmented Reality Mirrorworld.

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The term “mirrorworld” when used in relation to digital media was first coined by David Gelernter in 1991, and whilst many of us don’t know what it is, we have all glimpsed into it at one point or another. The Mirrorworld is basically a digital representation of the real world – a 1:1 scale map. And every time you have used Google Street View, you have glimpsed a limited portion of it. In that case, you only see flat images, stitched together, but the onset of VR is unstoppable. Soon enough, every single place in the real world will have been documented digitally.

Think about it, how many places have already been scanned with Pokémon GO? How much of the real world has been mapped by Google? By fusing all these pieces of data together, we will be able to create a digital landscape, the scale of which has never been seen before. And because it is digital, we will be able to interact with it. Because in effect, we are interacting with the digital clone of the real world. This, incidentally, is what differentiates the Mirrorworld from a virtual world. A virtual world is a completely artificial construct. It has no grounding in reality. Whereas the mirror world is based exclusively on the real world, which is what makes it so useful.

Initial, what we will be able to do will be limited. We will be able to see pop ups giving us helpful annotations and pieces of information that may be useful. Then we will be to visit places in the mirrorworld we’ve never been to before in the real. How, because someone has been there. Because someone has caught a Pokémon there, or scanned it with a piece of wearable tech. We will be able to jump from place to place, like Nightcrawler from the X-Men, all from our living room, just as we might jump from website to website. And in terms of video games, the possibilities are unbelievable. Imagine being able to create a tangible 3-D map for your free-roaming video game, which spans the entire world. Where the main character can interact with a map vaster than anything previously conceived.

When the mirrorworld become a fully-fledged technological reality, these are just a few, limited idea about what it will be capable of. And the companies that thrive in this new world will be some of the most successful in history. What will hinder development, however, is what holds back AR today, price and usability. Until headsets become cheaper, they’ll be rarely used. And if they are rarely used, cloning the entire world into a digital map is going to be a slow process. The same problem arises when we think about the practicalities of current AR technology. Even if the mirrorworld was fully completed, to interact with it, we would have to use the current crop of bulky, unwieldy headsets. This might be acceptable in a home environment, but eventually we would hope that we can access it on the move, a la Pokémon GO. For this to ever be a reality, the technology would have to advance to a point where we can access the mirrorworld from something more comfortable and practical, like a pair of normal glasses.

Another thing to bear in mind is the potential psychological effects of the mirrorworld. We are already aware of how our lives are affected by other digital landscapes i.e the internet. For something as vast and immersive as the mirrorworld, its almost completely unpredictable as to how it will affect us. And security is going to be an issue, especially with a digital interface which literally everyone can interact with. But these potential difficulties should dissuade us from developing what could be the next great tech platform.

This isn’t to say that headsets will be replaced, but technology like this does open the door to VR technologies that can include seeing and talking to other people.

The importance of 5G for virtual and augmented reality.

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The continuing investment in VR and AR means that it is a near inevitability that eventually, they will have a dramatic impact on our lives. But there are significant challenges to the industry which prevent its wider uptake. To construct a high quality, top-of-the-line VR system, you need a headset wired to a computer with a pricey graphics card and strategically placed sensors.

Now, you can buy a headset with inside-out tracking, which removes the need for these sensors, but the problem is that these are only applicable on headsets that don’t need to be plugged into a computer. And any headset that isn’t plugged into a computer must make do with a far smaller and less powerful graphics card than you would want or expect on a top-of-the-line system.

So, how best to overcome this problem? If we want to keep inside-out tracking, and get rid of big external sensors, we need to find a way to outsource the need for in-house graphics cards. In other words, we need to connect our headsets wirelessly to a computer with the required processing power. The way to do this is to exploit the potential that 5G offers.

New 5G networks will provide the speed that cloud-based VR needs in order to be a success, and several companies have already begun to develop the technology required to make the most of it. This includes an example of a hub that allows numerous devices to be connected to it – opening up the possibility of a co-operative VR experience.

As 5G becomes accepted into the VR industry, it will allow more and more manufacturers to enter the market and, inevitably, this increase in investment will lead to the technology becoming more affordable. Companies that already have their own cloud systems will be able to integrate quickly. We should, in the near future, be able to connect to high-quality content without having to invest in a very expensive setup.


How can we use virtual and augmented reality to change how we perceive things?

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In all likelihood, you will have come across the now famous internet phenomena concerning the black and blue dress, which for many people, appeared to be white and gold. Since then, various other clips have emerged ranging from pictures to soundbites, in which what is perceived as objective reality varies drastically from person to person.

Augmented reality may well heighten these perceptual differences even further. Not only will it change the way we see the world, it will allow us to interact with information and combined knowledge in ways which were previously unimaginable. We will be able to read each other’s pulses to determine if someone is lying to us. If you are trying to buy a product, why not analyse the brain activity or pupil dilation of the person selling to you to determine how truthful they are being when answering your questions.

It isn’t unrealistic that the step beyond AR goggles might involve something akin to todays contact lenses, or implants directly into the brain. With many massive companies investing in the technology, this escalation is going to mean that development should occur rapidly. The question is less “will AR change how we perceive the world?” and more “how quickly will it do it?”
In the animal kingdom, we see this differing perceptual ability more vividly. Many different animals, from snakes to fish, can see or sense things that other animals cannot, which gives them an advantage. When some humans have the same sorts of abilities, when one person can see threats that another cannot, thanks to technology, then there will certainly be ethical questions which need answering.

What is objectively real may not be what everyone sees, and what everyone sees can differ wildly. Augmented reality has the potential to open humanity up to the possibility of an even great and deeper level of perception than we ever thought possible, and it doesn’t seem to unrealistic to suppose that this could occur in the near future.

