Wearable augmented reality (AR) devices are still at a relatively nascent stage. As the technology progresses, augmented reality will likely face a number of obstacles, including evolving social mores, strict adherence to Moore’s Law and the challenge of maintaining a seamless user experience.
According to Rambus Fellow Dr. David G. Stork, it is difficult to ascertain if social mores, or more specifically, the expectation to privacy, will serve as an impediment to the adoption of AR technology such as cameras mounted on eyeglasses.
“George Orwell, author of the dystopian masterpiece 1984 about Big Brother and constant surveillance by the state, could not have foreseen the exhibitionism that many people—especially younger ones—are eager to embrace and which fuels numerous surveillance-based reality TV shows including Real Housewives and, most appropriately, Big Brother,” he explained during a recent interview with Rambus Press in Sunnyvale.
“Likewise, many in Generation X seem comfortable in posting all manner of personal information on the web. These examples illustrate how those comfortable with sharing personal information can and will continue to do so. However, if augmented reality technology is to overcome social mores, it is [likely to be contingent upon] the non-users of head-mounted cameras—i.e., the people being watched and recorded. [Will they] submit to such surveillance, usually without prior consent? Again, it is difficult to know how this will play out.”
Stork also discussed the technical challenges facing augmented reality. Indeed, realistic rendering of three-dimensional figures and scenes for AR requires surprisingly powerful computation, and thus power.
“Will the relentless progress in computational power, summarized by Moore’s Law, be sufficient to meet this demand? It seems likely that the augmented-reality applications will continue to grow in sophistication, always using the maximum available computational resources,” he continued. “Recall that in the 1970s computer games such as Pong, Pac Man and Space Invaders—woefully primitive by today’s standards—were nevertheless compelling.”
The human visual system, says Stork, is one of the most extraordinary sophisticated systems of any form—natural or artificial—and exquisitely sensitive to certain visual phenomena.
“One such phenomena is retinal slip or mismatch between the direct view of the scene through the glasses and the three-dimensional virtual figures and avatars that are meant to appear within the scene,” he added. “Such mismatch can be very unsettling and even lead to nausea. The mobile compute power will be used first and foremost to reduce such mismatch to tolerable levels, and remaining computational power applied to rendering of realistic figures. However, latency and accuracy must come first if an augmented reality system is to ever gain commercial success.”