Jim's Blog

Augmented Reality Glasses Coming into View : A Well Thought Out Scream by James Riordan

Augmented reality is becoming a reality.  Defined as a direct or indirect view of the world whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input, Augmented Reality (AR) employs sound, video, graphics or GPS data to change the view through special glasses.  It is related to a more general concept called “mediated” reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by computer.  The technology works by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.

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Virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one, but augmented reality occurs in real time and in semantic context with other environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and can be digitally influenced. Information about the environment and its objects is overlaid on the real world. This information can be virtual or real, e.g. seeing other real sensed or measured information such as electromagnetic radio waves overlaid in exact alignment with where they actually are in space. Augmented reality brings out the components of the digital world into a person’s perceived real world. One example is AR Glasses for construction workers that displays information about the construction sites.

This year saw an important milestone this year in when two technology titans announced their intentions to bring AR to the mass consumer market via mobile devices. Apple proclaimed the release of its new ARKit in June, soon followed by the debut of Google’s ARCore in August, with both companies developing new consumer-oriented AR games and apps.The hardware components for augmented reality devices include sensors, processors, display and input devices. Devices like smartphones and tablet computers often include a camera and MEMS sensors such as accelerometer, GPS, and solid state compass, making them suitable AR platforms. At this time it’s too early to know what the new ecosystem of software and hardware designed to provide AR experiences will evolve into in the future, but it’s safe to predict that AR headsets will be part of the picture.

So why is AR suddenly ready for mass consumption? And why aren’t we leaping (magically!) into AR glasses? The answers are simple enough: Technology takes time to develop, and users need time to adapt. With any complicated new technology, the classic adoption curve usually holds true: innovators first, followed by early adopters, early majority, late majority and, finally the stragglers such as your Uncle Bob who is still worried that his satellite dish might attract aliens from Mars.

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Some of the barriers that AR companies must overcome is the resistance the public has to the devices themselves. These can vary from optical projection systems, monitors, hand held devices, and display systems worn on the human body.  A head-mounted display (HMD) is a display device paired to the forehead such as a harness or helmet. HMDs place images of both the physical world and virtual objects over the user’s field of view. Modern HMDs often employ sensors for six degrees of freedom monitoring that allow the system to align virtual information to the physical world and adjust accordingly with the user’s head movements. HMDs can provide VR users mobile and collaborative experiences.

AR displays can also be rendered on devices resembling eyeglasses. Versions include eyewear that employ cameras to intercept the real world view and re-display its augmented view through the eye pieces and devices in which the AR imagery is projected through or reflected off the surfaces of the eyewear lens pieces.  Near eye augmented reality devices can be used as portable head-up displays as they can show data, information, and images while the user views the real world. Many definitions of augmented reality define it as overlaying the information. This is basically what a head-up display does; however, practically speaking, augmented reality is expected to include tracking between the superimposed information, data, and images and some portion of the real world.

Contact lenses that display AR imaging are in development. These bionic contact lenses might contain the elements for display embedded into the lens including integrated circuitry, LEDs and an antenna for wireless communication. The first contact lens display was reported in 1999 and subsequently, 11 years later in 2010/2011 Another version of contact lenses, in development for the U.S. Military, is designed to function with AR glasses, allowing soldiers to focus on close-to-the-eye AR images on the spectacles and distant real world objects at the same time. The futuristic short film Sight features contact lens-like augmented reality glasses.

Also on the development trajectory, Snap Filters and Pokémon GO, helped prepare the consumer market, in small stages, for a more robust AR experience on their mobile devices. And the mobile device is paving the way for the next milestone in the development of AR: headsets. We can expect consumers to follow the typical adoption curve with AR headsets, just as they would for any new technology. Still, before AR eyeglasses are ready to go mainstream, manufacturers have a few hurdles to clear, including cost, form, function and content.

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For mass-market adoption, AR glasses will need to be priced comfortably under $1,000; early adopters are likely to opt for a pair of high-functioning glasses if they cost about the same as a high-end phone ($700 to $900). In a few years, after several cycles of innovation and applications of Moore’s Law, carriers might well subsidize AR glasses, or at least sell them at wholesale prices, which would significantly drop prices, reduce the perceived risk and lead to increased sales among early majority and late majority consumers. Carriers could potentially benefit from much higher billable network usage, as heavy processing-powered apps coupled with entertainment consumption are likely to dwarf most consumers’ phone data usage. What’s more, the mass-scale adoption of AR glasses itself will drive prices down as the production costs scale.

