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article imageOp-Ed: Making augmented reality commercially viable? Sort of

By Paul Wallis     Jul 20, 2017 in Technology
Sydney - Augmented reality is the subject of a lot of ongoing market babble, which hasn’t helped much. The question is whether AR is useful. Developers are sending very mixed signals about the viability of a potential fourth wave of digital transformation.
Augmented reality in its current form is “digital transformation” in its most poky, inspired, smart, and staggeringly clumsy ways. Augmented reality (AR) is just adding apps and functions to real world things. Pokémon Go was the most conspicuous recent form of it in the mass market, and wow, did that get old fast. The gimmicky nature of currently augmented reality apps is an own goal, in that sense.
Mark Zuckerberg announcing Facebook augmented reality features
Mark Zuckerberg announcing Facebook augmented reality features
Lack of broad scope functionality and routine obsolescence aren’t helping much, either. As usual global marketing is going for the visual values which come and go, rather than the practical values. That’s sending a truly lousy message to the market.
Another problem is hardware. Phone apps are one thing. Wearing some damn headset, cheap or not, is a very different thing. This is another case of hardware taking on a role which affects usage values, whether anyone likes it or not.
The new MIT headset, powered by iPhones, may be a better basic concept, and less irritating than usual for things to stick on your head. But - Is it really practical? A bond between AR and VR may be natural, but isn’t this harking back to wearable technology, and all the total non-deliveries it’s achieved in the last 10 years?
AR is currently an emerging market that acts like a two week old puppy on a regular basis. Like the endless new phones and apps, core usefulness seems truly subordinated to squeaky “New!” sales pitches. The usual result is some half-ass thing that works or doesn’t work, and vanishes in a few months.
The Time Trial augmented reality game
The Time Trial augmented reality game
That’s not a hell of a good basis for serious business development for anything, particularly in retail markets. How much money are you prepared to put in to these “software perishables”? For all their high-sounding aspirations, smart phones are still phones and browsers, very basic tech. How does AR deliver basics to make it a must-have?
Let’s not hold it against the developers, who are flying blind in terms of where this tech can go. A certain amount of absurdity and crap is inevitable. The risk is that good ideas have to fight to get recognized and developed in the saturation market of new dev of all kinds. That could shoot AR in the foot very effectively, if a lot of duds come on the market and convince consumers they’re just more crap.
Getting better
The good news is that functionality is taking over from trivia, and real useful options are emerging. The move from gizmos and gimmicks (like anyone needs any more) to actual value is happening, if taking the scenic route through apps and cosmetic values.
In the business sense, Apple is a major player in current generation AR. The Apple portfolio of AR is indicative of the state of play. They have mobile software and hardware, and glasses of various kinds.
Real value, AR and actual functionality
It’s a very small start for a level of possible functionality which could become as widespread as the GPS and Siri. This is kindergarten stuff at best. The future of AR, if it’s going to have one, could be a lot better.
How about:
Instant AR refs with overlays for products, art galleries and hairdressers? You can browse a new media player to see an entire exhibition in Paris while discussing your new 3D CAD laser-trimmed hairstyle with your hairdresser. You can same page everything with your dentist for your new tusks, and/or place an order for your groceries. Create a wardrobe from an inventory, with robot dressmakers or tailors.
This is what AR can do; it’s a credible mobile asset for anything and everything you actually need – Provided it works, and works well. Hardware will need to be able to run anything, too, another minor obstacle. It’d be a good idea to use an ISO (International Standards Organization) standard to make AR truly universal.
AR culture? Don’t ask.
Another risk, and it’s a real groan, is AR advertising. I work in advertising, and the current levels of pure hatred of the mindless sales efforts are fully justified. It’s compulsory crap, and there’s nothing consumers loathe more. AR advertising is currently being touted as a trillion dollar opportunity. It could easily be a trillion dollar sinkhole, if current advertising practices don’t lift their game.
You could be bombarded with high intensity crap for anything. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing option for consumers than more 24/7 sales pitches in a new medium. People are tired of being sold things every 2 seconds. They resent the constant intrusions, particularly when they’re paying for them with their bandwidths. It’s aversion therapy, not advertising. Current ad tracking is so lousy that it’s more likely to spawn ad blockers for AR than anything else.
Opt-in advertising would be a much better, more practical way of delivering advertising. Motivated buyers are actually looking for things; give them what they’re trying to find, not just what your marketing is trying to flog to them.
AR could be a major asset. It could also be a constant barely-in-the-ballpark thing, like VR has been until very recently. It took VR 20 years to get to its current level. AR needs time to grow up.
Until AR can deliver, I’d suggest fewer promises, less hype and more “Wow!” moments. That’ll sell. Failures tend to breed disinterest in any tech, and disinterest starves techs of dev funds. To make AR work, the bottom line is going to be More Real Value, not More Real Hype.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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