On augmented reality

By James Duran

All this new Virtual Reality (VR)/ Augmented Reality (AR) stuff makes me think of The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. Am I the only person who watched that show as a kid? The graphics of some of the software programs are a bit of a callback to mid-90’s 3D animation aesthetic. Primitive. Minimal. But also kinda tacky. Think cartoons like Beast WarsReboot, or that little animated robot dude from Toonami who flew through space. Tom

Source: Microsoft Sweden (win10_HoloLens_livingRoom) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hololens is pretty cool. It’s AR in much the same vein as Google Glass, but it’s more niche in function. It’s big and clunky like the Oculus Rift which sorta inherently means that it isn’t a “wear out in public” kind of device like Glass was meant. I can see doctors wearing Hololens while performing a surgery with real-time indicators of a patient’s vitals. Or visual guides on where to make an incision. Imagine lawyers being able to CTRL F physical documents. The dev kits which are going for $3,000 are by no means cheap enough to encourage use from casual users, but I can definitely see Hololens making itself useful to people in highly specialized fields and industries.

Google Glass was tried as a daily driver-type device but it got a bit freaky for the general public. People panicked and worried about its more than obvious possibilities for exploitation by the government and hackers alike. Things like Patriot Act-level access to Glass’ camera or voyeuristic recordings. Someone could potentially shoot POV photos/videos without the knowledge or consent of the wearer. I get that out in public it’s perfectly legal to record others, but at the very least, you’d see a person holding up a camera. A hands-free video recording device is more inconspicuous, especially if one could figure out a way to mask Glass’ video recording indicator. No one ever really criticized the tech behind Google Glass but they certainly rejected its ethos of becoming ubiquitous. 

While Hololens screams “1980’s imagining of what the year 2000 was going to look like”, Glass at least looks a bit more like something you’d see in Spike Jonze’s Her, albeit, still incredibly tacky. Non-discreet wearable technology just makes the user look like a douche. 

“Look at me; I’m wearing Google Glass!” 

I’m sure a lot more people would have bought into Glass if it were half the price and looked more like a regular pair of glasses than a DBZ scouter. The tech was awesome. It just isn’t immediately useful enough for everyday use to justify looking like a douche. Doesn’t this photo sorta make you want to punch all these guys in the face?: 

Source: http://allthingsd.com/files/2013/04/glass_collective.png


The middle one is way too serious about this photoshoot. He gives off a wacky, but harmless smugness on par with Adam Devine’s character on Workaholics. Obligatory Silicon Valley reference. The dude on the left is just like, “Gonna take a photo with this Glass on and then leave to tend to my other investments.” The old dude on the right is just happy to be taking part in the future. Congrats on making it to 2016.

Google also sorta just overstepped in how they were pushing Glass. Skynet vibes. 

Hololens knows that its technology is not meant for everyone. That said, I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to imagine that someday, a Google Glass-like device will be as ubiquitous a part of daily life as having a smartphone. Having the ability to CTRL F physical objects would be the ultimate convenience. Perhaps in the form of some sort of Visual RFID that could categorize items via voice recognition software. You’d never lose your car keys again. Then the only thing you’d have to worry about is not losing your device.

While the Oculus and Hololens are sorta the modern-day Virtual Boy, the rendering technology has finally caught up, making for more conceivably practical scenarios for their use rather than being a gimmicky scifi pipe dream. The rendering of this AR version of Minecraft is impressively sharp. And while the image is far from perfect, this holoportation demo of two people interacting with hologram versions of each other via AR is pretty wild. We’re only a week into the Hololens dev kit and Oculus Rift CV1 release but already do they look like promising peripherals.