How Artificial Intelligence Could Boost Artificial Reality Adoption

It seems like a natural match: combining the power of AI with immersive artificial reality, which replaces the user’s vision, and augmented multimedia environments, which add to it. Yet will these mergers be enough to accelerate a market that has, to date, has proven to be something less than overwhelming?

As AI computer vision technology advances, its applications will extend into artificial reality, predicts Joseph Tou, managing director of Sony Ventures, which manages Sony’s venture investment activities. “By utilizing deep learning, computer vision systems can harness extensive datasets to enhance their object detection and recognition capabilities, achieving superior accuracy and speed,” he explains. This breakthrough, Tou notes, will generate considerable potential for AI-driven computer vision solutions. “Overall, AI tech has the opportunity to help enhance our senses, a critical element for AR adoption.”

AI is already beginning to be used to enhance AR experiences, generating a great deal of attention, particularly when applied to enhancing perception capabilities, says John Tomik, business strategist and futurist at consulting firm Slalom. “Being able to identify people, places, and things, then enhancing those recognized elements with augmented information, is a very exciting space right now,” he states. Tomik believes that airports, museums, and other public spaces will someday use the capability to deliver personally tailored useful information to visitors in a specific language.

The marriage of AI and AR isn’t just about improving existing technologies, but forging new paths of human-computer interaction, observes Shilpa Prasad, director of new ventures at LG NOVA, LG Electronics’ North America Center of Innovation.” Historically, AR has relied heavily on graphical user interfaces,” she notes. “Users would interact with these interfaces through buttons or virtual screens, replicating the experience of traditional computer interactions.” AI-driven environments would be more intuitive and natural.

AI will certainly make a big difference in AR adoption, Tomik says. “The bottleneck of content creation has hampered AR technologies and experiences, but AI can have a strong impact on overcoming this challenge,” he observes. “By folding generative AI capabilities into AR experiences, organizations will be able to move much faster.”

Possible Applications for Artificial Reality

Current applications of AI-enhanced AR are largely experiential and contextual, Tou says. Looking ahead, Tomik believes that AI-powered AR could allow users to create virtual or mixed reality experiences that are unique, dynamic, and less scripted than current approaches. Another possibility is leveraging artificial emotional intelligence in AI/AR environments to enhance marketing experiences. “We are seeing this being explored across many industries, including healthcare, banking, and travel,” he notes.

Prasad observes that AI-enhanced AR could lead to new ways of accessing and using computers. “By wearing an AR headset, users get a hands-free interface, bridging the digital and real worlds,” she explains. “It’s as if one has a supercomputer at their disposal, providing real-time insights and data overlay on the physical environment.”

While AI has the potential to significantly enhance AR’s capabilities and user experiences, there isn’t a single “magic bullet” that can guarantee eventual widespread acceptance. “Adoption depends on many factors, such as technological maturity, accessibility to a mainstream audience, compelling applications, and ethical concerns,” Tou says. Bringing AR into the mainstream will require people to socially accept the technology. “For that to happen, the demand for an experience must overcome its shortcomings,” he notes.

Potential Roadblocks to Enhanced AR

Cost, form factor, user experience, and several other factors will all need to continue evolving before AR can enter the mainstream. In a world where AR strives to integrate with people’s physical experiences and senses, the greatest roadblock to widespread adoption will be creating the ability to naturally interact with platforms and ecosystems, Tou says.

Prasad believes that a leading reason why AR hasn’t yet emerged as a mainstream technology is a lack of user experience fluidity. “Technology that promises to augment reality must seamlessly merge the virtual and the real, and any shortfalls in delivering this promise can deter users,” she explains. “Moreover, AR is currently in search of that ‘killer’ application — a use case where only AR can offer the ideal solution.” Lacking a pressing use case, AR becomes just another “nice-to-have” technology instead of an essential tool.

Moving Forward

Tomik says he’s very excited about AR’s future. “From how we learn to stay healthy, work, or are entertained, there’s so much potential for bringing together all the data needed to provide a robust way to view and experience the world.”

Looking to the past, Prasad sees an interesting analogy between the evolution of automobiles and AR. “Cars and horses coexisted for a time until the limitations of cars, such as finding fuel, were addressed,” she says. The transition from horses to cars wasn’t merely about technological superiority; it was about creating a support infrastructure. “Like all technologies before it, AR will need its own version of a ‘gas station’ — an ecosystem and infrastructure that supports its widespread use.”

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