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Is Augmented Reality Just the Beginning of the 3-D Revolution?

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Augmented reality — a group of technologies that marry the virtual world with the real one — has been around for decades, and has traditionally required the use of expensive and specialized equipment. But the proliferation of smartphones that have cameras, displays, and even GPS and other sensors on them has enabled a whole host of new mobile applications — Soundwalk, Wikitude and Layar, for example — that offer a glimpse at how online digital information and offline physical worlds could be combined. With such tools, virtual and real worlds have moved one step closer to one another.

But we are set to move much further. Over the next decade, augmented reality will shift toward “mixed reality,” enabling immersive applications and shared experiences that will change how computers are positioned in our lives. The latest GigaOM Pro report, “3-D Computing: From Digital Cinema to GPUs,” (subscription required) outlines some of the coming changes in:

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  • Display Technologies. From movie theaters and home monitors to computer displays and even mobile Internet devices, the ability to see and experience content in real 3-D — with and without glasses— will become a common feature. We predict that more than 1 million 3-D digital signs (try not to think of “Minority Report”) will ship by 2014.
  • Interfaces. Keyboards and mice will no longer be primary modes of input. Instead, cameras will go beyond simple image or video capture functions to become virtual eyes through which gestures and other physical information will be transmitted. Combined with voice understanding and scanners, acquisition and navigation in real 3-D space will become easy.
  • Computing Technology. New computing demands will be placed on our systems that call for a greater emphasis on visual computing, high-speed networks and software. IBM, Apple, Google and even Microsoft are beginning to embed the frameworks required to enable real 3-D computing interfaces and applications on their platforms.
  • Business Process. Online collaboration is moving from web conferencing to video and there are many successful pilots underway with enterprise virtual worlds. Vertical industries like the military, education and even health care are poised to take advantage of these technology advances to use virtual 3-D worlds to bridge time and space obstacles in their operations.

The evolution of augmented reality — and 3-D technology in general — is fostering a convergence of the real and virtual worlds unlike anything we have seen in history. We believe this convergence represents the opportunity of a lifetime for those that can find ways to harness its power and bring new, innovative products and services to the marketplace.

Kris Tuttle is the founder and director of research for Research 2.0 and co-author of the latest GigaOM Pro report, 3-D Computing: From Digital Cinema to GPUs (sub. req’d).

13 Responses to “Is Augmented Reality Just the Beginning of the 3-D Revolution?”

  1. I think 3D technology in augmented reality/mixed reality and mixed digital and IRL communications will be the next Really big “shift” in the way we use and perceive digital information. Social media (or web 2.0, which could be the origin name for social media) have had a big impact on the media-landscape but it has gotten a ‘fuss’ far larger than it perhaps deserves – i think that in the end of this decade we will maybe perceive the “social media revolution” as the start of a huge transformation – and 3D as a concept is perhaps the bottom line in this evolution. As you point out 3D appears already now in content (graphics, movies, AR-campaigns), in technical devises (display technologies / monitors, scanners), in interfaces (i’m thinking motioncontrol here) and so forth.

    Regarding the big fuss of social media, sometimes people seem to miss out on the other pieces in the media landscape. I say today we have 1. Traditional media (’old media’ – newspapers, billboards, cinema, radio etc, you know, the regulars…) then we have 2. Social media/micro media (Youtube, facebook, blogs, wikis etc etc) then we have 3. Digital channels (SEO, webpages, affiliates, platforms etc etc) and we see already emerging: 4. Mixed digital/IRL (that is Augmented Reality campaigns, digital artefacts for example Kindle. Digital paper for example the magazine Esquires’.. Digital outdoor spaces for example touch-screens, and mobile services for example Layar etc). This fourth piece of the media landscape is the one i say will set off, and have already started to. (Outernet is a term I learnt of newly published in RWW ( )) 3D is definitedly both a way of visualisation and a way of interaction in this emerging digital communication landscape.

  2. Mohit Agrawal

    The search algorithms that worked for PC are unlikely to work for the mobile. On the mobile, most of the search queries are around navigation, direction and local search. The Augmented reality is one such form of search which is emerging for mobile phones. There are many other forms of mobile search with are equally exciting and I have listed them down in my article on I hope the readers of Gigaom would find it interesting.