On one of my favorite tracks of 2017, Dhani Harrison sings:
Even though you're present in the moment Doesn't mean that you're not sad and lonely Can you hear the sound of revelations I know all there is to know about waiting, waiting Waiting, waiting It's not like you used to be. -Dhani Harrison
In the shadow of Google I/O’s Duo media hype, there were some understated, yet substantive announcements at MS Build – Kinect for Azure, two significant new applications for HoloLens, and cross application enhancements that support 3D computing. Augmented World Expo (AWE) highlighted frenetic activity behind closed doors and product sneak peeks in hotel suits. While on the expo floors and session of both Build and AWE there were elements of something greater brewing beneath the surface. Build demonstrate solid further developed concrete use-cases for HoloLens and the promise of AI improving Immersive solutions. AWE’s expo floor highlighted a mixed bag of new and unneeded hardware, line of business applications not fully integrated into business solutions, and the the hopes of an AR cloud that will be needed with the roll-out of 5G.
However, everywhere attendees for waiting, waiting, waiting. But it’s not like it used to be… While we expect new hardware in 2018, and we know it is coming, everywhere people are waiting…for the next HoloLens, for 5G, for Magic Leap to finally release something, for Apple to get into AR in a meaningful way. Waiting…
But the promise it real. The barriers of adoption of enterprise immersive technology are being addressed. When you look at beyond the duplicative AR headsets and not endless rows of industrial proofs of concept at AWE, you see substance. AI in immersive experiences are real – from voice to computer vision to smart avatars. And in the suites and startup tables were genuine interface improvements that allow real work in VR – Inverse Reality’s smartphone interface for VR, Logitech’s tracked VR pen and keyboard, and Varjo’s high resolution 8K foveated head-mounted display.
At Build, MS featured their partner ecosystem pioneering telepresence (Kazendi, Object Theory), 3D maintenance (Taqtile), and, most importantly, a platform for content management and distribution with services to enable AI integration (demonstrated by Booz Allen). Yes, we were waiting for the next HoloLens – it’s a 3-year old platform! But there is still nothing better in the AR space available. Yes, consumers were underwhelmed with the Vive Pro, despite to addressing the critical enterprise need to be able to read in VR. And while the Oculus Go was an amazing $200 all-in-one headset, three degrees of freedom and recycled smartphone-based content is not going to change the industry.
The key to this wave of computing is not incremental enhancements to hardware. It is in the data and the manipulation of data. It’s in the platform and the use of AI. And in these two conferences, I saw Scape building an AI cloud to geo-locate and anchor objects based first on GIS and then on angle, pitch, and computer vision on landmarks. This is powerful! I saw 3D objects embedded in Word documents and turnkey AI solutions for facial recognition, smart agents, and language/voice understanding. I saw, at Build through example and AWE through presentation, concrete use-cases of immersive technology transforming incumbent industries – from education to manufacturing. And I saw a lot of waiting!
Can you hear the sound of revelation?
We wait for the future, but the future is now! The tools already exist. We have enough of the AR cloud to be productive. We have amazing advances in turn-key AI. We have platforms for content management, delivery, and security (and this does not need to be on blockchain!). And, we have the reliable promise of I/O interfaces that will open doors to productivity.
I look forward to the next HoloLens. I look forward to see if Magic Leap produces anything interesting. I look forward to the promise of the AR cloud. It’s coming; it just not here right now.