The Future, This Week is still on semester break but we have pre-recorded this story for you. This is an unfolding story about augmented reality. Apple has recently thrown its hat into the augmented reality ring with its new ARKit. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.
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Introduction: The Future, This Week. Sydney Business Insights. Do we introduce ourselves? I'm Sandra Peter and I'm Kai Riemer. Once a week we're going to get together and talk about the business news of the week. There's a whole lot I can talk about. OK let's do this.
Kai: The Future, This Week is still on semester break. We've pre-recorded this story for you. This is an unfolding story about augmented reality. Apple has recently thrown its head into the augmented reality ring with its new ARKit.
Sandra: I'm Sandra Peter. I'm the director of Sydney Business Insights.
Kai: I'm Kai Riemer. I'm a professor here at the Business School. I'm also the leader of the Digital Disruption Research Group.
Sandra: So what happened in The Future, This Week?
Kai: Today we're looking at augmented reality.
Sandra: This is following Google's biggest event of the year where they have started talking about immersive computing to try to bring together all their initiatives around AR, VR and MR.
Kai: Apple is joining Google. It's also joining Facebook and it's joining Microsoft. So four of the Frightful Five are actively pursuing virtual reality, augmented reality and trying to make sense of what this all means. So they're throwing a lot of money and tech at a problem which hasn't really been defined. So this is one of those technologies that are exciting but still looking for a problem.
Sandra: So it's not just the technology we haven't decided on. We also haven't decided on the terminology.
Kai: So what are we going to call this?
Sandra: Google wants to call this immersive computing and is using immersive computing to describe the continuum between what we experience in the day to day world, virtual reality, augmented reality and pretty much everything in between. On the other hand Tim Leland from Qualcomm has decided to call this extended reality as the umbrella term for VR, AR and Mixed Reality.
Kai: So virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality extended reality, immersive computing. So there's all kinds of different names looking for applications. So what do these mean? So what is virtual reality?
Sandra: Virtual reality is an immersive experience where sound, image and experience are recreated for you.
Kai: You're wearing a pair of glasses and you're stepping in to a fully artificial world. Second Life was an early technology that you would interact with on your computer screen, so imagine wearing those goggles, those VR goggles and interacting with artificial objects that are in an artificial world. Now if we go one step more real so to speak...
Sandra:...And we end up in The Matrix?...
Kai:...And take away the virtual environment, we're still interacting with artificial or virtual objects but they are now projected into and located in your physical surroundings. So this is what we call mixed reality or augmented reality. And there's two kinds really. One is an information overlay which is attached to real physical objects so this can be used in museums to display additional information for the artworks on display without actually having them to attach physically to the walls. So this is your Terminator or your Robocop scenario where the augmented reality sort of blends information or suspects into your field of vision.
Sandra: Or people trying to help me fix my washing machine where they overlay what it should look like to help me fix it by myself.
Kai: That's right. But there's another exciting one which has people put a lot of energy into creating new mixed reality worlds. So this is what Facebook was talking about when they put all this emphasis on their camera at their recent conference where they can now overlay artificial objects into the real world. And the ideas that you can actually pin them to real objects so you can put an artificial cup onto your desk and you can walk around your desk physically while wearing glasses and that cup will stay in the same place. So this is what Microsoft does with HoloLens so you can use this for useful applications by for example having your artificial assistant sit on the couch and interact with you. So this is something we might do down the track once natural face technology becomes available at scale, but you can also play games, you can have creepy crawlies pop out of your walls to shoot at them. So this is something that you can already do with Microsoft's HoloLens.
Sandra: So whilst we can't really agree on the terminology we're going to use for this, we also can't agree on quite a few things. All of this technology is at it's very early inception. There are a lot of hardware problems and people can't agree on which ones are the biggest ones or what to solve first. Is this question about power consumption? Is this about how do you do I-tracking? What kinds of I-tracking do you need to do or hand tracking or any of these things? What does the field of view look like with the various technologies?
Kai: So there's a lot of experimentation going on right? There's a lot of releases that feel like prototypes that companies release to the masses to see what people do with it. So this is really the Wild West of trying to define a new category.
Sandra: And trying to define what to do with that category. So whilst we need to agree on what the fundamentals are, we also need to agree on what are the problems that we're trying to solve with this technology. For quite a few of these things we're trying to make more interesting gains or trying to improve some of the ways in which we assist people to do repairs, or to survey terrains and so on. So we're trying to re-purpose a lot of the things that we did in the p.c or the laptop era to the smartphone and the headset era. For me this is a little bit like when we first had filming technology where we used to put on plays on stage and then we used to film them because we didn't think of taking the camera outside of the filming studio so we still used it for what we had before, we still had the plays but not while we were filming them.
Kai: At the moment augmented reality is recreating physical objects digitally that you put into the physical world. But that's not really doing something new. That's just recreating virtually what we know from the physical world. So I think it needs a second wave of people making sense of this technology to actually show us its full potential and then potential uses in our everyday lives.
Sandra: And for that it would be great if the industry started to agree about the direction in which everybody else is pulling. Because right now we're seeing all of this companies go at all of these problems by themselves in their own way with their own sort of victory signs down the track.
Kai: And this is why this Apple story is significant, not significant because Apple has now created an open standard. Apple is not known for open standards, but significant because Apple has created a platform and put it in the hands of developers. For them to actually create applications, apps, services for AR, so this is a really good step in the direction of involving a larger creative community to play around with this emerging technology and not leave it to the few who have the budget to invest in this tech. So I think this is an important step to democratize this technology and to have a broader base to figure out what we can potentially do with this going forward.
Sandra: So a very interesting space to keep an eye on.
Kai: Yes still a solution looking for a problem but there's certainly a lot of excitement and there's certainly a lot of funding thrown at this.
Sandra: And a lot of pointless shit that is still so much fun.
Kai: And even though this is pre-recorded we still have this...
Audio: Robot of the week.
Sandra: If you have a problem growing wheat or weed, there is now a robot that will guard your crops.
Kai: Californian wheat growers have the problem that their crops are being stolen, so they have enlisted a robot called Intellos, made by Sharp. It's an unmanned ground vehicle. It roams around and once someone enters the field it makes a whole lot of noise. It sounds a siren.
Sandra: And that means your backyard is getting real crowded right now with a drone surveying your territory, an unmanned ground vehicle sounding the alarm, the weed whacker punching the weed.
Kai: It's going to be busy with robots in your backyard. And that's all we have time for.
Sandra: Thank you for listening.
Kai: Thanks for listening.
Outro: This was The Future, This Week brought to you by Sydney Business Insights and the Digital Disruption Research Group. You can subscribe to this podcast on SoundCloud, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow us online, on Twitter and on Flipboard. If you have any news you want us to discuss please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.