How smart are smartphones really making us? If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that our mobile phones are more for entertainment and efficient communications, and less about actually being used to make ourselves smarter. Thanks to augmented reality technology becoming more accessible, perhaps smartphones will one day live up to their name.
If you’ve not yet heard of AR technology or experienced it, don’t worry, you will. Wikipedia defines AR technology as:
A live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.
One example of AR technology that you might be familiar with comes from sports broadcasts. When watching a football game on your television, you will notice lines and arrows on the field that are generated by a computer for the viewers at home.
These lines aren’t actually on the field, which might come as a bit of a shocker for a viewer who doesn’t know about this trick. They will be quite puzzled as to where these lines are when they go to attend a live game.
You can imagine just how far-reaching and fantastic the ramifications are for this technology. Due to our mobile devices primarily being used for entertainment purposes, it’s easy to let our imaginations run wild concerning all the different ways AR technology can be used to entertain us, and even market our businesses.
For example, think for a moment how intense video gaming would be if we played, not in a computer-generated world on our televisions, but in the real world with elements from the game interacting with our physical surroundings which we would access via portable headset. To give you an idea of what we’re talking about, check out this trailer for Microsoft’s AR technology project, HoloLens:
Pretty cool, right? Believe it or not, variations of AR technology can already be found on the consumer market, but it’s availability is still limited.
However, for the purpose of this article, we want to think beyond entertainment. Instead, think for a moment about real-world applications of this technology when it comes to education. By downloading an AR technology-enabled app, users will be able to learn in a much more dynamic way than simply watching a video tutorial (which is the current preferred way to learn a new skill by many of today’s computer users).
Consider this fascinating example; what if you need to make an engine repair on your car, but you’re in no way shape or form a mechanic? Theoretically, it will one day be possible to download an AR app designed for your vehicle’s make and model, and then simply point your mobile device at your car’s engine and follow directions. Thanks to the wonders of AR technology, arrows will appear on the screen directing you to which parts you’ll need to remove and install next. Technology like this will allow you to easily make needed repairs on your own, without having to spend years training as an auto mechanic.
So far, the best delivery systems we’ve seen in AR tech involves special glasses, like Google Glass. Despite technology like Glass receiving a lot of attention, it fizzled after its premiere, due perhaps to its steep price tag and social stigma stemming from privacy concerns. As it stands, the most realistic way for AR technology to catch on is to make it available on a platform that’s already being widely used by consumers (instead of requiring consumers to shell out extra money for a standalone device).
If technology like this were available on our smartphones, then maybe our phones will actually make us smarter, and thus, deserve to finally be called smartphones.