It’s somewhat remarkable the extent to which augmented reality came and went as a mobile phenomenon. That doesn’t mean it’s literally gone by any means, nor that it won’t have a resurgence. But it was a few years ago now that our article on the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S mentioned Google ARCore and its compatibility with, at the time, 13 phone models. And since then, there’s been very little news on the AR front.
Conventional wisdom is that at this point, we’re waiting on the goggles and glasses. While AR was initially exciting in part because it didn’t need anything more than a capable smartphone to operate, it can also be a little bit of a pain on a mobile device. It’s expected that Google and other companies will have refined AR glasses and goggles hitting the market within the next few years, and it may be then that we see something of a resurgence in augmented reality innovation.
If we accept the idea that AR still has more to show us, though, what specifically might we see? That’s difficult to say with certainty, but the following are some fascinating concepts that could absolutely come to fruition.
We’ll begin with navigation because it seems the most likely innovation to become a widespread application in the next year or two. About a year ago, ExtremeTech wrote about Google’s efforts to build AR navigation into Maps, and by the sound of things, Google isn’t alone in said efforts. AR-based navigation has become a fairly hot topic of conversation, and as soon as there are good enough AR glasses ready to go to market, we’ll likely see this navigation regularly put into practice.
The idea is as simple as it is significant: You’ll be able to look through smart glasses connected to your mobile phone, and see navigation graphics and instructions right before your eyes, projected helpfully into your field of vision. It will make navigation while driving completely hands-free and more convenient than ever.
Typing & Web Browsing
This idea is more of a hypothetical and is one that there’s actually very little speculation about. However, the idea of augmented reality being used to turn a mobile device into a larger system for basic typing and browsing needs would seem to make sense. With AR glasses, it would seem almost inevitable that we would see virtual versions of programs like Chrome and Google Docs, projecting the well-known apps into space. You could essentially type on a virtual keyboard and see an AR screen showing your words, or sifting through web pages.
Simplified Circuit Board Design
This might not have quite the same widespread appeal as navigation or AR web browsing, but it would solve a problem. The printed circuit board design is a complex process and one that can involve some frustrating trial and error if you don’t have a way to visualize changes and alter schematics before finalizing a product. An overview of design schematic capture by Altium shows that software programs can be quite helpful in verifying and validating designs before the actual PCB layout begins.
Indeed, such programs can help to ensure that schematics are edited to perfection. The same process in AR, however, could add an additional level of clarity. Overlaying schematic layouts on boards before printing would make the process more visual and could even simplify PCB design for people with less experience in it.
Augmented Sports Viewing
Finally, for a just-for-fun application, we hope to see, we should mention the occasional suggestions that augmented reality could come to alter the experience of watching sports (and likely other live events as well). App Developer Magazine predicted a shift by 2020, in fact, suggesting that a combination of AR tech and 5G networks would enable a new kind of sports viewing. This hasn’t happened just yet, but in time we can likely expect to see AR programs that provide certain information about sports in real-time. For example, by holding up your phone or looking through AR-connected glasses, you might be able to see game statistics, or perhaps read social media posts relevant to the action. It may be a bit of a gimmick, but it’s a fun one, and in time it could represent a new normal.
Even if Android AR has fallen into a bit of a lull, possible applications like these can serve as solid reminders of what the technology is ultimately capable of. Here’s hoping that even these exciting possibilities represent only a fraction of what’s to come!