Pokemon Go is not real AR, and AR is not a gimmick

By : 0 Whether it is VR, games launched too soon, or fears that are accompanying what lies on the shelves of AR; a lot has inappropriately colored the perception of AR. Here’s what a futurist lets on

Pratima H

INDIA: In the run-up to TEDx Gateway 2016 happening on 4th December, 2016 at NCPA, Mumbai; Florian Radke, Augmented Reality Futurist, is capturing a lot of curiosity stirring in a realm that is still fuzzy, surreal and almost fiction-like.

With roots in Berlin, Germany and footprints all across the globe as a brand marketing and communications expert who has worked with iconic brands such as Nike, Heineken, MTV, Warner Music, Sixt, T-Mobile, and Apple (not to forget – also some award-winning campaigns for PETA); Radke must have seen this new whirlwind coming in some way.

Currently perched in the San Francisco Bay Area at Meta, an augmented reality (AR) company; Radke strongly feels that humans have always learned best through experience in the natural world. He espouses that the stunning promise of augmented reality lies in the possibility that suddenly we will be able to interact and emotionally connect with anything we can imagine in a hands-on, three-dimensional environment.

We caught up with him and he helped us catch up on what AR is actually about, why Pokemon Go is not a good example to start with, why Meta is better than Google/Apple/Facebook; and why almost every industry would feel the turbulence that AR is evoking?

What’s AR’s actual scope and implications beyond the hype and buzz it has created?

AR – especially as Meta views it – has far more potential than has yet been achieved. This potential will be seen, not in games like Pokemon Go, but in productivity-enhancing apps which allow knowledge workers to more effectively create, collaborate and communicate. That is where Meta is focused: on this area where AR will really prove its worth.

What’s exciting about Augmented Reality for you? What game-changing ripples is it causing/will trigger? In what areas of human existence, branding, consumer-lifestyle and industries?

AR is the Next Big Thing and I’m personally thrilled to be part of the team that is creating the most sophisticated, productivity-oriented AR technology out there. Once it is in broader adoption later in 2017, Meta’s AR – focusing on creating, communicating and collaborating – will quickly change the way knowledge workers work, what they can create, and how their creations will impact the rest of us. There is not any industry that won’t feel the beneficial impact of Meta’s AR.

Why, or why not, is it being used as a gimmick, a bell, a whistle instead of something deep-cutting?

AR is currently a bit of a gimmick, but many new technologies tend to appear first as a gimmick. An example can be found in 3D movies: those created in the 50s were silly novelties compared to 3D Imax films being produced and released today that help people better experience the world.

While there are many other examples of early-adopter technology that has started as more gimmick than productive tool, those tech-innovations which prove real value in the marketplace are rapidly accepted and improved upon. Ironically, it is very possible that the next iteration of 3D films will involve sophisticated AR technologies to deliver even more sophisticated viewer engagement, but that technology has yet to be created.

Anything that you can pick when it comes to what others like Samsung, Apple, Hololens, Google are doing right or wrong with AR?

Meta has a superior technology, one that was created right ‘out of the box’ to provide sophisticated productivity technology aimed at knowledge workers. We know precisely who we are and that other companies choose to have different goals, different target markets and different ways of executing their technologies to achieve those goals.

Any comments on the confusion between Augmented Reality and VR that still lurks around?

This is an important question. While some media experts, analysts and commentators are finally properly defining VR as a total-immersion experience while AR keeps users connected to the real world, that understanding has not percolated down to many of the less technologically-sophisticated reporters and their audiences. Making use of blogs, press outreach and other communications technologies, Meta works hard to help people see the difference.

Does something concern you on the flip side – data sensitivity, displacement, training, dependence on hardware, screen-size limitations, CPU/GPU constraints, form factors, hepatics etc.?

We are standing at the arrival gate of AR flanked with problems already – Pokemon-bracket of issues around reduced human interaction, accident-prone technology, a more-delusional world with possibility of manipulation, a heavily-isolated and commerce-driven environment etc. – aren’t we?

Frankly, almost none of those concerns is – at this point – anything more than the fears of those who really fail to understand AR technology. Unfortunately, Pokemon Go was a very poor example of an immature technology that was not well thought-out before it appeared in the marketplace. Because it captured so much attention, it inappropriately colored the perception of AR among the media and the public.

When the media and the public see and try Meta, they will realize that those concerns you mentioned are not real. While the current technology requires a powerful computer, such computers are easy to come by – most technology companies use such equipment now, and will continue to do so in the future.

What about safety and commercial shadows?

As for accident-prone technology, no responsible AR tech manufacturer will create that risk.

Finally, as far as a commerce-driven environment, in decades past, nay-sayers raised such alarms with every new evolution of communications-focused technology. Recall, for instance, the “fears” about the commercial use of texts – fears that didn’t come to pass, if only because consumers were far too savvy to put up with such intrusions.

AR is at the threshold of widespread adoption, but let me be clear: the tech that becomes adopted will be highly-sophisticated and developed to sidestep all of the concerns you mentioned. Meta is in the forefront of this sophisticated, safe-to-use technology development.

Can we expect interesting examples of human empowerment or addressing disablement with AR?

When deployed, everyone in the AR chain will be empowered, from the app developers to the companies that embrace AR technology to the workers themselves. Everyone will be inspired to look at things in very different and more productive ways and will be provided the tools to make it happen.