Making Augmented Reality a Part of Your Service Plan

12 Jul 2017 - Futures

Where big Virtual Reality (VR) projects favour big budget brands, advances in technology (namely Apple’s SLAM ARKit) makes Augmented Reality (AR) a much more practical option - giving businesses of any scale a serious chance to get ahead of the pack with immersive customer experiences.

Unlike VR, AR isn’t always about large multi-million pound content projects created in big design studios with lengthy production values; it’s about clever applications which can build, release and iterate in weeks.

That fits pretty nicely into our agency, where doing things quickly and efficiently, turning on a sixpence and being intelligently responsive are key values of our Futures culture.

Delving into what’s possible with ARKit, you can see how this really does provide companies with a rare opportunity to compete with the big guns on equal terms.

Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) allows a device such as an iPhone or iPad to map its surroundings without prior knowledge of that environment.

Thanks to breakthroughs such as visual-inertial odometry (VIO) it doesn’t require laborious and restrictive tasks like placing out geographical markers. Computer vision techniques are used to track the movement of notable features in the video stream viewed through the device’s camera.

These movements are related to changes in the orientation of the device allowing us to build a depth-mapped model of its surrounding environment, and to accurately track its physical motion within this model.

The result is highly accurate localisation and 3D modelling, which Apple appropriately call “world tracking”. What that means to you and us is, we can augment realities with much less groundwork than before.

Endless Possibilities

Although the ARKit is still in the hands of developers and beta testers, Apple’s proposed partnership with Ikea gives a window into the possibilities - those in the home improvement industry can use the technology by transposing digitised images onto real backgrounds. The AR tape measure a likely great companion.

Immersive learning and education is also massively beneficial - imagine being able to enter a museum and bring objects to life through AR, or walk around a city charting the rise and fall of different eras and monuments.

The possibilities go on in terms of engineering, for example, where AR can reveal the hidden infrastructures and mechanics of your environment - imagine fixing your car through the lens of your phone, or the benefits for town-planning where AR could help you to map-out utilities networks, piping and underground infrastructures:

The phone or tablet will be the initial medium through which we create mainstream AR realities, but a future where our vision is augmented through various visual lenses such as headsets or smart-glasses is becoming much more clear.

Microsoft’s HoloLens has broken new boundaries and Apple will look to build on this experience. It’s widely speculated that the ARKit will support an Apple glasses project which could provide a very casual, accessible version of everyday AR.

AR will get better to the point where it’s effectively seamless, and the way it’s implemented obviously varies in quality - lookout for our upcoming blog on how AR responds to light sources and general image quality - you’ll be surprised at what you can actually achieve right now.

Orange Bus will be releasing some big commercial AR projects in the coming weeks, so we’ll be showcasing some of that right here.

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