While devices like Google Glass turned our attention to wearables and other such devices, it turns out automobiles will likely be the first to offer the full augmented reality experience.
Augmented reality is the technology of the future. AR essentially adds computer-generated objects (CGI) to the real world we see around us. In order to “trick” the eye and make us believe that the CGI objects are really there in front of us, augmented reality technology makes use of sound, video, graphics, and haptic sensory inputs, as well as GPS location data. With anticipated astronomical growth, mobile AR could become the primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021.
A Misleading Debut
Though the future is bright, we’ve already seen some unsuccessful jabs at augmented reality implementation that are important to consider. The highest-profile (and earliest) attempt at AR implementation was the Google Glass. While the actual product could initially be considered a failure, it brought AR into the public limelight for the first time. After the project, the concept of everyday wearable devices for consumers became a matter for the future because of technological constraints. Instead, we have seen an interesting shift to AR integration in mobile devices. Popular apps like Snapchat and PokemonGO have thoroughly and seamlessly integrated AR technology. This said, mobile devices only provide part of the experience–the “full” AR experience is digital overlays on reality.
First Frontiers of Integration
So, what will be the first real, fully integrated frontier of augmented reality? It might very well be the automotive industry. While many developers are currently reliant on mobile devices for AR products, the automotive industry has already integrated AR into its operations.
Porsche has equipped its auto-technicians with “Tech Live Look” powered by AiR Enterprise Software. They will officially launch in dealerships in North America in 2018. The glasses feature a small but high-tech camera that shows minuscule details such as threading on a screw. The glasses are also equipped with LED light to illuminate dark areas. There is also a video conference capability so that technicians can connect with Porsche’s ATL support team as they work on issues. Teams can send technical service bulletins and instructions, and technicians can use the glasses to take screenshots of issues for future reference. All in all, the glasses have resulted in a 40% decrease in time necessary to resolve issues.
Genesis Motors has also made AR an integral component of its luxury consumer experience. Owners of its G80 and G90 models are now equipped with AR owner’s manuals called Genesis Virtual Guide Augmented Reality Manual. Owners download an app and are then able to use their smart devices to point at areas of a car and receive information about it. If there are issues, they can access over 135 videos and twenty-five 3D overlays. Pointing at the engine generates comprehensive AR instructions on maintaining each part of it.
Now, these automotive companies are doubling down on integrating AR further into their consumer experiences. But why are cars the first frontier?
The answer is simpler than anticipated. As it turns out, they are ideal platforms for AR. Cars provide a large number of transparent surfaces, which are critical for the AR experience. They also have the potential to be seamless AR experiences because the transparent surfaces negate the current cumbersome necessity of pulling out a device to use AR. The transparent surfaces can provide navigation and geolocation features in real time, can provide advertisements that are useful and timely, and as driverless cars become more prominent, the transparent surfaces will likely become home to applets used for entertainment.
While easy to overlook, it appears that the automotive industry may well be the first major frontier for true AR experiences. AR benefits the automotive industry from all ends, and these companies have invested heavily in integrating it into their business model and consumer experience.