On the Radar: Augmented Reality is Coming to a Browser Near You

5 minute read

We’re debuting a new, recurring feature here on the Mind Over Machines blog! On the Radar will introduce you to innovations catching the attention and imagination of our foremost MINDs.

Google Article: What Is It?

Last month, under the banner “Augmented reality on the web, for everyone,” Google announced its new 3D model viewer for all web browsers, tentatively called Article. The blog post gives techies everything they need to geek out on the underlying technology, and even provides a space to try one’s hand at creating augmented reality (AR) scenes. But the big headline here is: Google has created a prototype that will eventually allow you to render AR content within your browser.

“This is a huge stride toward making AR technology accessible for everyone,” says Mind Over Machines Director of Emerging Technologies, Tim Kulp. “Late last year, we saw Apple unveil its AR toolkit – ARKit – natively built into iOS. Google quickly followed suit with ARCore for Android, but it’s still available only to a limited number of devices. Article takes AR out of the platform and puts it into one of the most common applications on any device: the web browser.”

What Could Google Article Mean for Enterprise?

“The real value of augmented reality is its ability to make digital things tangible, to put the digital world into the physical world so we can interact with it,” Tim explains. “AR can allow engineers to see their digital designs in the real world. It can also be used to interact with IoT devices that don’t have displays or only have limited displays.” (Think refrigerators, thermostats, or even medical devices like pacemakers.) AR will allow us to interact in new ways with devices that have never before had user interfaces. This opens up a whole new way of thinking about how we interact with – and can actually synergize – the digital and physical worlds that surround us.

When AR is easily accessible, it will revolutionize the way we work at all levels, from R&D to marketing and sales. Google Article is a step toward that new reality because it will eventually bring AR to your workstation via Chrome. Imagine that. When Article is officially released, any business will be able to view its own AR environments using Chrome – a tool many enterprises already have in-hand, no purchase required.

But we see two major roadblocks to this brave new world of Enterprise AR. First, there isn’t a lot of AR content available right now, but it is getting easier to create content. In fact, Metaverse is pushing its AR Platform as a user-friendly, coding-free way for educators to make and share their own augmented reality experiences. Google Poly also allows a community to build and share content for others to consume. In this emerging space, AR experiences can be created by piecing together existing content, instead of having to make everything yourself. The proliferation of these types of tools and platforms should eventually alleviate the AR content dearth.

The second problem is entrenched and increasingly outdated business practices. Most enterprises aren’t ready to capitalize on augmented reality. Let’s take an example: 3D printing technology has been around for almost 30 years now. When a company designs a new widget, they could print it out, sit it in the middle of the conference room, play with it, ideate and iterate. But that doesn’t usually happen. Companies are stuck emailing around a 2D prototype picture of the 3D object.

“Most businesses just don’t have processes in place to adequately support collaboration in the virtual space,” Tim observes. “But that could certainly change. Old dogs are definitely learning new tricks. Just take a look at how Ford is using Microsoft HoloLens to bring mixed reality to its design process.” (Seriously, watch the video; it’s pretty cool.)

Going Forward: Tech to Watch

“Article is a great move for Google. It’s just one more way they are staying ahead of the curve,” Tim says. “And remember, Google has always been an AR leader. They were one of the first commercial headset makers, and they’ve been driving content through their Google Play store for years.”

But there are other companies to watch, particularly in the business sector. PTC has been designing tools for virtual design and collaboration for decades and boasts the “leading industrial innovation platform,” ThingWorx. Long-time industry leader Autodesk has been building AR and VR natively into their AutoCAD and Inventor tools, securing their position as the go-to for architects, engineers and designers of all stripes.

No one can say for sure how long it will take enterprise to embrace augmented reality, but it’s never too early for your business to think about how it can improve virtual collaboration and bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds. If you’d like a guide in that exploration, we’re happy to help!

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