Augmented Reality (AR) places digital images and sounds above the real world, blending virtual and reality. Continuous augmented reality extends the existence of AR content beyond the time of its use, giving it a permanent place in the world.
AR cloud or spatial web
Imagine that the real world has a digital twin. For each physical location on Earth, there is a corresponding virtual map superimposed on the real world. This map is kept in the cloud and anyone with a network connection can access that data.
This is an AR cloud or “spatial network”. This means that any device with the right hardware and software can see this world of augmented reality. Different users can share the experience and see the same things happen in real time.
Of course, there can be multiple AR clouds belonging to different hosts. It’s like adding multiple dimensions to the real world, letting you switch between them.
Fixed AR objects
Cloud AR and the idea of spatial web are different from another type of augmented reality sometimes referred to as “continuous”. The other kind of persistence simply means that if you look away from an AR object, such as a virtual screen on a wall, it will still be there when you look back. This kind of AR object persistence is a core feature of mobile AR APIs (application programming interfaces) such as Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore.
What makes it even more confusing is that Cloud AR applications that are part of the spatial web also use this local type of persistence, but they are different concepts. One is about mapping and tracking the local space a user is in and the other is about keeping a record of real-world spaces and mapping them to AR content, and then making that information available online.
Continuous AR and Metaverse
The word “metaverse” has been popping up frequently these days, with the support of companies like Facebook, which have decided to rebrand themselves as “Meta” to show that their focus is now on building these metaverses.
The classic idea of metaverses, according to fantasy images such as snow crash And the One ready player, is a virtual reality (VR) world in which the user is completely immersed. You escape from the real world completely, instead of seeing the content of the virtual world merge with the real world.
This has the same basic problem of virtual reality as a whole when it comes to adoption. By making the experience a separate experience that people have to consciously turn on or off, it makes it difficult to become a part of everyday life. People can easily switch between checking out their digital lives and getting involved in the real world.
The metaverse accessed through augmented or mixed reality can become a part of everyday life in a way that virtual reality cannot match. The real world becomes metaverse-enhanced, rather than asking people to escape reality to visit the metaverse region.
The end of the screens (and more)?
If the world has a spatial grid or augmented reality content that everyone can constantly experience at the same time, why do you need separate screens? You get virtual displays that anyone wearing mixed reality glasses can see. No matter how far headphone technology needs to progress to match the technical quality of our displays, assuming we match or exceed that, we may be headed for a screenless world.
More radically, other mainstays of modern life may also move into the spatial cloud. Why do you have giant billboards or physical ads? Why do you paint or decorate anything? Do we still need to build physical art installations? Think of anything in the real world today that has only been seen and never touched, likely to be replaced by continuous augmented reality.
The world of the future might look very nice to anyone who doesn’t wear a pair of augmented reality glasses (or eventually implants) but it could look like something out of the box. Blade Runner or Cyberpunk 2077 movie when you wear it.
We also don’t have to share the same AR worlds. Different people may have different aesthetic preferences for their environments, and continuous augmented reality allows for customization of the user experience.
Does continuous augmented reality have downsides?
Think about this: Everyone has one or more GPS devices with them these days, but you can still buy a paper map at a gas station. No digital technology can promise 100% uptime and nothing can be left to chance. It is therefore likely that hazard signs, navigational road signs, and other mission-critical visual elements will always remain physical or have a physical backup option.
There is also a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that humans exploring the spatial network can do so safely. You don’t want people to think that the real object is virtual or vice versa!
Continuous augmented reality has the potential to cause more disruption than any of the big web technologies we’ve tested so far, but there’s no doubt it will be interesting!
Related: Best Augmented Reality Apps for iPhone and Android