When Apple CEO Tim Cook makes a prediction, we all tend to listen.
The boss of one of the most valuable and high-profile companies in the world told analysts during his company’s fourth-quarter earnings call: “AR is going to change everything.” He was not exaggerating.
Augmented reality (AR) is re-shaping mass technology use in an entirely new way. For many of us, typing with two fingers on our PC keyboards was alleviated by the point-and-click capabilities of the mouse.
That in turn has given way to the tap or swipe of the smartphone and over the last few months to simply asking Alexa or Siri to do things for us. Now AR has ushered in the age of holographic computing. Along with animojies, Pokémon and face-filters, a fresh and futuristic user-interface is emerging.
The surge in holographic computing
Holographic computing is coming at us now from our phone screens instead of via lasers, which are required for textbook holography. As a result, we’re now seeing a real surge in the use of hologram-like 3D that will completely change our interactions with the world — and each other.
The evidence of this emerging shift is everywhere. The release of Apple’s iOS11 puts AR into the hands of more than 400 million consumers. The new iPhoneX is purposely designed to deliver enhanced AR experiences with 3D cameras and “Bionic” processors.
We also have Google’s recent launch of the Poly platform for finding and distributing virtual and augmented reality objects, along with Amazon’s release of Sumerian for creating realistic virtual environments in the cloud. An AR-native content-creation movement is also underway, while a steady stream of AR features is coming from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and a host of other tech players.
The engrossing user experiences of 3D are obviously attractive for gaming and entertainment, but they’re capable of so much more. We can be sure that familiarity with the holographic experience will spread through popular games and filters, expanding the dominance of this new interface into other functions that are well-suited to its charms.
The effect on training and customer-experience
Already, it is making inroads in the areas of training and customer experience. In training, holography is useful for virtual hands-on guidance to explain a process, complete a form or orient a user. It also can simulate real-life emergency scenarios, sales interactions and so forth. Holographic computing interfaces complement traditional instruction with added dimensionality.
AR enhancements can be overlaid for greater depth and variety in information presentation, such as floating text bubbles to provide detail about a particular physical object, along with chronological procedure mapping for performing a task, or virtual arrows pointing to the correct button to push on a console.
There are countless opportunities for adding more digital information to almost anything within range of anyone’s phone camera. There is less need to travel to a classroom if you can launch interactive, immersive 3D presentations on any desk, wall, or floor and “experience” them through the screen in your hand.
Holographic interfaces such as this add an extra experiential element to the training process, unlike the passivity of watching a video. As a result, users can more readily contextualise what they are learning.
In customer experience, consumers are using AR and holographic computing to assist with self-selection, self-service, and self-help. Soon they’ll be using it for even more. For example, IKEA’s AR app allows a consumer to point their phone at their dining room to see how a new table will look in the space. Yet, why should we not also point our phone at a shipping box to be holographically guided through the assembly process when a table is delivered?
Holographic computing will also emerge as the preferred means of getting product information and interacting with service agents. Walk-throughs of hotel rooms and holiday destinations with a 3D virtual tour guide, travel planner or salesperson are not too far away.
Many other use cases for holographic computing will emerge
There are other appealing use cases, of course. As adoption and implementation spread, there will be many instances where this new user-interface is preferable and will quickly become second nature.
Along with the Apples, Googles, Facebooks of the world, there are a number of new entrants to the AR arena. The sheer amount of money being thrown at speedy development shows that the ultimate nature of the holographic user-interface is up for grabs.
Will it remain phone-based? Involve glasses? Shift to desktop? Or will it evolve beyond current hardware to deploy an on-eye projection technology? It could be all of the above, but who can say?
One thing we do know for sure is that significant companies of all types are devoting considerable brain-power to this emerging technology.
The increased dispersal of AR experiences in all their incarnations, combined with the increased accessibility enabled by our smartphones, will drive mass-adoption and widespread affinity for the holographic interface.