The Future of AR: 4 Game-changing Devices

David Gratton David Gratton

From holographic tabletop games to 3D anatomical models, today’s AR technology is bringing the future to the present in a big way. Check out these 4 game-changing devices shaking up the worlds of tech, medicine, and beyond.

Work at Play is actively developing a Mixed Reality Center of Excellence in order to push the boundaries of AR application design and development. We are co-organizers of YVR Mixed Reality meetup hosted by Microsoft at their state of the art MCEC facility.

Still from Magic Leap promotional video.
Still from Magic Leap promotional video.

4. Magic Leap

Although I’m reserving judgement because I haven’t got my hands on it yet, I’m still giving Magic Leap the #4 slot on this list. Why? Well because it’s been described to me as a “secret project wrapped in a unicorn,” and because the marketing videos are truly amazing. If it’s revealed the Magic Leap can do all that it claims, I’m bumping it to #1. That said, my biggest concern is whether or not this magical device is tethered. If it requires a PC tether like the Oculus or Vive, it’s much more limited in its capabilities. But since the headset isn’t out yet, there’s no telling whether the Magic Leap is fully mobile or not. Needless to say, I’m still curious.

3. castAR

Once castAR hits the market, tabletop gaming will never be the same. The castAR works by projecting holograms through glasses and onto a playing mat to create an augmented reality gaming space. Board game objects like miniatures and cards are overlaid with 3D imagery, while a joystick is used to manipulate the objects across the mat’s built-in RFID tracking grid. Gaming potential aside, what most excites me most about this Kickstarter-backed product is its low barrier to entry. When I spoke with co-founder Jeri Ellsworth at a conference a few months ago, she emphasized the team’s effort to bring back family board game night. Unlike the heavy tech required by the HoloLens and other devices, the castAR is an affordable, consumer-ready gaming system that consists solely of the RFID mat, joystick, and lightweight glasses. If the castAR succeeds, family board game night just may become relevant again.

After castAR, tabletop gaming will never be the same again.
After castAR, tabletop gaming will never be the same again.
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2. Google Project Tango

Project Tango is about to bring mixed reality to your smartphone. Your mobile device could soon know how to map its environment, and project moving holograms within it. Project Tango works by harnessing simultaneous localization and mapping technology—or SLAM—to plot the floors, ceilings, and objects within a space. When used with Project Tango, your mobile or tablet device could project a fantastical 3D setting in the middle of your living room. Imagine a colourful VR world mapped around actual physical objects. The potential is intriguing, but limited by the small screen of the smartphone. A headset is preferable, otherwise you need to hold the device and move it around, which breaks the promise of a truly immersive experience. However, with its versatility and low cost to entry, Project Tango could very well introduce SLAM tech to a massive market of existing smartphone and tablet users—and for that reason, it’s a big one to watch.

Project Tango works in tandem with your smartphone to map your physical environment and overlay holographic imagery upon it.
Project Tango works in tandem with your smartphone to map your physical environment and overlay holographic imagery upon it.
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1. Microsoft HoloLens

The device I’m most excited about is the Microsoft HoloLens. Named as a winking nod to the holodeck simulation room from Star Trek, the HoloLens goes far beyond simple HUD overlays. This amazing piece of tech helps you visualize and interact with 3D objects in space. Its potential for gaming is huge, but what it could do for medicine, aerodynamics, and education is truly thrilling. Imagine an oncologist interacting with a 3D overlay on top of a patient’s body. The doctor’s ability to walk around the CT and MRI scans, and pinpoint the tumor with 3D holograms over the patient would drastically lower risk and stress. Or take the complex, high-risk world of aerodynamics. Pilots moving through a flight checklist could use the HoloLens to initiate a 3D run-through of each procedure. Next steps would be highlighted, errors would be noted, and risk would be greatly reduced. In terms of education, we’re working on an exciting prototype for art students that combines holograms for a virtual life drawing atelier. With so many opportunities for growth in so many fields, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing much more of this technology. 3D is going to be the new norm.

The Microsoft HoloLens
The Microsoft HoloLens
Using the HoloLens to manipulate a 3D model of a heart.
Using the HoloLens to manipulate a 3D model of a heart.

Mixed Reality Meetup in Vancouver

Interested in continuing the conversation? YVR Mixed Reality is holding its first quarterly meeting on Wednesday July 6. Our group is open to professionals working in or interested in the development and application of augmented and mixed reality. If you would like to collaborate, share knowledge, and connect with other tech and creative industry professionals, we encourage you to come out for this free event.

Cross posted to Medium.