Merging the digital and real world: the potential of the AR Cloud
Throughout time, information has been important for humans. From conveying messages by drawing on the walls of caves, to speech. From chiselling messages in stone to writing on parchment and later on printing books and newspapers. On 6 August 1991, the World Wide Web was born and the information age came along. Over the years, access to knowledge became more and more evident to the point where everything we ever want to know is available with a finger swipe on a pocket-sized smartphone. But what will be the next step? Welcome in the era of the AR Cloud, where the digital and the real world will become one.
History tells us that sharing information got faster and more accessible over the years. There is also a huge shift from a society where having knowledge is important to one where knowing how to find the right knowledge the fastest is perhaps even more important. Recent Google statistics show us that more than 50% of the searches happen locally. This means people search for stores, events, other people or even more general: ‘information’ when they are on the move. There is a need for information in the here and now more than ever. Enter the AR Cloud.
Imagine you are on holiday and want to find the nearest supermarket to buy ingredients for your favourite dish. You put on your AR Smart Glass and you go out. Immediately your glasses tell you the shortest path to the supermarket, but even more, flawlessly show you the way even when you’re inside the supermarket, the so-called ‘last mile’. It tells you where the ingredients are you need, and possibly even the location of interesting or related products that might be on sale. The products automatically get scanned and as you walk out of the gate, they get paid via your digital wallet. Life can be so easy! Ok, now we hear you thinking that you’ve probably already heard all of this before. In 2013, Google launched its Google Glass. The world clearly wasn’t ready as the product didn’t seem to have a proper value proposition. Now, we see this clearly changing as Google’s Glass Enterprise Edition is widely spread in for instance factories where it supports workers in their daily jobs. Companies like VW, DHL and Samsung use it in their pipelines. This indicates the public support for devices like this is slowly shifting. This opens the pathway for the more futuristic examples we described above.
I can see cleARly now the rain has gone
The anecdote above could be one of the many scenes in the future where the AR Cloud assists people in their daily life. The physical world itself will be the biggest source of information. Every object in real life, whether it is text, a building, a storefront or a person, will act as a source of information. Forget about the times where you had to guess the search terms to find that one thing you were standing next to. Thanks to the AR Cloud, that information will not consist out of linked videos, documents and snippets of text all over the world wide web, but data will be tightly coupled to its origin and presented to you whenever you need it. Look at it as a digital replica of reality that is overlaid onto the real world. Moreover, the experience of accessing all of that information will be a shared one, just like the world wide web is now. Only now, the world itself will be one giant shared spatial screen.
“The AR Cloud is going to become the single most important software infrastructure in the history of computing, far bigger than Facebook’s Social Graph or Google’s Search Index.” - Ori Inbar
World’s digital twin
The AR Cloud has many names such as ‘the world’s digital twin’, ‘mirror world’, ‘the mesh’ or ‘metaverse’, and with many names come many definitions. The one thing that we can agree upon is that its impact will be significant. Ori Inbar, AR guru of the first hour, even states that “The AR Cloud is going to become the single most important software infrastructure in the history of computing, far bigger than Facebook’s Social Graph or Google’s Search Index.” Not only will it bring along a big shift in how society gathers information. It will also enable a common ground for self-driving cars, IoT-devices and of course humans to interpret the real world and act on it.
One of the biggest pitfalls of the AR Cloud is privacy. History taught us that one of the greatest goods of people is their own privacy. Facebook has been on the stand multiple times for allegedly breaking the trust of its users. The consequence of having a fully digital copy of the real world is that the amount of data we need to gather is far greater than what the tech giants do now. This will definitely have its consequences. Thus companies have to smartly cope with this possible hurdle and it might even be necessary to work together and work on a common language when it comes to having an AR Cloud. Just like HTML standards have been for the web, we need standards for the so-called MirrorWorld. Only then will we be able to let humanity take another big (technological) leap.