Augmented Reality and Wearables: What the Experts Say

Cutting-edge technologies are increasingly integrating augmented reality features. Three experts share their visions of where augmented reality is headed.

Augmented reality (AR) refers to IT technology that enhances our experience of reality. It connects products to digital information in real time. Almost 800 participants joined industry experts at the InsideAR conference in Munich to learn more about the world of augmented reality. What stage is augmented reality at right now? A group of experts discussed this question on Coffee Break with Game-Changers, an SAP Radio talk show.

Current Market Acceptance and Challenges

Hardware that has to be integrated into standardized devices for consumers is still the biggest challenge. Current smartphones only have a single camera that produces 2-D images. Our ultimate goal is dedicated hardware that combines multiple cameras, additional sensors, and special processing chips to recognize the things around us. — Sascha Kiener, business development and key account manager, Metaio GmbH

The enormous volumes of data generated nowadays are increasingly blending in to the analog world. Google Glass laid the foundation for bringing wearables to the masses, and created a basic hardware standard in the process. Despite conflicting opinions, Google Glass has market acceptance. In Germany there are still data protection issues to be solved, yet at the same time, a lot of people are curious about how Google Glass can be used, and for what purposes. — Raimund Gross, strategic technology advisor, Products & Innovation, SAP

There are still obstacles on the road to mass-market adoption. In my opinion, device aesthetics are fundamental to success: The devices need to be attractive. As a primary instinct, attractivity has played an important role for thousands of years. Current hardware devices are not visually pleasing enough yet, which is hindering market acceptance. — Thomas Eckert, innovation manager, SAP

2018: More Than 200 Million Users of AR Apps

A recently published study by Juniper Research predicts the AR market to reach five to six billion U.S. dollars within the next five to six years. More than 200 million users will have AR apps on their mobile devices by 2018, it says.

These results confirm our assumption that AR has huge potential for market growth, and will in future be increasingly common in mobile devices and wearables. Augmented reality also holds potential for the consumer goods industry. One example is the Ikea catalog project, which lets users place “virtual” objects into their homes. Another possible scenario would be the use of AR to let customers try out make-up products “virtually.” The many possibilities here include a smartphone app and a mirror that shows the customer what the product looks like when applied. The ultimate goal is for AR to become a standard feature in apps and mobile devices, which would enable customers to directly interact with products in stores. — Kiener

AR will be integrated into more and more consumer products and will make our lives easier. People will not necessarily be aware of this process. Looks and design will be decisive success factors for wearables. Miniaturization and increased precision will soon lead to products with AR functions that will be indistinguishable from products without these functions. — Gross

AR provides definite advantages, not just in consumer goods, but also on the enterprise side. The Lego example, in which a 3-D visualization of what the constructed product will look like is generated, brings great added value to customers. One example benefit for enterprises is AR’s potential to optimize product delivery, allowing employees to get to customers more quickly and simply. — Eckert

Significant Industry Impact

Augmented reality creates value across all functional areas of a company. Especially the gaming and wearable industries will drive AR forward, through their high-budget investments in cutting-edge technologies. — Kiener

In the industrial sector, factors such as cost and design are less important. Companies will use AR because it provides them with added value in the form of simplified and faster manufacturing processes, quality management, and cost savings. — Gross

What the hardware looks like won’t be an issue in the industrial sector. AR will open up completely new opportunities for companies through cutting-edge technologies that we are unaware of right now. Our ways of interacting with computers are going to change fundamentally. The gaming industry will be a trailblazer, always using the newest devices without any concern about how these devices look. — Eckert

A Cross-Generational Target Demographic

As soon as there are standardized designs for smart glasses, groups of all ages will become interested – not just the tech savvy individuals, but everyone. — Kiener

In 2017, 30 percent of smart wearables will be completely inconspicuous and not identifiable as what they are. This means that sooner or later, they will cross over into our everyday lives without us really being aware of it. — Gross

I like to compare wearables to smartphones. In the case of smartphones, the touchscreen ultimately led to huge success. As soon as wearables become easier to use, they will become more popular among users and enter the mainstream. — Eckert

Augmented Reality – Future Outlook

Augmented reality will change how we interact with technology and digital data. The software of tomorrow will be able to perceive our surroundings. The digital opportunities are practically endless, ranging from switching off lights remotely through an app, to identifying a dog on the road as an obstacle that must be avoided. In a few years, we may only need contact lenses to access relevant information. — Kiener

Hardware costs will drop and miniaturization will continue to advance. — Gross

The way we control computers is changing. Maybe we will soon be able to control devices using our brains and thoughts. Future AR devices will occupy our entire field of vision and enable information to be called up any time, anywhere. — Eckert

Tune in to SAP Radio to listen to the discussion: “Augmented Reality: Beyond Google Glass.”

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