Beyond Voice: Augmented Reality

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This is the sixth and final part in a series where we’ll discuss the user interface in the home and where it’s going. This series is based on the talk we gave at CEDIA 2016. You can watch the live talk here.

When designing the interface for the home, we want to come up with a solution that is natural and intuitive. In our previous posts, we’ve talked about how other technologies show a lot of promise help deliver on that experience. The last technology we want to talk about is augmented reality. Augmented reality is probably one of my favorite technologies included in this list because it exists right around us in our everyday world, and it does not require expensive hardware.

Augmented reality is already here, and you probably already use it without realizing you do. Have you ever used a digital switch instead of a physical switch? Have you ever used a music player on an iPad instead of using a dedicated music player? This is augmented reality, and the idea is that we can have augmented digital stuff popping up around us.

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Augmented reality through an iPad (photo credit)

For example, let’s say you want to watch the Super Bowl game. Through augmented reality, you don’t actually need a physical screen, but instead you can just have the channel “floating” around wherever you look. Right now, Microsoft is doing the biggest work in augmented reality with a product called Hololens (which is incredible if you get a chance to check it out).

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Hololens from Microsoft (photo credit)

From a hardware perspective, augmented reality right now requires some sort of glasses, goggles, or mobile device that can project images into the world around you when you look through them. As the hologram technology evolves, augmented reality might be something that can be projected or displayed around the home in some other way. Regardless of the display method, augmented reality will change the way that we live. A great example is conferencing. You can be in a conference room, alone, and augment a whole group of people so you feel like you’re all together.

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Pokemon Go, and its augmented reality interface, took the mobile gaming world by storm last year (photo credit)

Augmented reality is coming along very quickly. The technology is not ten or twenty years out. It’s here today, and I think we’re going to start seeing it in the home very soon.

It is an exciting time for technology in the home. What should we expect to actually see on the market though? One of my favorite quotes to wrap up a discussion like this is one from the New York Times. It says in the next three years, we’re unlikely to see the innovation and radical change we’re expecting. Once innovation happens, lots of things need to happen before it will get adopted and really make an impact. You have to work through productizing the innovation and figure out how to get it to market, which includes considering regulation and working with current market players. So, in the short term — the next three years — things tend to move a lot slower than we expect.

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In ten years, however, things move a lot faster than we expect. Take, for example, the idea of autonomous vehicles and driverless cars. This is something that, in the next three years, we don’t really see as a technology that is ready to be rolled out on a mass level. Sure, we will hear about the technology being tested and implemented in small test scenarios, but a lot of work needs to be done to actually bring it to market. For example, regulators will need to be involved to certify that this technology, and the way it is implemented, is safe for public consumption. On the other hand, if we look at what can happen in ten years, there’s rarely a feature in automotive technology that doesn’t involve this innovation as part the conversation.

So, as we look back at all of these technologies, from AI and gesture recognition to image recognition and virtual reality, one common theme emerges: NOUI. When we think about offering solutions to consumers we should always remember to design for the user. We should always strive to make the interfaces and overall experience as natural as possible. Sometimes voice helps to achieve this, sometimes gesture recognition will help, or maybe sometimes just having sensors around to automatically react to movement will deliver the experience.

As exciting as the promise of what all this new technology will bring is, keep in mind that, in the short term at least, the current technology isn’t going away. We’re not going to get rid of physical switches. We’re not going to get rid of digital switches. We’re not going to get rid of voice. We can still find creative ways to use what we have to deliver fantastic experiences. There isn’t one technology that will be the ultimate standalone solution. The best solution is going to be an AND — voice and switches and sensors and remotes. All of these technologies will work together to deliver the experiences worth getting excited about.

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This was written by Alex Capecelatro, Co-Founder & CEO of Josh.ai. Previously, Alex was a research scientist for NASA, Sandia National Lab, and the NRL. Before that, Alex worked at Fisker Automotive and founded At The Pool and Yeti. Alex has an engineering degree from UCLA, lives in LA, and likes to tweet about AI, Startups, and Design.

Josh.ai is an artificial intelligence agent for your home. If you’re interested in learning more, visit us at https://josh.ai.

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