With Google Glass kicking off public interest in augmented reality (although it really isn’t AR) and Microsoft Hololens grabbing the headlines now it is clear that AR has made leaps and bounds in terms of technology, cost, ergonomics and availability. This is especially true when compared to what was available just three or four years ago. As a result it is clear that AR has the potential to be used in more domains than previously thought. In particular those which were previously off limits. With prices falling rapidly, for example the current soon to be upgraded Epson Moverio BT-200 is available for just €600, AR headsets are approaching the level of being consumer products.
By far the most exciting development is the proposed Microsoft Hololens system, which is scheduled for release to developers in the US and Canada this year. Hololens promises to bring holograms to life and importantly the platform emphasises collaboration. It promises natural interaction and for security type scenarios where people need to move around a lot it promises cable free use and should be lightweight and practical. EPSON are also promising to upgrade their Moverio platform with the BT-2000 version which promises to be usable in extreme environments and contains improved sensors, displays and performance. Of particular interest with respect to the EPSON are the promise of indoor navigation and the attached depth camera. While unsurprisingly Hololens uses Windows, EPSON on the other hand looks like it will continue to use Android.
Across both headsets the key challenge remains which underlying software platform to use. Microsoft promises it’s headset will use Unity which is a cross-platform gaming engine. A number of basic augmented reality apps and technologies such as Vuforia (which allows marker based tracking) are already available for this platform. Interestingly Unity is also available for Android, which in theory should make porting experiences between different headsets slightly easier than using a bespoke system.