Why AR gear needs to be able to become irrelevant to become important

Why AR gear needs to be able to become irrelevant to become important

Welcome, Vammers**!

I am in Virtual Reality every day, and increasingly, in Augmented Reality as well. The distinction is important.

When you are in Virtual Reality, you are in a different world: you can’t see what’s around you. In Augmented Reality, you do see the world…and you see more (it has had something added to it).

There are two other terms you may hear: Mixed Reality and Merged Reality, but really, those are enhanced versions of the above. They both have to do with awareness: do the fictional overlays on the real world have an awareness of reality (does a fictional character who is walking walk in the air and through buildings, or does it follow the ground? If there is a table in your family room and you are walking through a forest in Virtual Reality, will you just bump into the table, or will it appear in the forest as, perhaps, a rock?).

Augmented Reality is the one that will have value in day to day life. I already have seen that work. I have some color vision deficiency (“color blindness”, although I do see colors…just not all shades and not the way that other people see them). My

Samsung Gear VR headset (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

can correct those colors for me in the real world…or, and I like this one, make the color I am trying to see the only color visible in the room. I use an experience (VAM terminology for what would be called an “app” on a phone) called Reality Hacker, although it takes a step or two to get to it (I use “Play Cardboard” to make it work with my Samsung Gear).

I was also able to use that with someone who, because of a medical condition, can’t see edges well. That makes it very hard to read signs…but Reality Hacker has a setting with an edge enhancer, and that made all the difference. Solid letters on a sign would “hollow out” in the middle, making them discernible to that person.


I can’t wear my Gear all the time, and neither could the person with the edge challenge.

The battery charge only lasts so long. While they’ve improved this, the phone can overheat (especially if it’s hot outside). Even with Reality Hacker, there is limited peripheral vision, since I’m wearing something that is like a SCUBA mask.

I can not wear my Gear without constantly being aware of it.

Augmented Reality has the potential to become indispensable for some people. Are you wearing bifocals or even trifocals? Are you constantly switching glasses to go from the computer to the road, or peering over the top of them to talk to people or watch TV? AR sets will be able to tell where you are trying to look, and automatically  adjust the focus correction so you can see freely, regardless of the distance.

The issue at this point is that the correction is only going to happen when you put on your headgear. Some people complain about having to pull a phone out of a pocket: it’s a whole lot harder to pull out your headset and put it on your head. 🙂

For AR to become part of our lives, it needs to be irrelevant that we are wearing it most of the time.

In other words, I need to be able to wear my Augmented Reality gear all the time, and be able to forget about the fact that I’m wearing it.

It needs to become lighter, with full peripheral vision, and power that lasts all day.

That doesn’t all have to be perfect, by the way. I’ve had people say that no one would want something in front of their eyes, adjusting how they see the world, all day long.

You mean like glasses? 😉

Contact lenses are even harder to wear than glasses…and I’m wearing reading glasses right now. If I think about it, I can see the top, bottom, and outer sides of my frames, and the stems (only comfortably one stem at a time).

AR gear should be able to be even less intrusive than glasses without too much trouble. Google is going to introduce something later this year that looks like it may lay much more flatly against the face. Oh, and of course, it will be wirelessr..that’s coming for many sets.

I think the biggest problem may be in making the eyes visible to others (George C. Scott once played the Beast in a Beauty and the Beast adaptation…but insisted that his eyes be visible). There are situations where dark glasses are considered inappropriate, and having it where people can’t see your eyes at all would really make them uncomfortable.

There are four possibilities I see right off (not all equally probable):

  • Transparency: I don’t see how you could make the actual device transparent
  • Projection: the actual device would not cover your eyes, but would project the AR onto your eyes…this is under development, but you would likely wear a fairly obvious device. It could look like glasses, although that does require a really tiny projector system
  • Simulated expressions: on the back of the device, there would be an “avatar” showing how you are feeling. This is a realistic possibility: MindMaze is working on electrical sensors that determine, through what your muscles are doing in your face, what your avatar in VR’s expression should be. When you smile, it smiles. Would emojis be sufficient?
  • Showing your actual eyes in real time on the back of the device. This is complicated, but seems possible to me. There is already eye-tracking happening, so your eyes can be seen by the device. It might be power-intensive, though…and would people trust it? You also run the risk of the “uncanny valley”…if your eyes were slightly the wrong size, or otherwise imperfectly shown, it might be really creepy…in that case, people might prefer the simulated expressions

Whichever way it ends up happening, the ability to wear AR gear and to be unaware of it most of the time is key to mainstream, widespread acceptance.

Irrelevancy is the path to importance.

One more thought:

Manipulating that reality is going to be possible as well.  Last year, I wrote

How Augmented Reality will hide advertising

but I’ve also been thinking about how it could be used in law enforcement.

Let’s say everyone in a bank is wearing AR gear: customers, tellers…and a bank robber.

They aren’t even thinking about it: they wear their AR gear constantly, and it is so useful, they wouldn’t think of not wearing it. The robber may be wearing it for 360 awareness: it will alert that person if someone is approaching from behind.

The police, though, could have the ability to either simply black out the robber’s headset…or to instruct it to make them invisible to it. The SWAT team could walk right up to the robber without being able to be seen at all.

Obviously, there could be real possibilities for misuse…both by legal agencies, and potentially by hackers. You could commit a murder by making someone’s AR headset fail to see cars that were approaching, so that they stepped out into traffic, for example.

I think that risk is small, and much smaller than the types of physical assaults AR could prevent, both through awareness and documentation. If your AR headset could detect someone hiding in an alley with a weapon who is in a high emotional state and simply direct you down a different path, that would be a big preventative to physical crime.

AR needs to continue to increase its ability to sense things (including emotional states), and that will happen. It needs to be faster, lighter, and more powerful…and invisible to you most of the time.

What do you think? Is this exciting? Scary? Both? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

My current Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!


Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
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Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT


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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

**VAMMers is my term for people who use Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged Reality: for more information, see Welcome, vammers! Our Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged Reality coverage starts here

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