Technology continues to push forward at a faster and faster pace, and the inevitable question that comes is, what’s next? Augmented Reality (AR) is poised to be the next mobile computing platform, seamlessly merging the real world with virtual objects to support realistic, intelligent, and personalized experiences. In contrast to Virtual Reality (VR), which is designed to be fully immersive and create presence, completely isolating the user from the outside world, AR is designed to overlay and blend objects and information with the real world, offering additional communication, education, or entertainment, intelligently driven by real-world context. The possibilities are endless with AR!
The next mobile computing platform
AR is the natural evolution from how we use smartphones today. It is the next step toward more mobile, personalized, and intuitive devices. Imagine the potential of AR experiences where you automatically see and hear exactly what you want with AR glasses that are always-on, always-available, and hands-free.
AR will transform the way we live and interact with the world. It will offer unprecedented experiences and change how we play, explore, communicate, work, and thrive. Imagine the many ways AR could enhance our daily lives, from children playing with virtual characters to professionals collaborating on a shared design.
AR will also revolutionize industries and enterprises, allowing increased productivity, efficiency, and safety. For example, with AR, factory managers will be able to make better decisions with real-time factory diagnostics, and healthcare professionals will experience better surgical training and enhanced visualization. Retail consumers will be able to “try” before they buy, whether it is clothes, furniture, cars, or real estate. Marketers will be able to serve highly relevant advertisements, personalized to consumers. And emergency response teams, such as first responders, will see huge improvements in safety, response time, and saving lives.
Mobile technologies will power AR
As you are probably aware, AR is here today. Mainstream smartphones already provide basic AR, like Pokémon Go and Snapchat augmentation, while smartphones with additional sensors and advanced technology, like Google Tango, offer more realistic augmentation, such as precisely seeing how a piece of furniture would fit in your living room. And those same chips that power smartphones are also powering AR glasses.
The mobile industry has made this possible. It has driven huge technology advancements in multimedia and cognitive technologies, display and sensor technologies, connectivity, and power and thermal efficiency — and it will only continue. The characteristics of the mobile industry — innovation at scale, rapid design cycles, and mass adoption, for example — make the proliferation of new technologies very feasible, which will accelerate AR adoption to the masses and will make our vision of AR possible. Furthermore, the AR ecosystem development will mirror what happened in the smartphone industry.
Premium mobile AR has extreme requirements
Premium mobile AR experiences that are realistic, intelligent, and personalized require the next level of immersion, cognition, and connectivity. Adding to the complexity, low power and thermals are required to create sleek, lightweight, and stylish AR glasses that are always-on and work anywhere.
Being great at VR is the foundation for creating truly immersive AR experiences. For immersion, AR shares requirements similar to VR, but it also introduces additional requirements to seamlessly integrate virtual objects with the real world. AR places extreme requirements on several dimensions of the three pillars of immersion: visual quality, sound quality, and intuitive interactions. For example, to create immersive visuals AR needs to seamlessly anchor virtual objects to the real world, occlude them appropriately, and add realistic lighting to them.
Cognitive technologies, like machine learning, computer vision, and sensor processing are required to support realistic, intelligent, and personalized AR experiences. These technologies are used to understand the real world, learn our preferences, and take appropriate actions while also providing security and privacy.
AR also requires the next level of ubiquitous connectivity, starting with Gigabit LTE and moving toward 5G multi-mode devices. Imagine what the future might look like with AR. We are going to have the mass adoption of highly mobile, intelligent, always-on AR glasses. To meet this challenge, AR requires connectivity solutions that provide extreme capacity, connect everything, and enable cloud computing.
Developing the foundational AR technology
Building on our leadership in virtual reality, cognitive technologies, and connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies is well positioned to deliver superior mobile AR at low power. We’re developing the foundational technology required for AR, such as immersive 3D graphics, computer vision, machine learning, intuitive security, and 5G technologies. By taking a system approach and custom designing specialized engines across the SoC, Qualcomm Snapdragon processors are engineered to provide an efficient heterogeneous computing solution that is optimized from end-to-end. We’re also working with the ecosystem and investing in leading AR companies — all in an effort to make our vision of AR a reality sooner.