This is the first issue of AR Tech World (ARTW). Welcome! AR Tech World is a digest of the most relevant tech news related to Augmented Reality and other related Immersive Technologies. I will be presenting an overview as well as my own commentary and analysis on features, specs, and viability. My goal is to publish at least twice a month. You can read it here, or, better yet, you can subscribe to receive it via email.
The Importance of Knowing Who is Doing What
I was recently approached by a startup claiming to have an AR breakthrough. The company officer said, “there’s currently nothing like this available. The technology enables a person to generate a real-time, 3D avatar using just 2D video input from an average smartphone camera.”
In fact, there many companies working on this; a careful look at the competitive landscape would have made that clear. Coincidentally, on the same day I was approached, Chet Faliszek, now at Bossa Studios and formerly at Valve, mirrored my sentiments on Twitter: “I have never met anyone who is scanning humans for avatars in AR/VR by using a phone – that understands they aren’t the only ones doing it.”
I am mentioning this to spotlight how important it is to keep up with what other companies in the space are simultaneously developing. Not only that – market research needs to conducted far earlier, during the strategy and planning phase to assess if the market is even viable. This is even more important and relevant in the fast-moving AR sector.
There is a dilemma, however. Almost all companies currently developing in the AR space are small and private. Finding out what is in the pipeline or already produced can be very time consuming, and sometimes impossible.
I have launched this newsletter to inform and educate both the business and tech sectors on where AR Tech is now and where it is heading. I plan to save readers time and money by researching, reporting and analyzing what is going on related to AR Tech products and markets. My hope is that it will also help raise important questions that might otherwise be missed in the currently dynamic and fragmented marketplace.
iPhone X Finally Available – What Does This Mean for AR Tech Development?
The iPhone X is finally available. Much discussion regarding AR and the iPhone X has been regarding what kind of content is currently available to view and manipulate. USA Today hit some truths in a piece called, Why ‘Animoji Karaoki’ is the Best Thing About iPhone X, but I would argue this is not really AR and a bit beside the real question of what the iPhone X means for current and prospective AR Tech.
I consider Matt Miesnieks of Super Ventures to be providing a well-balanced and more thoughtful voice than many more writers of traditional media sites. In a series of articles and Facebook posts right after the iPhone X and continuing now, Miesnieks has raised several thoughtful technical issues relating to both the Apple ARKit and Android’s ARCore which are distanced from the notion that competition between the two is the relevant story.
One article that elevates Miesnieks’ influence, in my view is, “Why Will AR Apps Struggle for Engagement Without ARCloud?” He talks about the importance of having a cloud-based software infrastructure in support of AR. Currently, according to Miesnieks, there are only three very simple AR tools available in both ARKit and ARCore:
- The phone’s 6DoF pose, with new coordinates each session;
- A partial and small ground plane;
- A simple average of the scene lighting.
These are extremely elementary and cannot go much further without a powerful technical capability to connect people for social AR experiences, a sub-pixel precision of both absolute coordination and relative-to-existing-structures location tracking, and a strong infrastructure to “deliver a consumer grade UX.”
The way to achieve these is through a real-time ARCloud infrastructure that is not available via current cloud systems. It will be exciting to see what variations of the ARCloud will be developed so that AR experiences could move to the next level.
One additional relevant article you might find useful: “Apple CEO: Quality AR Impossible With Today’s Technology”
Broadcom Bids $130 Billion for Qualcomm – The Race for Mobile Communications Superiority & an AR/VR Placehold
There was a rumor prior to the Broadcom’s announcement that they were going to make a huge bid for Qualcomm. Many of my friends discounted this as an attempt to divert attention from Qualcomm’s $38 billion bid for NXP Semiconductors.
If Broadcom is successful, it will control Qualcomm’s extremely valuable Snapdragon mobile platforms, processors, cellular modems, and chipsets used for both AR and VR capability. Broadcom’s main product are chips for wired broadband communications, including modems, WiFi, switches, and routers. With the addition of Snapdragon, Broadcom would be poised to be a significant leader in AR and VR mobile technology.
Current Snapdragon phones include the Samsung Note 8 and several high-end HTC and LG phones, among others. There is a high anticipation for the next Qualcomm chip in line. It is foreseen that both mobile and chip technology will scale hand-in-hand to provide improved AR and VR capability (see my above discussion above on the need for an ARCloud for true next-generation capability).
iPhone X’s Use of a Proprietary Neural Engine
Let’s revisit the iPhone X for a moment. I see a few elements more significant than USA Today’s focus on pseudo AR-based Karaoke, perhaps, and over time, the most important aspect of the controversial new smartphone is the promise of the proprietary A11 Bionic chip that powers its machine-learning (ML) neural engine.
That neural engine enables the iPhone X’s innovative Face ID, Animoji and Augmented Reality features. The A11 Bionic chip impresses me, though it will be far more impressive when there is infrastructure that includes an ARCloud with a powerful ML-equipped chip.
AR Class Registration
AR & the Future: Enterprises and Backrooms
Nov. 28, 2017 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM Pacific Time
Summary: On Tuesday, November 28, Shel Israel, CEO of Transformation Group, will teach AR & the Future: Enterprises & Backrooms, a live, online class designed to help managers and professionals better understand how immersive technologies such as augmented reality are used to improve productivity, training, logistics, safety, and communications in all sorts of businesses all over the world. More information on the class could be found here.
Early Bird: Now until Nov. 11, 2017 $127
Full Retail: Nov. 12-23, 2017 $197
Last Call: Nov. 24-28, 2017 $247