How can augmented reality save lives?

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The potential uses for AR are practically limitless, and nowhere will it have a bigger effect than in the healthcare sector. Not only that, slowly but surely, society is moving towards the mass adoption of the technology, into our everyday lives and beyond.

Augmented reality is simply the enhancement of our experiences via the overlay of additional information. Recently, the developments in AR have come in the form of headsets and glasses, which once put on, allow us to perceive the real world, with various additions, which range dramatically depending on what technology is being used for.

Surgery is one such use, and experts predict that healthcare is going to be one of the industries to benefit most from augmented reality. Allowing students to train using one pair of AR goggles, as opposed to cadavers, will be a more efficient and affordable way for them to learn, and this potential use is already well documented. But there are other possibilities as well. One is the notion that medical scans and charts can be overlaid onto a patient’s body as the surgeon is operating. This would allow for collaboration in real time between doctors on opposite sides of the world, amongst other things.

The current issue is that in order to operate a piece of AR tech in this manner, clear and sometimes complicated voice commands or hand gestures are required, to do things like scroll down a menu, for example. This means that the surgeon’s attention is divided between operating on the patient and trying to navigate the operating system of whichever piece of AR tech they are using. Obviously, this is undesirable, as one would hope that when operating, the surgeon can fully focus on the task at hand, rather than trying to make some complicated piece of technology work.

But this problem may soon be solved. Using brain sensors in a pair of goggles, the headset can pick up, and react to, electrical activity in the brain of the surgeon, allowing them to control medical images, navigate menus, and zoom in and out, all with the power of their mind. Thus, their hands remain free, and their focus undivided. This development has huge potential, not only in the healthcare industry, but every sector, and the power to manipulate data with our mind makes the widespread adoption of AR more likely.

Using augmented reality to engage, your customers

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The consumer of today demands an interactive experience. Not only that, the experience needs to be tailored to the needs of the individual customer. Because of this, virtual and augmented reality technology is on the rise, and the industry is expected to grow even further. As more and more people get on board with the technology, the more developments are made, and the more possibilities open up, especially on mobile devices.

When creating these experiences, however, marketers need to have a good understanding of the wants and needs of their customers. Without this, what they create will annoy, not immerse. And all it takes is one bad experience, and your relationship with a customer can be ruined, so it needs to be right first time.

One of the key things to remember is that you don’t want to use AR tech for the sake of it.

Don’t try to sell and experience on the strength of the technology, because no matter how advanced it may be, if the content isn’t good enough, then people will ignore it. Using AR won’t make a boring experience engaging, it will turn people away and make it just as hard to get your message across as if you weren’t using augmented reality.

Done right though, an AR experience can can convince consumers that they are making their purchases on a deeper level, keeping them engaged and enthralled as they virtually try your product before purchasing. It also allows all this to be achieved in real time, wherever the customer might be, which is vital. All of this means that, when done correctly, you allow your customers to build a deeper relationship with your brand than ever before.

One of the things that AR can do, that perhaps other marketing technology cannot, is quickly build an emotional connection between your audience and your brand. It can bring stories to life, and combined with the tailored experience, this generates within your customers an emotional reaction that is difficult to mimic without the technology. But again, the content is key. When a customer takes the time to interact with your brand, they want the relationship created to be real. If they suspect it is superficial, then you will never create the connection you desire. AR used incorrectly can feel gimmicky, and if a customer feels as though they are being duped by complex technology masking low quality content, then they are unlikely to feel valued, and therefore, unlikely to use your service or buy your product.

AR allows for a relationship to develop that is unlike anything that previous marketing technology would allow for, but, like earlier tech, must be used in conjunction with great content. Without this, then the experience will be ineffective, whatever the format.

How AR gaming can surpass players’ previous expectations.

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AR gaming has been a hugely successful development in the industry, and we can expect to see the technology getting better and cheaper as there is more investment. But for many people currently, the experience is still off-limits and if we do get our hands on the games, it is rarely, and not for long.

The success of the games lies in their hyper-realistic immersion. By incorporating player’s actual environments, this experience is heightened, to the point where players truly feel like they are in the game, as opposed to controlling a character. Generally, the more invested we are in a piece of media, the more we enjoy the experience, and one sure fire way to generate investment it to allow players total immersion. This is known as “spatial presence,” where we feel as though the game is real, and its successful implementation is a key element of AR, and what sets it apart from traditional video games.

Augmented Reality also can create the illusion of 3-dimensions and depth using 2-dimensional figures and sprites. Players create a mental model in their heads of the games fictional space, which, either consciously or unconsciously, builds a 3-D view of the world. There is a definite shift from viewing games as products to be sold, to experiences to be had. The use of avatars as representatives of people in the real world, be it the player or non-playable characters, allows us to create idealised versions of ourselves, become more engrossed in the game world, and boost our level of immersion. This may be due to the fact that when we can identify with the character, their fate affects us more significantly.

The difficulty of AR games is one of the selling points. Provided the challenge isn’t to extreme, working towards meaningful and difficult goals creates real investment in the game, and upon victory, the feeling of elation and flood of endorphins encourages the player to return to the AR world. Provided we feel the challenge is passable, then we are willing to fail over and over again, learning from our mistakes to eventually succeed, and this level of dedication is tied to the level of immersion. The more immersive, the more dedicated you will be, and this is where AR excels. And conversely, even hard games can be excellent forms of stress relief, and augmented reality ones are no exception, especially shooters. The well documented positive feelings created when playing video games can provide a form of cathartic release for stress and has been shown to help in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.