Home Augmented Reality’s Next Steps: Sitting Down with the Titans of AR

Augmented Reality’s Next Steps: Sitting Down with the Titans of AR

Last week in Santa Clara, California, luminaries from the augmented reality industry gathered for Augmented Reality Event 2010 – a conference focused on the business of AR. The two-day event was a great success filled with eye-opening sessions about AR and its possibilities for the future. Fortunately I had the chance to sit down one-on-one with two of the biggest names in the space – leaders of a pair of companies some refer to as “the titans of AR.”

In two separate interviews, I chatted with Bruno Uzzan, CEO of Total Immersion, and Peter Meier, co-founder and CTO of metaio – two of the leading forward-thinking AR experts from two of the largest AR vendors in the world. Our conversations focused on standardization, and how to continue to bring useful experiences to consumers from now on into the future – hot topics of discussion at ARE 2010.

Bruno Uzzan – Standards Pave the Way

By far the most frequent topic of discussion at ARE 2010 was the idea that standards need to be set to help AR break-out of its emerging-tech shell and blossom into a fully functioning industry. In his opening keynote at the conference, AR evangelist Bruce Sterling suggested the industry is at “9 a.m.”, a play on his earlier speech a year ago – “At the Dawn of the Augmented Reality Industry.” As he then added, perhaps AR “needs some caffeine.”

If Bruno Uzzan has anything to say about it (and he certainly does), the caffeine the industry needs is standardization. During his keynote at the event, Uzzan introduced what he calls “a good first step” towards the introduction and adoption of industry-wide standards – a standardized black-and-white packaging logo that communicates to customers if devices or experiences are “AR ready.”

But as Uzzan said, a logo is just a solid first-step on the road to standardization. The other steps he pictures helping the industry reach this point include interoperability and quality control. While most AR vendors are working on their own proprietary platforms, they are all pretty similar, so Uzzan suggests the various vendors sit down together and talk about better communication between these platforms.

Some have suggested the introduction of a standard augmented reality markup language (ARML), which would make platform compatibility as simple as browser compatibility. Uzzan believes this to be a lofty goal, however, since these platforms have been under development for some time now and getting everyone to switch to a new language would be difficult.

Instead, says Uzzan, quality control should emerge as the result of standardizing the various technologies embedded into AR experiences. From image recognition technology, to marker and markerless tracking, and to computer vision, user experience and product quality will benefit from the standardization of these technologies. AR is mature enough, says Uzzan, and the time for standards is now if these small firms want to survive against larger players when they inevitably enter the game.

Peter Meier – Reaching Consumers is Key

Peter Meier largely agrees with Uzzan on the issues surrounding standardization, and says his company, metaio, will participate in helping to establish these standards. But Meier has a bit of a different approach beyond standards to how AR can continue to succeed in the future. He compares AR to the invention of the motion picture and says the industry is at the point right now where the novelty of simply showing anything is wearing off.

“The first movies that ran could show anything, like an elephant in the zoo,” Meier said. “100 years ago it wasn’t about the elephant, it was ‘that thing is moving!’ Eventually it became more about the content, and AR is headed the same way. AR is successful when you start creating great content and making content that is special.”

One way Meier and metaio are attempting to create special content for consumers is by focusing on current customer habits and aiming their products to be used where people are already spending their time. At the start of the conference, metaio launched a new initiative that it calls Glue, which introduced the first image-tracking technology to a mobile AR browser. Now when a user accesses special channels on the company’s junaio browser, pointing their device at special real-world triggers will launch 3D interactive experiences that are “glued” to the trigger.

The interesting part about Glue is not the technology itself – experiences like these have existed on desktop platforms and on mobile devices in the past. What makes Glue unique is that it’s a mobile experience meant to be used indoors. Meier says this is a deliberate attempt to reach users where they spend the majority of their time.

“AR is super cool but not enough to change peoples habits – people aren’t gonna go outdoors more,” says Meier. “Brand experiences are where the money is – sitting on a couch in a warm living room where no one is watching you hold your phone up.”

Meier says he hopes one day kids eating breakfast will beg their moms to let them use the phone to see that day’s interactive cartoon message from the colorful characters on their favorite box of cereal. Why cereal? Because people sit down to eat breakfast every single day, and they don’t have to go out of their way and break with routine in order to enjoy a fun AR experience. Reaching the customer where they already spend their time is a main goal of metaio going forward, says Meier.

What to Watch For

As AR matures into its young-adulthood, users should expect to see more practical applications of the technology and less eye-grabbing gimmicky experiences. The tone around the sessions at ARE 2010 was one that seemed highly in favor of weeding out the gimmicks and finding the truly unique and innovative uses of augmented reality. We have highlighted some of them recently, and plan to talk about more in the near future.

I would also expect to see much more competition heat up in the mobile AR browser space as large players like Layar, junaio and Wikitude battle for features. Meier says junaio will soon launch its own store for buying and selling AR experiences, much like the one launched recently by Layar. Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald, co-founder of Layar, says the company is preparing another large announcement at their anniversary event later this month.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.