Augmented reality promised us a world of whimsy not confined by the rules of science. This week, we instead got a tech behemoth promoting their struggling app by plopping virtual sculptures into already magnificent places. And the art world is already firing back.
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Forget virtual reality, for now at least, because augmented reality, or AR as it is commonly known, is powering the next batch of magic tricks heading to your phone. Apple and Google are pushing the tech hard, but what's actually new about the next wave of AR? What's changed since Pontiac stuff it in the ugly Aztek or Niantic had you catching Pokemon with it in Pokemon Go? And what are you going to be able to do with it...besides game?
When you were a kid, what did you think the future would look like? Hoverboards, Back to the Future style? Flying Cars a la The Jetsons?
It's 2017 people, and look what we have here - an augmented reality Ikea experience. So that everywhere is your life can be filled with Ikea, like a disillusioned insurance worker's apartment shortly before starting an underground Fight Club.
Flashlights and toy lightsaber might do a decent job of making you feel like a Jedi when you're twelve, and fancy prop reproductions might do the job when you're adult. But it is all still make believe. You're not taking on Darth Vader in your living room, you're waving a toy and making "vrm vrrm" noises. A new augmented reality game from Disney hopes to change that. Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is Disney's first standalone augmented reality machine. Created in conjunction with Lenovo, it's a $US200 set that includes a headset, tracking beacon and lightsaber remote. Pop your Android or iOS phone into the headset, put the beacon on the floor, ignite the lightsaber and your path to becoming a Jedi Master begins.
This isn't hyperbole. Between Apple's ARKit and the new ARCore tool announced by Google, a viable form of augmented reality, the ability to witness an computer-augmented version of our world is about to come to a whole lot of phones, and will be available on every Android and iOS phones going forward. That sci-fi future crappy movies in the '90s promised us is perilously close.
One of the most memorable music videos of the 1980s is A-ha's "Take On Me" featuring a young woman who's pulled into a world that looks like it only exists as crude pencil sketches. The video took 16 weeks to animate by hand, but Trixi Studios created an augmented reality app that can recreate the effect in real-time.
You might be tempted to think this is just a cool experiment, but don't be surprised when Mark Zuckerberg rips it off and it's suddenly packaged with Instagram.
The pitch was Pokemon GO meets Call of Duty. I couldn't quite fathom how that would turn into a cool as hell game, but it involved augmented reality, a key feature of Pokemon GO, and laser tag, and those are both very fun things. Then I sat down with the team from Skyrocket and got to actually hold one of the guns from its new Recoil laser tag system. "It's AR adjacent," the PR rep said. My interest plummeted, but I gamely let them set up the demo and tried to play for an hour. While it quickly became clear this was only Pokemon GO meets Call of Duty in the most high brow theoretical sense, it was also clear that Recoil could be the best backyard laser tag system built yet.
With the introduction of iOS 11 and a development tool called ARKit, Apple is betting that augmented reality could be the next revolutionary feature for smartphones. At the very least, it's facilitated a secret feature that lets iPhone users pretend they're giant monsters stomping through a tiny city.
There are a few reasons to be bullish about augmented reality. It's just neat is the most important reason. Its practicality is another great factor. But above all, the fact that Apple is about to unleash its app developers to go crazy with AR in iOS 11 means that a ton of content should be coming. This humble measuring tape app is just the tip of the iceberg.
Video: If Microsoft wants a guaranteed way to sell a million Hololens augmented reality headsets, it should listen to Abhishek Singh and pitch the hardware as the ultimate way to get in shape by playing the first level of Super Mario Bros. in real life. Unlike the Wii's balance board accessory, this might actually help you shed a few kilos.
Video: When you strap on a virtual reality headset, your body has a constant (heavy) reminder that what you're seeing isn't real. But what happens when virtual reality spills out into the real world? This tech-filled room is able to warp and bend reality, making you feel like you're tripping on drugs you don't remember taking.
New technology using augmented reality and mixed-reality is helping surgeons plan and position (in real time) patients undergoing ear, nose and throat surgery.
Known as Target Guided Surgery (TGS), it's helping top make even the most complex surgery safer - especially for even operations close to the optic nerve and the brain.
While the world catches up with VR, imperfect but affordable options for entry like Google Cardboard and Samsung's Gear VR will get the job done. But augmented/mixed reality is also proving itself to be a ripe new field and for anyone looking to dip their toes in the water of this brave new world, the Holokit has come to save the day.