Are You Ready For Audio Augmented Reality?

Posted: Dec 1 2019, 12:46am CST | by , in Technology News

 

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Are you ready for Audio Augmented Reality?

From the smashing hit that was the mobile game Pokemon Go to its use by big fashion companies like Zara and Puma, AR has already seeped into our everyday lives and it’s growing with each passing week.

Yet, if you look closely, you’ll notice something that binds all of those examples together: they all are “visual” uses of augmented reality. Almost all AR-based apps superimpose some sort of digital imagery on what a camera is displaying. That way, those platforms can deliver information about what you see, add fun effects or mini-games on top of your surroundings, or aid you in some way.

However, if AR is defined as “an interactive experience of a real-world environment” where the real things around you are “enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information”, then something is missing from those examples. Though we all are primarily visual individuals, the real world has a lot more than just what we see: fragrances, sounds, noises, textures, and so on.

That’s why some businesses, organizations, and Java development companies are trying to take AR to the other senses too. And one of them is particularly closer to add itself to the whole reality augmentation phenomenon - our sense of hearing. It makes sense. We already have a ubiquitous headphone presence that is mostly fed by our smartphones. So, taking advantage of them seems natural.

It’s audio augmented reality’s turn

When Bose introduced its Bose Frames sunglasses last year, dubbed as the “world’s first audio augmented reality (AAR) platform”, a lot of people began wondering if they were just going to end up as the Google Glass. It was a surprise to learn, then, that critics loved the concept. The fact that the sunglasses looked sleek, only needed an app in your phone to work and could be commanded through head movements, voice commands, and taps proved to be a great combination.

The glasses contain sensors that detect where you are looking and play information about what you see. Thus, you could look at a restaurant and hear the daily specials, or could go walking through a street or path and hear interesting things about it. That’s not all. The glasses have lots of potential uses: as navigation systems that let you listen to the directions, as assistants that help you while you are cooking a recipe, and even as newscasts that read important news about your surroundings.

All of that sounds pretty cool, right? However, why would the Bose AR or other similar devices triumph where Google Glass couldn’t? It all depends on the context. When Glass came out, people weren’t ready for something that looked clunky and somewhat invasive. AR wasn’t a well-known technology either, and the fact that they were exorbitantly priced didn’t help, either.

Today, people have grown accustomed to talking to their devices - and to hear them talk back. The popularization of smart assistants (such as Siri or Alexa) has paved the way for audio augmented reality to be a thing. Besides, AAR doesn’t necessarily have to be tied up to a specific device in the future.

Though we are still linked to glasses and wearables, the future might hold a different thing for us. Headphones could be developed in a way that renders those glasses useless (or at least unnecessary). Apple’s AirPods or Google’s Pixel Buds Bluetooth are already showing that smarter headphones are possible, thanks to them pairing up with the respective assistants. Future versions could include sensors that could add the audio layer of augmented reality if set up in that way.

The challenges of AAR

As interesting as it all may sound, you probably can think of a couple of issues of living in a world with AAR. First and foremost, there’s a classic concern that dates back all the way to the walkman era - societal isolation. What it would be like to walk around in a city where everyone around you has some sort of talking headphones in their ears? Would it be just the same as we live today or we’ll be closer to something out of the movie Her, where we’ll establish relationships with our assistants?

Another concern involves your hearing sense. The prolonged use of headphones might have irreversible effects on you, from developing tinnitus to having hearing loss. Since AAR will live in your ears (and the hearing sense can be pretty immersive), it might possible to plug your headphones and use them all day long without even noticing it, which can surely be harmful.

Finally, there’s another concern that C#, C++, Javascript, and Java developers should take into account when developing AAR solutions - how could they all end up being used for advertisers. You surely can see it coming - using the same sensors, GPS tracking, and apps you’d use with an AAR device, businesses could target ads based on where you are walking. Can you picture yourself looking at a shop window only for a voice to start telling you what a great deal you’d get if you were to buy something there?

The concern with this last use isn’t whether it’s possible or not to carry out such targeted marketing (which is surely possible). The issue is that AAR, being at such a young age of development, is growing without a limit and could end up being a contributor to people’s noise pollution if it isn’t regulated properly.

Wrapping up

You might have reached this point in the article and think that AAR is just a matter of time. And though it certainly feels that way (thanks, in part, to the interesting experiences provided by the AAR-based solutions available today), further development is still needed. Though technologically feasible, the availability of AAR devices doesn’t guarantee success.

Getting companies, organizations, and Java development services on board to develop new apps and experiences for those devices is a must if AAR wants to prevent its fate from being the same as the Google Glass. Today’s society seems ripe for the integration of audio augmented reality and the tests seem promising. However, it’ll all depend on a collective effort, not just to bring more sophistication to AAR’s offering but also to understand and control what it all can mean in our modern society.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Manfred "Luigi" Lugmayr () is the founding Chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 25 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets, tech and online shopping. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology news and tech and toy shopping hub.
Luigi can be contacted directly at ml[@]i4u.com.

 

 

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