Are Augmented Reality phones closer than we think?

The idea of a completely clear phone that you can look through and which projects data onto the world that you see through it’s lens is not completely sci-fi when you think about what we’ve seen already with products like Google Glass, and the upcoming Microsoft Hololens. Google Glass was not true augmented reality though, as it presented data to you in a screen to the side of your vision, and not presenting images blended into your normal field of view.

Oculus has been paving the way for the past few years with the development of their VR headset, recently being released in March this year (2016) after the company was bought by Facebook for a staggering $2bn. Clearly, there’s serious interest in the technology and application of VR. There’s been a number of different phone related VR headsets, like Samsung’s Gear VR developed by Oculus, the HTC Vive, and others. The upcoming launch of the Playstation VR headset set for October 13 could be the one that bring’s VR to the masses. At $399 (but requiring a PS4 console), riding on the Sony and Playstation brand this could bring VR into many households this holiday season.

A couple of stories recently caught my attention. Robert Scoble has recently been tweeting about an Apple patent for a completely transparent phone, a solid piece of glass, with the electronics tucked into a narrow strip a the bottom. The patent is from 2014,  but he makes some guesses in his longer post on Medium about where he thinks Apple are heading with this. Based on discussions with hardware and material suppliers he draws some conclusions about what he thinks Apple are planning. He also thinks a device using this technology might be coming much sooner than we think, as soon as September 2017. I won’t summarize everything he covers in his article, you can read it for yourself, but he does paint an interesting picture of the possibility of a tech giant like Apple making a serious move in the AR/VR space. Could Apple be about to bring this technology to everyday consumers, like they did for portable music players and the smartphone? Time will tell.

The second story from earlier this year is the $780m in funding raised by Magic Leap, a company developing AR related technology. Google is also behind $542m of this funding. What’s interesting about Magic Leap is that they’ve been largely off the radar, but have apparently developed a technique of realistically presenting images directly into the user’s field of view. They don’t yet have a beta product, and whatever they have in the works is being kept under wraps. Whatever they have, there’s definitely significant movement and growing interest in this space right now, it will be interesting to see where they’re going.

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