Apple has been in on augmented reality for a while now. Its ARKit, for instance, has helped bring the technology to a wider audience, allowing customers to use iOS apps to experiment with it. It has also invested in creating AR lenses, notably by acquiring the startup Akonia Holographics. Thanks in part to this acquisition, it’s expected that Apple will end up releasing AR glasses as early as 2020, with the tech likely resembling a more impressive version of Google Glass.
That Apple is investing in AR is essentially proof of the technology’s incredible consumer potential. While there’s no guarantee that said potential will be reached, the notion that AR could be a game-changer is no longer outlandish. And as we look toward a future in which this tech plays a bigger role in our day-to-day lives, these are some of the types of applications to be on the lookout for.
Taking 3D Printing To The Next Level
Researchers from Cornell University showed last year that AR can be used in conjunction with 3D printing. They used AR to create designs in physical space, and each one was rapidly 3D-printed by a robotic arm. “Instead of designing 3D models on the computer screen, we wanted to give users the opportunity to work in conjunction with the robot,” explained Huaishu Peng, a research team member and Cornell information science doctoral student. “We call it an in-situ fabrication.” Peng noted that the fusion of AR and 3D printing is still at an early stage, but added, “you may imagine in the future you can directly use such technique to customize physical objects in your house.” Mainstream applications along these lines would have significant implications for designers and artists in various fields, but would also be a lot of fun for the average user to play with, if and when 3D printers become more commonplace in homes.
Expanding Shopping Experiences
Now more than ever, shoppers are using their mobile devices to find products, compare prices, and ultimately make purchases. Moving forward, shoppers will also be able to use AR to better visualize some of the same products. Harley Davidson is one example of a company that’s gotten in on the action already, having developed an AR app which can be used by in-store shoppers to check out motorcycles in an immersive and in-depth manner. The same app also allows shoppers to customize the same motorcycles, so as to identify color schemes and special features they might be interested in. Meanwhile, more in the realm of home shopping, we’ve also seen furniture and design stores like IKEA unleash a number of apps that allow users to visualize furnishings in their own homes before making purchasing decisions. When glasses make AR more ubiquitous, we can undoubtedly expect to see more innovations like these in the shopping space.
Enhancing Sports Viewership
The world of sports has long benefitted from technological advancements, and it will again benefit from AR. Mostly, fans are the biggest winners, with professional leagues starting to leverage the technology to enhance the fan experience. For instance, in 2017 Major League Baseball introduced an AR-enabled version of the At Bat app, which allowed spectators to use their mobile devices to view players’ stats in real-time – something that can and will be replicated across every imaginable sports viewing experience. It’s also been mentioned that AR could play a crucial role in racing sports, with some analysts have looked at the Indy 500 in particular and raised the idea of spectators looking through AR devices and seeing drivers’ positions, speeds, lap times, etc. The same spectators may also be able to view live betting opportunities. With online sports betting newly approved in Indiana (and already legal in other racing hot spots around the world), people in the crowd may be able to watch through lenses and see quick wager options such as whether a driver will best his previous lap time, or who will win a given lap. Indeed, similar options could also be offered through AR for other sports.
Improving Medical Training
AR has been dubbed “the future of health care,” may prove to be particularly useful in the field of medicine. Most notably, it will allow medical students to practice surgery in a controlled environment – one in which complex medical conditions can be visualized through AR. Whether we’re talking about an aspiring neurosurgeon or someone who’s going to fix a complex joint, the idea is the same: The tech can provide accurate, repeatable training in a way that no textbook, lesson, or even cadaver or dummy practice can. And even beyond training, it’s believed that AR will ultimately become useful in actual surgery as well. By providing surgeons with enhanced sensory perception – effectively allowing them to better visualize what they’re working on and track patient information at the same time – it can reduce risks and improve results.
Real-Time Design & Modeling
While this is somewhat similar to some of the discussion regarding 3D printing above, it should be noted that AR can positively impact professionals in interior design, architecture, and construction as well. Architects, engineers, and other design professionals can simply strap on their AR-enabled headsets and step inside virtual renderings of their designs, either to see ongoing progress or to visualize a final goal. Even better, they can make improvements or corrections where necessary, view them right away, and potentially lock them in such that they’ll ultimately be translated to the real-world designs. This streamlines the creative process and raises thrilling possibilities for the design of all kinds. For instance, some believe that in the near future urban planners will be able to use AR to model entire cityscapes, such that we can become far more efficient at optimizing and modernizing our cities.