29 November 2017 Startup 2018: The companies and issues to watch

The turning point for augmented reality

Augmented reality is tipped to transform education, medicine and the DIY sector thanks to the latest iPhone software.

For the last couple of months, developers have been working on ARKit, Apple’s toolkit for people making augmented reality apps.

After years of hype around virtual reality and overblown forecasts of how films, sports and gaming would be revolutionised by the technology, it’s expected that the functional uses of augmented reality (AR) will have the bigger impact in the coming months.

Making progress

AR could mark a step up from the how-to YouTube videos that many amateurs and professionals use to fix things. It’s set to become easier to access now that millions of people with Apple’s latest software have AR apps on their iPhones.

The next stage of AR’s evolution is also not that far off; both Apple and Google are designing headsets that could be used to stream AR videos for educational, practical and medical purposes.

Henry Stuart, CEO of VR firm Visualise, says the corporate and business sectors are already adopting AR: ‘Companies are using AR for things like training staff. They’re looking at the tech as low-cost simulators.’

Virgin Trains has already run teaching exercises using a ‘magic window’ of AR that allows transport operators to resolve mock problems on-board trains without having to be in a particular place or scenario in real life.

AR apps are being developed for mechanics, plumbers and everyday tradespeople, as well as specialist hardware technicians and craftspeople. The idea is that seeing interactive images overlaid onto real objects will transform the quality and speed of work, as well as allow more people to do it.

One of the most talked about consumer aspects of AR is an app developed by Ikea to help consumers see how items would look in their homes. It’s easy to see this also being applied to assembling flat-packed furniture.

Meanwhile, the mood around virtual reality is low. Expensive headsets that quickly become obsolete have deterred even early adopters.

The VR experience has also induced nausea, and most consumers have shown little interest in wearing giant headsets at home to watch TV or play video games.

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