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5 developments shaping the future of augmented reality

Balti Virtual CEO Will Gee shares AR highlights from the Augmented World Expo and WWDC.

Apple rolls out new tools and features at WWDC. (Photo by Flickr user Marc Nijdam, used under a Creative Commons license)
This is a guest post by Will Gee, CEO of AR/VR studio Balti Virtual. It was adopted from a post that originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Between the 9th annual Augmented World Expo (AWE) in Santa Clara, and Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, there’s been a series of exciting new developments in the augmented reality space over the last month.
Let’s take a look:

Augmented World Expo

AWE has grown from a small gathering of hackers and hopeful cyborgs to a bustling event with large corporate sponsors and an ever-expanding array of talks and demonstrations. The show features a wide range of technologies from practical, “useful-right-now” applications to futuristic “moonshots”.
Practically Magic
On the practical end of things, there was a lot of focus on enterprise use cases for headsets. These range from monocular video screens (think Google Glass) to form factors that are beginning to approach the dream of “normal glasses” sized AR headsets (and a lot in between).
The monocular devices provide a simple (and hands-free) way for a technician to access product manuals. Many even allow an expert to virtually “look through their eyes” by sharing the headset’s video feed to help with tricky problems.
The advanced headsets allow for richer and more immersive experiences. For example, ODG showed a project with FedEx to help pilots virtually see through smoke in emergency landings.
Partly Cloudy
One of the major themes of this year’s show was the “AR Cloud,” a term coined by AWE cofounder Ori Inbar.
Aside from being a catchy sounding mashup of two technical terms, the AR Cloud represents the idea that augmented reality is evolving from a single-user experience into a shared digital layer on top of the physical world.
At AWE, there were a number of companies tackling pieces of this enormous project. From recognizing places and things, to providing easy ways for users to share content and experiences across devices, large and small teams are working hard on the AR Cloud.

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

In San Jose, Apple spent a good bit of time highlighting AR specific innovations in its latest mobile operating system, iOS 12.
Among these were several steps towards making the AR Cloud a reality.
One of the most interesting demos featured the expanded “ARKit 2” SDK, which can enable two or more users to interact in AR, specifically making use of a new “ARWorldMap” that allows each player’s device to understand exactly where it is in relation to other players.
Think of it as the early stages of a very precise GPS, using a device’s camera and other sensors to pinpoint exactly where the device is located and in what direction it is pointed.
In addition to the world map and multi-user features, Apple unveiled new OS-wide support for AR content in the form of a new file format developed with Pixar. This will enable AR models and animations to be embedded in texts, emails, websites, and more.
It’s not currently clear what level of interactivity Apple has planned for this format (the demos were mostly simple animations), but it’s an exciting step towards low-friction mass adoption of AR.
All in all, it was a pretty wild few days for AR, with a series of big and small players making strides towards delivering the next great computing platform.

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