Imagine finding yourself on the street in an unknown city and deciding to stop for lunch. Put on (if you don't already have them) your pair of Augmented Reality (AR) enabled Cloud AR glasses and it all begins.
One look around, and some restaurant ratings appear superimposed on their windows. After selecting a restaurant and sitting down, a virtual menu appears on the table.
Can I let you imagine the rest?
While this scene may seem futuristic to you, it's actually what you should expect from the next generation of computers.
Cloud AR technology allows the unification of the physical and digital world to create immersive experiences like the one just described.
How does Cloud AR technology work?
This technology uses a common interface to deliver persistent, collaborative and contextual digital content overlaid on people, objects and places. It provides users with information and services directly related to every aspect of their physical environment.
Gartner predicts that by 2025, 15% of organizations with over $ 1 billion in revenue will use the AR cloud to monetize the physical world through new interactions and business models.
While many opportunities for Cloud AR are still years away, there are short-term actions companies can take to capitalize on this emerging technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the value proposition for enterprise AR solutions more urgent, particularly among frontline workers who are leveraging AR to make their jobs easier, faster, or safer.
Many organizations that already have AR solutions are expanding their implementations. Others who were previously unaware of AR, or devalued it in favor of other emerging technologies, are focusing again on these initiatives.
The future of Cloud AR applications
Technology leaders need to focus on creating the features, functionality and ecosystems needed to make these applications more valuable and scalable.
While there are numerous compelling use cases for the future, these will not materialize unless vendors can show current use cases that demonstrate business value, accessibility and usability.
One of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of augmented reality is the lack of scalable and ready-to-use solutions, although these solutions were created specifically for a number of narrow problems.
Cloud AR experiences will amplify these obstacles by many orders of magnitude, due to the nature of the need for scalability while being persistent, collaborative and ubiquitous.
AR Cloud is, as mentioned, still far from the mainstream, but technology vendors are already introducing the first Cloud AR experiences.
Apple's Clip Apps, for example, they can be used as anchors for a Cloud AR system. Another example is Google Lens - an interactive camera experience that can be used for text translation, visual search and object identification, identifying popular menu items, and more.
These examples show the potential of the AR cloud, but are still relatively isolated experiences.
In the meantime, let's enjoy the semi AR
The path to this fully scalable Cloud AR world will be opened by semi-AR solutions. We already see them in industries such as entertainment, retail, education and health, where they apply to both consumer and employee experiences.
They are limited for three main reasons:
- Many of the technologies needed to enable immersive and interactive AR experiences, such as 5G, edge AI, and IoT, are still maturing.
- The current generation of AR devices falls short of usability. Most AR experiences are currently displayed with tablets and smartphones, which is unsustainable for continuous, hands-free use, a key value proposition for cloud AR. On the other hand, hands-free devices like head-mounted displays are inaccessible due to cost, style and ergonomics.
- The underlying infrastructure to enable persistent and collaborative experiences to anchor digital content to the physical world is nascent. Therefore, these experiences are purpose built and exist in silos.
Now is the time to explore the Cloud AR
At this stage, the right thing to do is understand how you can make the most of this AR cloud technology. How will companies monetize it? Will they use it to generate new business? Or will they use it to get more value from existing digital and physical assets?
To try to predict the future, think back to the beginning of the Internet age, when many companies did not have a website.
The first companies that adopted that technology invested in this technology for many different reasons. Some have done this as a competitive differentiator, some for thought leadership and some for "fear of losing". However, regardless of the initial reason they invested, the biggest benefit for early adopters is that they have learned fundamental lessons on how to use this new medium of information and communication.
This is why we need to think about it now: those who are exploring the AR cloud today will be much closer to an answer when this technology becomes more developed and pervasive.