The April WeAreWearables event in Toronto featured a panel discussing augmented reality. The state of augmented reality today is quite diverse with the technology spanning consumer and commercial verticals. Todd Revolt, Director of Strategic Alliance at Meta, discussed how technology, such as what is being developed by Meta, is being used in areas like aircraft manufacturing and education. The medical and defence industries are also considering various forms of augmented reality technology said Caitlin Fisher who co-founded York University’s Future Cinema Lab. Fisher also discussed some smaller less funded “magical” spaces where the technology has yet to take off, she believes that with more funding we will start to see development in a variety of these spaces. 

The consumer side of augmented reality tends to be very mobile focused at this point in time. Mobile devices “have an unfair advantage” said Ray Sharma, the Executive Managing Partner at Extreme Venture and Founder and Chairman of XMGStudio, because they are the largest consumer electronics category in the world. Sharma discussed how low the barriers of entry to this market are, he gave an example of a product like Google’s Cardboard that can easily turn a smartphone into a virtual/augmented reality device. Helen Papagiannis, AR specialist and author of 40 ideas, talked about the augmented reality book she wrote for the iPad that augments insects onto the hands of readers. One downside of the augmented reality experiences available today are that they are singularly focused said Papagiannis. She is looking forward to seeing how these technologies can bring people together in areas such as collaborative design and gaming. 

Augmented and virtual reality technologies are often discussed as one, but the panel had some interesting thoughts on how they compete and some of the different experiences they can offer. Steve Mann, the Father of Wearable Computing and Chief Scientist at Meta, said that “VR is a special case of AR, one is a proper subset of the other.”  Mann discussed how you could push the augmented technologies to enhance real life scenarios such as vision and facial recognition. Fisher says augmented reality excels because you still get to engage factors of the physical world.

VR technologies such as the Oculus are exploding in the gaming market and they are showing new ways of creating a social reality experience said Sharma. Fisher discussed how easy to use technologies, such as Unity, are making both AR and VR more accessible allowing people to develop for them. The panel discussed a recent report from consulting firm, Digi-Capital, that suggested AR technology would take off in the enterprise and tool space whereas VR will excel in the gaming and entertainment industry. The panel believed this might hold true for the next few years but that augmented reality technology is so new that it is bound to grow into bigger areas such as IOT, contextual computing, and on-demand adaptive experiences.

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