Rouli of Games Alfresco and Augmented Times has started a wonderful thread on Augmented Reality in 2010. I figured I’d jump into the conversation with my take on what will emerge in 2010. My general outlook for next year is that more focus will be paid to utility and entertainment uses of AR, and less focus will be paid to AR as marketing gimmick.
Augmented Reality for home shopping will explode
While AR browsers like Layar and Wikitude will continue to focus their attention on discovering information that is in the world at large, another class of AR applications will emerge that helps people see what could be in the comfort of their own home. We’ll see a lot more applications released by manufacturers that sell products that go in people’s homes. These applications will be more sophisticated than the recent IKEA campaign in Germany, as they will make use of the actual smartphone video stream to make sense of the user’s environment, and also allow people to purchase the products they’ve previewed right within the app.
Products that people will be able to “try before they buy” will run the gamut from furniture, artwork, electronics, window treatments, clothing, and maybe even paint colors. This type of application will be to 2010 what the “hold a marker up to your webcam to see a marketing message” was in 2009. And there will likely be both good and bad executions of the basic concept.
See-through eyewear will still be out of reach of the average consumer
As much as I’m chomping at the bit to see this happen, I think that any decent implementation of a see-through display will still be at the >$1000 price point. One possible scenario that would change this is if one of the major game console players partners with a display manufacturer to release an AR-specific console that includes the eyewear, and they bank on selling millions of units. The Nintendo Wii controller is a recent example of AR tech gone mainstream. Steven Feiner remarked to me that he would have gladly paid hundreds of dollars for a device with the motion tracking abilities of the Wii controller before it came out. However, I think this is not likely to happen in 2010, but perhaps 2011? I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong on this one.
Games, games, and more games
I agree with Lester of Augmented Planet that “marker-based games will be the next wonder”, and Noah Zerkin that we’ll see “multi-user, multi-device, multi-perspective games”. There will also be natural feature tracking games thrown in the mix that don’t require markers. Apple will inevitably open up their camera API to developers, and the pent up demand will result in hundreds of AR games for the iPhone alone.
Augmented reality will raise consumer consciousness
There will be a number of companies that release applications in 2010 that help a consumer make more informed choices about the products they purchase day-to-day. A user will be able to point their phone at a product and see information not readily available on the packaging. Information such as manufacturing practices of the company that made the product, the distance the product had to travel, nutritional value, use of organics, etc. Tish Shute speculates about “Green Tech AR apps” in her interview with Ori Inbar. I’m going to optimistically say that 2010 will see the first real applications emerge in this area, although perhaps the data sets will not be as rich as they could be. See Giuseppe Costanza’s excellent “Food Tracer” demo on a Symbian device:
Smartphones will ship with two video cameras
One camera pointing at the user, and one away, will make possible crude applications of augmented reality video conferencing. At the very least, a smartphones with two cameras will allow both “magic mirror” and “through the looking glass” applications to be targeted to the same device. There are already handsets on the market with two cameras, but generally one camera is used for snapshots and the other dedicated to video conferencing. The first phones that allow simultaneous access to both cameras will most likely arrive on the Android platform. This is really mere speculation on my part, but I hope to see a handset like this in 2010.
That’s just a handful of things I think we’ll be seeing in 2010, but I’m positive there will be more surprises next year than there were this year, and I’m fully looking forward to seeing what happens. I especially hope that Noah Zerkin’s expectation that we will see “a step towards a more precise civilian positioning system” comes to pass, although I’m a bit more skeptical. Until that happens, AR applications and games that rely solely on GPS + compass tracking will continue to disappoint. What do you think? Check out the running list of predictions and commentary at Augmented Times and simulcast at Games Alfresco, and join in the conversation.