2016: The Year of AR, VR and AI

It’s quite amazing to see how technology raises the bar for itself. A science project or a novelty item at any given instance might just become the next big thing in the world of technology. A seemingly mundane possibility today can become the trending gadget of tomorrow.

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As we step into a new year, we look back and see all the technical advancements that have occurred in 2015. We’d say 2015 was the year of the sensor, since we saw sensors aplenty in a plethora of devices – smartphones (as fingerprint readers) and wearables (fitness, sleep and other trackers) being the most notable of these devices that I’m referring to.

Looking forward, we expect 2016 to be the year of new experiences, rather than new products. 2016 will be all about distorting the realms of physical reality and the digital world as we know it. 2016 will undoubtedly be about the fields of virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence – gadgets will become smarter, and there will be groundbreaking innovations in the fields of entertainment and gaming.

VR: From Virtual, to reality in 2016

2015 saw the widespread propagation of the concepts associated with virtual reality. An impetus was seen through the efforts of both headset manufacturers and content developers alike, and the onus was now on developing engaging content which would radically change the way a person experiences digital entertainment.

Products which were popularized in 2015 included the likes of the Gear VR headset and the Oculus VR headset, and in a way they are both quite varied, yet interesting devices. While the Gear VR relies on the presence of a smartphone within the headset to showcase the content, the Oculus headset has its own display inbuilt within the headset.

We’ve also seen improvements in the form of the content being offered. Content for virtual reality headsets have gone beyond the realm of shoddy graphics and laggy transitions and have evolved into more seamless, immersive experiences. Be it in the form of an Oculus application which puts the user in the feet of the first astronaut, to sitting in a virtual roller-coaster ride around an every-day living room – the content being offered today is innovative and at the same time simple to an extent where the user can truly enjoy the experience.

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One probably might think that Virtual Reality is a fad that is limited to either developers or enthusiasts who can shell out a lot of money. It’s not so. Google has demonstrated to the world how an inexpensive virtual reality headset can be easily created out of an old carton and a pair of lenses, and lo and behold, the Google Cardboard is born.

2015 saw the Google Cardboard grow too, mainly because of the Google Jump platform. Jump is an interesting rig consisting of sixteen GoPros assembled in a circular array, which can simultaneously record video in all directions. Through a complex stitching algorithm, the photos and videos beautifully join the fabric of each other to give life to a riveting experience like none other.

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And content? 2015 also marked the year 360 degree videos became popular on YouTube and Facebook. Even without headsets, content could be enjoyed on a smartphone, owing to the gyroscope and accelerometer panning out the video in 360 degrees.

In 2016, things will be getting bigger and better. Oculus is expected to launch the consumer edition of their Rift headset in Q1 2016. Sony’s PlayStation VR will be seeing the light of day too around the same time. HTC’s Vive headset, made in collaboration with SteamVR for providing exclusive games to the platform, will be launched (hopefully) in April 2016.

So, to wrap things up, where do we expect to see developments being made?

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1. Headset Technology:

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Better displays, faster processors, more ergonomic designs and better response to the user’s movements.

  1. Camera Technology:

High definition content, real-time streaming.

  1. Improved Content:

Better graphic engines enabling high end content.

In fact, here is a statistic showing the number of active VR users worldwide over the years. It is estimated that this year the number of users will jump to about 43 million users worldwide, which amounts to a revenue of $3.8 bn (Source: KZero).

findyogi_number_of_Active_vr_users_worldwide

And these developments might not just be restricted to the gaming or entertainment sector. We predict that virtual reality be integral aspects of simulation training for racecar drivers, astronauts and even pilots. The possibilities are endless, and 2016 will see the birth of more avenues for development – be it for hardware developers or content creators – in the mainstream VR space.

Augmented Reality in 2016

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

  • Queen, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Augmented reality can be quite sufficiently summed up in the above lines from Bohemian Rhapsody, and the primary reason is that augmented reality actually enables the user to interact with physical objects in his/her presence, with the additional content being provided in the form of AR.

The most notable example of an Augmented Reality headset until now has been the hallowed Google Glass, but it was sadly short lived.

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While there haven’t been any significant launches in 2015 as far as augmented reality is concerned, it would be wrong to say that there hasn’t been any significant activity in this sector. For instance, there’s Magic Leap – a US based startup which demonstrated a three dimensional spatial mapping system, with real objects interacting with virtual graphical images. In December, the company received their Series C funding to the tune of $827 million, which raised the valuation of the company to $3.7 billion.

And of course, there’s the upcoming attraction from Microsoft in the AR field – the HoloLens. Making use of holographic APIs to enable users to virtually (and physically!) interact with their computers, HoloLens is the next big thing in AR that is stated to launch in Q1 2016.

2016 will also see the launches of ASUS’s own augmented reality headset, with the company’s top honcho Jerry Shen stating that AR would be very important for people’s lives. Perhaps the biggest name that we’ll be seeing in this sector will be that of Apple, which is expected to venture out into the AR space through organic and acquisitive means in 2016, according to Daniel Ives of FBR & Co.

In fact, if you go over the recent acquisitions of Apple, you’ll see quite a few striking similarities:

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Moreover, Apple has a wide variety of patents in the field of AR, including transparent displays and iPhone powered virtual displays. AR is definitely a long term project for Apple in the consumer space.

So, the million dollar question, why Augmented Reality?

AR is a sector that doesn’t just limit itself to mere entertainment or gaming; useful applications can be designed around the principle of AR. For example, Nokia’s City Lens was an example of navigating through new places using AR. AR could also be used in fields such as medicine, where vital stats can be shown up on a heads-up-display while the surgery is taking place (this has actually been demonstrated with the use of the Google Glass).

With so many active developments in 2015, and scheduled launches in 2016, one thing is for sure: AR will step into the mainstream consumer electronic space very soon.

Artificial Intelligence in 2016

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When it comes to the software side of processing things, there will be quite a few improvements. 2015 already saw contextual voice assistants such as Google Now and Siri improving by leaps and bounds – while Google Now evolved into Now on Tap in Android Marshmallow and could be called up on any screen, Siri got a contextual makeover and could identify multi-dimensional commands and provide location specific results.

As far as artificial intelligence is concerned, it will make its presence felt in few major sectors, namely Robots, Deep Learning, Knowledge Sharing and Drones.

Robots would mainly include industrial production based robots, and maybe their evolution into other workplace robots. Through Deep Learning, they will actively learn parameters and fundamentals. Through Knowledge Sharing, they will create an ecosystem of knowledge and share data with other robots, and drones might be able to fly on their own volition to avoid obstacles and go from one place to another autonomously.

findyogi_google_Self_driving_Car

In fact, autonomous self-driving cars is actually another related area where we will see a lot of developments. Already, companies such as Google and Tesla are demonstrating the prowess of their self-driving fleet of cars, with Tesla actually developing a system wherein different cars send data to a common database, which can be accessed by all Tesla cars.

Machine learning algorithms, big data analytics and data driven decisions will incorporate artificial intelligence fundamentals into their core structures, and as a result will be vastly improved.

To Conclude

So yes, 2016 will not be the year of the mobile, or application ecosystems, or even consumer electronics. We predict that 2016 will see radical changes as far as user experiences are concerned. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will step into the space of consumer electronics to enhance and improve the life of the user.

Disclaimer: This is a guest post. The statements, opinions and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of iamwire and the editor(s).

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Cover Image Credits: Chaotic Moon

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