Anticipating AR's future

January 23, 2019 //By Soeren Steudel
Anticipating AR's future
Augmented reality (AR) glasses are expected to become the next big thing in infotainment. They will allow us to overlay virtual objects on top of our regular environment, and experience these objects as if they were real. AR glasses will enable exciting new applications, and will dramatically impact the way we interact and communicate with each other.

But users will only accept them if they are unobtrusive and ‘working perfectly’. And this drives today’s technology development. Soeren Steudel, principal scientist at imec, discusses the trends in infotainment, how they translate into technology and how they might impact our lives in 2035...

“AR glasses have the potential to replace the smartphone
within 10-15 years from now.” Soeren Steudel, principal
member of technical staff at imec.

“It is the year 2035... Three designers collaborating on an art project have gathered in the gallery where they will soon release their newest creation. They all wear stylish augmented reality (AR) glasses allowing them to virtually overlay the latest mock-up of their art object on the real gallery environment. They can even touch the virtual object, manipulate it and change its shape with their hands. All three of them can evaluate – in real time – the impact of the manipulations from their point of view. When they eventually agree on the object’s final shape and color, they send their creation to a 3D printer to have a first prototype of their artwork.”

Towards increased natural human experience

A scenario like this builds on the big trends that we see in infotainment and on how those translate into new technologies. Infotainment can be described as the way we interact with electronics on a personal level, in numerous domains such as industry, healthcare, entertainment, education, communication etc. Today, dominant designs in infotainment systems are for example digital cinema, the (connected) tv, ‘Alexa’ audio home control systems, the pc, gaming consoles and smartphones. In this sequence, they answer an ongoing trend towards ever more mobility, and hence more energy constraints. But they all have one thing in common: they interface with human beings using only a limited number of human senses – being sight, hearing and, to a limited extent, touch.

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