Lens and the Virtuality Continuum

Augmented reality (AR) has been getting a lot of media attention over the past year with the release of Pokemon Go and the emergence of Snapchat. Yesterday, AR took another important step forward when Google announced the release of Lens.

Lens can process elements within the view of a camera and provide useful information to the user for action. Two examples given during the demo were providing the ratings of restaurants and the identification of a flower. Although this technology already existed in smaller Google applications (Google Translate), it is promising to see Google continue to improve and expand its capabilities.

Augmented reality is a region within the virtuality continuum. At the extremes of the virtuality continuum are the real environment and the virtual environment. Everything in between is referred to as mixed reality – the merging of the real and virtual world’s. Mixed Reality can either be mostly real (augmented reality) or mostly virtual (augmented virtuality).

VirtualityContinuum

In the near future, most people in the developed world will spend very little time within the purely real environment. I, along with many others like Apple CEO Tim Cook, am of the belief that applications closer to augmented reality on the virtuality continuum provide much greater functional and commercial promise than those closer to the purely virtual environment. Virtual reality (think Oculus) will have very exciting and useful applications in areas like education and entertainment, but mixed reality will have a much more profound impact on humanity. In fact, very soon, I suspect we will see smartphones replaced by MR enabled glasses (think Hololens).