Thoughts on the future of AR
With the launch of Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit (which you can read more on here), this got me thinking about the future of AR and what everything will be like when it’s so immersed in our lifestyle that we forget how to cope without it.
I think this could happen sooner than we think.
The first thing I want to focus on, and the thing which really freaks me out to be honest, is how augmented reality has the potential to clog up every free bit of space around us.
Let me explain.
Augmented reality is where you place objects in the real world, whether you’re placing the Snapchat hotdog in front of you or viewing a virtual world on the desk in front of you. Or you could see a virtual ad placed in your surroundings.
Think about the ads we see on websites, and the ads you see on billboards in towns and cities.
Augmented reality takes away the need for these physical placements for ads. AR lets you place an ad anywhere. Any patch of empty space can be filled, whether it’s using your mobile phone or an AR enabled headset.
Does it make you feel a little bit uneasy knowing that essentially, all the physical space around you is up for grabs?
I wrote a post this time last year about my predictions for the next five decades, “You can’t adblock the interfaces around you. There’s no escape.” and thought that this kind of thing would be happening in 2026, earliest, but now I think it will happen a lot sooner.
Right now, most AR experience are purely there for fun, so people can enjoy the novelty of it all. But sooner rather than later AR apps are going to aid us in everyday life. You’ll no longer need to look at your phone screen to see directions, the route will be superimposed onto the road in front of you.
I also wonder what will happen further down the line, when perhaps instead of individual apps to serve different purposes, it will all be rolled into one. Much like how WeChat operates in China right now.
If (and when) one app dominates the market for AR, who is going to moderate the physical space around you.
Here’s an example of what I mean: Think about Snapchat’s current World Lenses. You can place your very own Bitmoji on the floor next to you. You can then walk around them, get closer, walk further away, and all that you see is the physical space you’re currently in and a Bitmoji.
Imagine choosing a world lens in say, a year’s time, and thanks to the capabilities of ARCore and ARKit, not only will you see your Bitmoji, but the camera will also pick up vertical and horizontal planes behind your emoji (detection of these planes is already possible) and place ads onto those. You may now see an advert for coca cola on your bedroom wall, sitting innocently behind your Bitmoji.
Now lets think about this on a bigger scale. You’re using an app, such as WeChat, or maybe even Facebook’s Messenger (which is well on the way to becoming a clone of WeChat) and you’re getting AR directions to the best rated pizza restaurant in town. On your journey you’ll not only see the directions (helpful) but you’ll also see the buildings around you covered in virtual graffiti. Ads – on every flat surface around you.
This whole thought process keeps me coming back to the following videos by Keiichi Matsuda, who takes a look at a future city “saturated in media…where physical and virtual realities have merged”. It’s fascinating to watch – but can you imagine living which with such a distracting field of view?