Ex-Hololens boss Kipman explains the advantages and challenges of augmented reality should bring to everyday life.
Augmented reality (AR) merges physical reality with a computer-generated reality. Industry expert and former Hololens CEO Alex Kipman sees it as a way to “enhance our reality and to add value to people’s lives. AR will help to break down the barrier between the brick-and-mortar and online worlds.”
As an example, he cites that augmented reality can help people find their way around a new city by having the technology overlay virtual directions on the physical world. Something similar is possible with product reviews when shopping, he says.
According to Kipman, AR helps create a more accessible environment. The technology can display explanations to users about how to use various devices or services. For businesses, this frees up customer service personnel that would otherwise be tied up answering simple questions.
Why AR glasses are essential
The problems mentioned can already be solved today with smartphones, and in the case of route planning, even with AR applications like Google Maps.
However, Kipman believes AR glasses are essential for augmented reality to be truly successful. They make looking at the obsolete smartphone. An important point for Kipman is that people will spend more time perceiving the world again.
True AR glasses will take time
It will probably be some time before full-featured AR glasses are available. Currently, headsets and glasses that offer a true AR experience are too big, too heavy, and too expensive. Kipman’s former employer Microsoft, which manufactures and sells the Hololens, is still struggling with this.
Microsoft reportedly has no significant roadmap for the Hololens brand. Although Robin Seiler, COO and CVP for Windows and Devices, said Hololens 2 would continue to be produced and supported, Microsoft made major cuts to that team. The company scaled back work on a Hololens headset for military use, and there have been no updates on the Hololens 3 since last year.
For AR glasses to become a commercial success, they must also become interesting for end consumers. To do this, they must achieve a similar form factor as normal glasses and be offered at affordable prices.
The VR alternative to AR glasses
Until then, VR headsets with passthrough camera views like Meta Quest 2, Quest Pro, or HTC’s Vive XR Elite provide alternatives for first mixed reality experiments. Meta Quest 2 only offers a monochrome display of the physical environment, but it is still usable for many AR or XR applications.
Meta Quest Pro and Vive XR Elite offer color passthrough but still suffer from some teething problems. The Quest Pro only overlays color on what is actually a monochrome representation of the environment, while the Vive XR Elite doesn’t provide an ideal depth representation.
Still, the technology is already much more advanced than the current implementation of augmented reality via a phone or less capable smart glasses. It is likely that it will still take time for AR technology manufacturers to solve the many technical challenges. Therefore, mixed reality will probably still be many years ahead of pure augmented reality.
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