How the rise of augmented reality will impact our lives

Virgin Atlantic’s recent Business is an adventure event in LA played host to some of the city’s most innovative new businesses, among those to make an appearance were augmented reality start-up VNTANA. Here their CEO, Ashley Crowder, explains what we can expect from the future of the industry…

Imagine taking a guided tour of a new city led by arrows that magically appear on the sidewalk in front of you. Or look at your car and know your tires have "X" miles until replacement. Augmented reality (AR) is making this possible. AR combines the digital and real world, allowing you to see digital information and images over existing real life objects. AR is extremely powerful because of its connection to the real world. This real world relevance is allowing AR to emerge out of the shadow of Virtual Reality (VR) and potentially dwarf VR in total market opportunity.

Audi and Volkswagen are two companies leading this charge and have already launched their own AR apps. The Audi eKurzinfo app acts like a manual for consumers while Volkswagen’s MARTA helps mechanics diagnose and fix customer’s cars. It is this quick, seamless access to data that will change the way we work, learn and do everyday tasks.

Digi-Capital, a Menlo Park based M&A firm recently released their forecast for AR and VR which predicts the market to grow to $150B by 2020, of which $120B is contributed solely to AR. While VR definitely has multiple applications from gaming to education, the experience is limited to an individual. AR on the other hand, can be applied in every aspect of the world whether it’s cooking dinner or giving a presentation at work. Imagine seeing recipes and proper measurements, in the kitchen as you cook or introducing the latest product design to colleagues with an exact visual representation of the prototype.

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To date, most AR has required a "third eye" (cell phones or glasses) to view the world through in order to overlay digital information. Cell phones are an easy first use case, as most people have one in their hand 24/7. Nokia released its LiveSight back in 2012 and numerous other AR apps have been released since, from IKEA’s app that let’s you see its furniture in your home, to Anatomy 4D, which allows viewers to see and interact with body parts.

Then there are the major players that have released their beta glasses versions including Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens. Most consumers have been disappointed by the experience, but it is just the beginning and everyone is in the race to become the standard platform. This is why many thought Microsoft purchased Nokia, but this year, Microsoft officially declared it a loss, recording a charge of $7.5 billion in its phone hardware segment.

Leap Motion is the sleeping giant to consider. While it remains in stealth mode on most projects, it envisions a glasses-less future where images are projected directly onto an individual’s eyes, rendering all displays a thing of the past. Publicly it has also made great strides in the interactivity of AR. The Leap Motion Controller senses how a person naturally moves their hands and translates it into the digital world so you can move and shape the VR and AR space. Imagine looking down the street to see restaurant names with yelp reviews and waving your hand to get rid of anything with less than four stars.

Within the AR space there are two groups that currently do not require wearables - cell phones and holograms. The industry today defines holograms as digital images displayed in the real world. This includes holographic projection, which is a 2D image projected on a clear screen that appears 3D as well as a traditional 3D hologram, a 3D image formed by the interference of light beams from a laser similar to Princess Leia in Star Wars. Traditional 3D light projections are still very limited in size and color range, and are extremely expensive, so the majority of what people have seen to date have been holographic projections.

Although holograms are confined to a limited display area, the big benefit of holograms is that they provide a group experience; everyone can see the same thing without wearing glasses (or Leap Motion’s future implants) making them ideal for public spaces and entertainment venues.

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The few major players to date have focused on bringing the deceased back to life, but VNTANA’s expertise is in the living; connecting consumers to brands and allowing people to be multiple places at once. We are the only hologram company with interactive software allowing consumers to engage with the holograms and even see their own hologram in real-time. This has resulted in an engaging display where users are willing to share information through gamified experiences. Our current focus is on harnessing this data for brands, educators, health providers and more.

The potential applications for AR are endless, and we expect to see market leaders begin to gain traction and give us our first glimpse into the way AR will change our lives. 2016 promises to be an exciting year for the AR space and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.

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