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More and more, reality comes to us in a modified form. Forget magic mushrooms or psychedelics, today’s hipster can trip on technology-enhanced or created images. And now it’s not just for cool folks.
Augmented reality (AR) drew a lot of attention this summer with the advent of Pokémon Go, a smartphone application that brought millions of people outdoors in search of Chartzards, Wartorties, Pikachu and other creatures and treasures that come alive when viewed through a smartphone. Observant passersby might notice individual players running or riding a bicycle while staring at a smartphone. Sometimes they’d see several players gathered excitedly in a building entrance, by a fountain or beside some other landmark designated by the game as a Pokestop or a gym. The vivid pictures that help draw players in are formed through the overlay of an “augmented” computer-generated world on images of the real world captured through the phone’s camera lens and geographic positioning system (GPS). A headset adds to the magic.
Many Gen Xers became aware of virtual reality (VR)–where an actual scene is replaced by a computer simulation—via head-mounted VR glasses at the game arcades that dotted malls in the 1990s. Aspects of VR have been used by the motion picture and gaming industries for decades. But VR got a mainstream boost as an enabler of serious communication on Nov. 5, 2015, when more than a million Google Cardboard virtual reality glasses arrived with the Sunday papers of home subscribers to the New York Times (NYT).
The glasses were to be used with a smartphone and a downloaded app to watch “The Displaced,” a feature story about three children displaced by war. Editors at the NYT Magazine were presenting virtual reality as a more vivid story-telling device than words and photos—one in which individual “readers” use movement to actively control what they can see. They teamed with Google Cardboard and Vrse, a virtual reality company, to produce this 11-minute enhanced version of the story, winning several prizes along the way.
“By creating a 360-degree environment that encircles the viewer, virtual reality creates the experience of being present within distant worlds, making it uniquely suited to projects, like this one, that speak to our senses of empathy and community,” said NYT Magazine Editor Jack Silverstein in the introduction.
Clearly the technology imagined in science fiction continues to become reality as connected cars drive themselves, connected homes phone us to warn of intruders in our homes and robots assist surgeons in the operating room. Now we’re starting to accept, and even anticipate, reality-altering technologies as practical enablers,
Virtual and augmented reality applications are already being demonstrated for business use, especially for sales. For example, earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) unveiled a prototype of an immersive carsales application designed and built by Accenture Digital using Google’s Project Tango developer kit.
Though Google Glass failed to ignite the public’s imagination when it was introduced in 2013, various companies developed institutional applications for it. Meanwhile, Google X is reportedly working on an updated version of Google Glass for release later this year.
It’s a busy and growing field. A host of other companies, including Microsoft, Epson, Sony and ODG are offering AR smart glasses–or will be soon.
Hang onto your brain and grab those headsets and glasses, goggles or whatever. We are all in for a ride.
- Read/watch “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Showcases Immersive Augmented Reality Car Configurator Built by Accenture with Project Tango” news release
- Email me to discuss how Accenture can help you understand AR/VR and how your organization could use it.