AR refers to the use of display technologies, usually embedded in smart glasses, to overlay digital information and virtual objects onto a user's view of the real world. AR is part of a broader extended reality (XR) ecosystem1 but its blending of real and virtual makes it qualitatively different and more impactful from other XR technologies like virtual reality and telepresence. The technology is already finding applications in education,2 workplace training,3 and industry.4 In combination with data streams from the expanding Internet of Things,5 AR will create an intuitive new layer of information for workers — allowing them to easily and continuously check the status of industrial processes, for example, or providing navigation tools when operating in unfamiliar surroundings.
The ultimate promise of AR is a fundamental transition in the way people interact with computers. Everything people currently use their smartphones for may eventually be beamed directly onto AR glasses that augment their field of view. These glasses can provide an always-on overlay of digital information, mediated by AI that personalises what is displayed to the user's needs. As hardware improves it could also become possible to seamlessly switch between augmented and virtual reality, opening a door to the “Metaverse”, which — despite the hype — should be taken seriously as a likely future phenomenon.6 The blurring of the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds that this entails holds unknown and potentially enormous implications for society.
Selection of GESDA best reads and further key reports
In February 2023, a team at Cleveland State University published Towards an Evolved Immersive Experience: Exploring 5G- and Beyond-Enabled Ultra-Low-Latency Communications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, which investigates the potential of 5G and Beyond (5GB) technology in refining augmented and virtual reality experiences, emphasising the importance of ultra-low-latency. A publication from May 2023, The persuasion effects of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) video advertisements: A conceptual review, published in the Journal of Business Research, offers a pioneering model to decipher consumer persuasion dynamics in VR and AR advertisements. Lastly, a seminal paper titled Extended depth of field in augmented reality, unveiled in a May 2023 Nature article by three South Korean researchers, presents a novel optical structure for 3D displays, aimed at revolutionising the clarity of augmented reality experiences.