Sunderland Software City’s digital skills and technology specialist, Rob Currie, explains how businesses could made augmented reality part of their everyday lives.
I have been working heavily with the Microsoft HoloLens over the last few months and it has made me think quite deeply on whether or not this type of augmented workflow will eventually replace traditional monitors.
Now your first thought is probably: ’Don't be ridiculous, AR headsets will never be a mass adopted replacement for screens!’, and at first glance I would tend to agree with you. However, augmented reality (AR) as a medium has become far more accepted by the public than virtual reality (VR).
As a platform, it has seen some great successes with apps such as the ever-exampled Pokémon Go, or Snapchat. And whilst these are good examples of basic augmented reality, they are by no means its only use.
Head Mounted Displays
Augmented Reality through the eyes of a proper head-mounted display (HMD) - such as the HoloLens (Microsoft), Meta or project North Star (Leap Motion) - allow for infinite desktop screen space in theory, letting the user to utilise screens across their entire vision. AR HMDs also have the distinct advantage of still allowing users to see the real world around them, which is one of the biggest barriers cited by people who are apprehensive about trying VR.
AR also allows users to interact in new ways with their computers, not only by ditching the confines of the plasma rectangle, but with the use of hand tracking and gestures. This can reduce or, in future, eliminate the need for physical inputs such as mice or keyboards.
These headsets should be linked to a computer rather than standalone but remain untethered which keeps the freedom of movement there. Thus, users have the best of both worlds: power of a full PC, with a saving in physical space and an increased virtual desktop space.
This all sounds good, but I will be the first to admit that there are currently some limiting factors that delay adoption (which in time will hopefully be overcome). The major issue with current AR HMDs is the field of view (FoV) and image quality. The image quality is a more complex issue, as everything has a translucent appearance due to the nature of the technology and imagery can be blocked by certain light conditions.
The field of view is something that is currently being addressed by the next generation of AR headsets, such as the HoloLens 2.0 by Microsoft, in which the FoV is being drastically increased; project North Star by Leap Motion is pushing this even further.
After using these headsets for several months, I really do feel that they could be a popular alternative to traditional display devices. Given enough time, attention and development, AR headsets could take over as the primary form of viewing for digital information.
Ultimately it is down to human adoption to decide the fate of a technology, but for me it would be a loss for this technology to not continue to make the impact it currently has, and even for it to become truly mainstream.
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