It’s the future but probably not the present. This of course depends very much on your interpretation of Augmented Reality. We use the term every day and often we’re talking at cross purposes depending on the audience.
If you’re looking at the world through Google Glass you’re not having your reality augmented. You have a really expensive HUD convincing you that you’re in Starship Troopers while you get directions to your next meeting, or helping you to automate your hobby of stranger shaming.
The talk of it being ‘the equivalent of a 25 inch high definition screen from eight feet away’ slightly flatters to deceive. My own estimation is more like ‘the equivalent of a super high definition postage stamp hanging down from your eyebrow’.
In short, for supplying realtime data in a way that won’t have you walking into lamp posts Google Glass is great. For immersive AR experiences, not so much.
Our approach to Augmented Reality typically involves the addition of 3D content over the top of incoming video, usually to create the illusion that those 3D elements are part of the same world. Something which is just not possible with the monocular view of Glass.
Competing technology such as Epson’s recently released Moverio BT-200 which we’re working with at the moment and the excitingly named, high spec but not yet widely available SpaceGlasses from Meta are definitely heading in the right direction with far larger binocular display areas.
One area in which the Moverio needs some finessing, and it’ll be interesting to see how Meta handles is how to reliably match 3D content on the virtual screen with the real world environment behind it. This is due to the hardware camera having a different field of view to the human eye.
10 Mile Wide Screen On The Moon
Even the Meta SpaceGlasses, while being amongst the most exciting hardware on the horizon in AR terms are going to suffer from some issues in terms of display area. No matter how wide or high your screen, if you’re adding virtual content to the real world, your content is not going to appear beyond the bounds of the screen in a users view.
In essence your glasses will almost give the impression of being a ‘window’ onto that virtual content, with anything approaching the edges disappearing along the hard edge of the physical screen.
180 Degree AR Oculus?
The holy grail for designers of experiential AR is an experience that immerses completely with no seams and no obvious smoke & mirrors. When the technology does arrive it’ll most likely be a combination of Oculus Rift and a 180 degree video camera. A device capable of relaying video and synched digital content that fills our entire field of view. There are teams already working on this and there’s a suggestion that the commercial release of Oculus may ship with an integrated front facing camera. Of course it’ll probably weigh a ton so you won’t be wearing it on the bus. Yet.