Early Augmented Reality Will Be More Practical Than Futuristic

August 21, 2014

9:27 am

While the average guy expects “mainstream” augmented reality to be the stuff of science fiction books or movies, some industry experts think the reality of AR's first big step might be more mundane than mainstream.

According to Pete Wassell, CEO and founder of Augmate, which connects databases and software to digital eyewear, current AR technology isn’t ready to offer everyone a customized visual version of their own world. In fact, the first step might even be a bit more “blue collar” than what most people expect.

“Our solutions are for ‘deskless' workers, the warehouse worker, the guy on the assembly line or construction site. People who traditionally didn't have access to that type of (database) information. There’s upwards of a 30 percent efficiency increase in time on task when information is in your field of view.”


“If you don't have to reference a manual or laptop, and you have that database information or instructions in your field of view, there's an obvious time-on-task efficiency,” Wassell noted. Working efficiency is an advantage that Augmate hopes to capitalize on in the burgeoning AR market.

As shown in the example video below, an order picker can be presented with a field-of-view order system with several items to pull within a warehouse.

“That worker can get a map of where those items are and then pick up each one of those items and scan a bar code to insure there's a one-to-one match. So there's not only an efficiency, but also an order accuracy aspect,” Wassell added.

Another company that's putting a utilitarian spin on the evolution of augmented reality is Hyperlayer, a cloud-based open source distributed framework application combining cloud computing, facial recognition, and next-generation mobile devices for use in public safety, geomapping, consumer research, and more.

Like Pete Wassell at Augmate, Hyperlayer cofounder Dan Lipert has his own specific vision for the potential of AR.

“To me, augmented reality is the merging of digital data layers with geolocations, with all kinds of information that’s contextual to the physical environment, merging that with actual real-life experiences,” Lipert notes.

To that end, the Hyperlayer team is working on putting their application to work in the retail environment using external cameras, facial recognition, and head pose algorithms to analyze how a shopper reacts both within his or her environment and with the elements in the environment.

We use facial recognition and head pose estimation to understand what it is the shopper is looking at. We combine the data, the head pose estimation, the location of all the shoppers, then using a device like Oculus Rift, you can have a virtual real tour of someone else’s shopping experience,” Lipert said.

Another potential use of Hyperlayer's AR technology is a facial recognition-powered Facebook app. Upon seeing a friend walking by, an AR headset wearer could see that friend's Facebook profile pop up along with their publicly posted information. But that's just the beginning, added Hyperlayer cofounder William Weinstein.

“If you combine that with a law enforcement database, the same application has a totally different use. If we’re walking around streaming videos running all these facial recognition algorithms, we can do all kinds of amazing things, such as find missing children and find people who have warrants out for their arrest,” he noted.

While the functionality of augmented reality is still in its infancy, Augmate and Hyperlayer have shown that those first baby steps might be more workplace uses than wow factors. But stay tuned, because AR's next step could be one giant leap into yet another world.

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Daniel Faggella is a graduate from UPENN's applied positive psychology master's degree program, and entrepreneur. After selling his first business at the age of 25, Daniel founded, the only news and advice website specifically for entrepreneurs and investors at the crossroads of Technology and Psychology, particularly brain-machine interface.