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Augmented Reality Isn't Just A Buzzword - It’s Our New Reality

AR is much more than funny games on your phone. See how it's already shaping the future.

26Jul

Augmented Reality (AR) has become a big buzzword among tech writers all over the world. I admit it is fun to write about such cool and promising technologies and dream of the things we could achieve from them. And though there are literally thousands, if not millions, of tech articles out there covering the topic, I wanted to dig a little deeper and write about how AR, AI, and ML will gradually become interconnected tools employed by a number of industries. I mean, at the moment, AI and ML are continually growing into more and more subsets as we speak.

To be honest, I never was into AR because for me it wasn't that practical. And from my viewpoint, many others felt much as I did about AR technology. Augmented Reality has actually been around since the 1990s, introduced by a man named Professor Tom Caudell from Boeing Computer Services in Seattle who was looking to give a boost to the process of manufacturing. His invention was VR technology that required complex software and bulky equipment.

As far as I know (I could be wrong), the first time AR actually took on a more consumer friendly aspect was in the form of a video game in 2000. Bruce Thomas from Wearable Computer Lab introduced the very first outdoor mobile augmented reality video game titled ARQuake. Using a computer backpack and gyroscopes, users wore a head-mounted display which they flipped down in order to see a completely different view of the game based on their current physical location. Given the 'computer backpack' you had to carry around, no wonder I never even heard of it back then.

Now fast forward almost 18 years and all you need is a smartphone with an application that supports AR and you’re ready to go. Even my Acer, which is actually a pretty basic model, comes with AR capabilities if I were to purchase the goggles (which reminds me, I really need to do that soon!). So, what else is going on in the growing world of AR besides Pokemon?

Augmented Reality Has Become a Favorite Promotional Product

Promotional products have been around for a long, long time. They are probably one of the longest lasting marketing strategies since marketing ever really became what it is now (which would most likely be the industrial age). What has happened over the decades is that promotional merchandise has evolved in order to keep up with the times. Though coffee mugs may still be big, companies have started preferring to give away promotional external drives and wireless computer mouses.

Now, as AR technology becomes better and cheaper, it has become a great promotional item to give potential clients/customers. There is a large range of prices out there as well, depending on a company's budget. Some AR promotional gifts are more gimmick than practical, while there are others on the market that are actually pretty cool, and functional. At a quick glance, I found AR goggles ranging in price from $4 to around $100 (depending on the number of units you buy). The model that cost $100 is the CloudVR which, as the name suggests, allows you to save, stream and view 3D videos via the cloud. Pretty cool.

Proptech Has Really Been the Main AR Players for a While

One of the industries to really find Augmented Reality useful is real estate and those sectors that are connected with it, such as structural engineering, architects, etc. Being able to show someone a property that is 1,000 miles away without ever needing to travel there is a very powerful tool. Simply have a potential property buyer put on some AR goggles and take them on a virtual tour.

I tried it once. It was so cool that sometimes I am tempted to pretend to be looking for a house just to enjoy the virtual tours some real estate companies offer. If applied correctly and with high-quality software and gear, it can be breathtaking.

Bringing a New Reality to the Classroom

Another industry forth which Augmented Reality is finding a comfortable home is within education. From grade schools to universities, AR goggles are finding their way into classrooms all across the globe. Though at a glance you won't find many news articles about it, it is happening. This is because schools are becoming ever more connected to the cloud, adopting IoT technologies, enforcing online testing, and allowing (in some cases it is even a requirement) students to bring their mobile devices to class.

Augmented Reality has a number of great benefits for the classroom, but I will mention only a couple since I am already past the original post length.

Increases Students Participation: Let's face it, kids are already in the habit of relying on technology probably 80-90 percent of the time, for almost everything. There was a time when I taught English as a second language in southeast Asia.

Excluding Singapore, which is far more technologically advanced than its neighboring countries, most southeastern Asian school systems are still teaching in ways that are 40 years outdated, even though their students are equipped with modern day gadgets. Children are still not allowed to use their tablets or smartphones in the classroom. But the fact is, from working retail to working in manufacturing, people use gadgets to complete tasks.

Schools throughout the Western World are finding that using technologies such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and AR/VR keeps students engaged in class. Plus, we haven't even been in the Information Age a couple of decades and we are already entering the Augmented Age - or the Artificial Intelligence Age - whatever age you want to call it. There is almost no need to memorized information or count using our fingers anymore. Simply ask Uncle Google.

Students Can Travel in Time - Virtually: I used to love history in high school. Since I was young I felt that history answered most questions concerning why the present is how it is and how our future will possibly look.

Imagine for a moment, being able to slip on some AR or VR goggles and taking a trip to ancient Rome, or walking through the Pyramids of Egypt 5,000 years ago, and doing all of that in a classroom with your peers. How about going into the future and taking a tour of what they may be facing in a new world. Now apply Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in order to create scenarios and asking the students to create solutions to solve theoretical problems in a virtual world. This is leadership development at its finest. 

I am so happy to be living in a time like this - happy to be living in a time where technology no longer plays a passive role in our lives. I am one of the optimists that believe AR, AI, and ML are the keys to bringing about true world peace to all nations and all people, no matter their backgrounds, color, religion or culture. Let the machines rise!

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