The ultimate AR user experience and loyalty to one AR system will depend on offering users the ideal UI for navigating the new AR ecosystem.

As for form, many optic solutions for AR today are bulky and heavy. While it may be true that early adopters or tech enthusiasts are willing to sacrifice good looks if they’ll gain hero-level functionality, the majority of users would like their “wearables” to be just that — wearable.

The size and weight of the glasses will be important to consumers, and because optical technology has a major impact on size and weight, it’s a critical component in the form factor that smart glass manufacturers need to master. The most advanced optics enable manufacturers to produce small, sleek eyeglasses and keep them small and light, with the potential to deliver far more versatile functionality.

Achieving the right form factor will also require manufacturers to consider the configuration of the glasses. Will AR glasses be a standalone product, or will they require an external control box to house power sources and processors? Will consumers wear smart glasses that are tethered to their phones or a control box? They might if the glasses themselves look geek-chic and offer enormous value to wearers. Beats provides a good example of bucking the trend, with its oversized, tethered headphones that succeeded wildly in the age of ear buds and Bluetooth.

The key issues of battery life and efficiency could become a roadblock to developing optimum functionality. Currently, there’s a surge in investments for companies in this space, like Microvast and Gridtential Energy, two companies reinventing the traditional battery chemistry. We can expect innovative battery companies like these to have a great impact on the AR industry, not least by providing a more efficient battery to power AR glasses.

Processors running hot are an obstacle to achieving peak functionality, as well. Much of the essential functionality of AR glasses, from tracking a user’s environment and movements to generating geographically accurate contextual overlaid content, results in over-heated processors. Dissipating that heat is a challenge many AR glasses manufacturers with head-worn processors have yet to solve.

Developing the right user interface is another vital step toward making headsets mainstream.  With ARKit, ARCore and Facebook’s AR Studio paving the way for developers to build AR-enabled apps, expect to see content creation explode over the next 12-18 months. The ultimate AR user experience and loyalty to one AR system will depend on offering users the ideal UI for navigating the new AR ecosystem.

These challenges are formidable, but manufacturers in the AR industry have the resources and motivation to face them head-on. What’s at stake is nothing less than the next great transformative experience in technology, and what manufacturer wouldn’t want to be there when history is made?  It very well may be that the more innovative consumers might be wearing AR glasses within the next two years.

The Author

James Riordan

James Riordan

Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by Amazon.com. Riordan’s The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco) was called “One of the best how-to books ever written” by the Los Angeles Daily News and “The ultimate career book on the music industry” by Recording, Engineer & Producer. Critics described Riordan’s The Bishop of Rwanda as “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” and The Coming of the Walrus, Riordan’s novel about the 60s as “the definitive book on the era” and “a hilarious tale of a harrowing search for the greatest truth of all”. With the release of A Well Thought Out Scream and Madman in the Gate, Riordan pushed the boundaries again with poetry/song lyric books that contain hundreds of stunning, beautiful and poignant images from artists and photographers from all over the world. In the summer of 2013 a new edition of The Coming of the Walrus was released to rave reviews followed by The Kill Switch. The author of thirty-three books, James Riordan’s career began in the music industry where as a songwriter, manager, producer and concert promoter he worked with several well known artists. In 1976 he began writing a newspaper column, Rock-Pop, which he later syndicated. Riordan soon became one of America’s premier rock journalists with articles reaching millions of readers including those of Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Circus, Musician, and newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and The Kansas City Star. His reputation for relating on a one-to-one level soon led to interviews with George Harri-son, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Mandrell, Crosby, Stills & Nash and countless others. His first book, The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco in 1980) became the largest selling book ever written about the music business. The guide to “succeeding in the music business without selling your soul” was praised by Variety ,The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune, Billboard, Record World and many more. The Platinum Rainbow became an industry-wide phenomenon and interviews with James Riordan were aired on over 1200 radio stations and numerous television talk shows. Next Riordan collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Jason Miller on a mini-series for network television (The Irish) and a movie of the week for CBS (Bless Me Father). In June 1991, William Morrow & Co. published Break On Through to outstanding sales and reviews. Riordan worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s film of Morrison’s life, The Doors, which led to his writing Stone’s biography. Published by Hyperion /Disney in December 1995, Entertainment Weekly called STONE “an unflinching biography... enough spectacle to fill a month of daytime-TV talk shows.” The New York Post said reading the book was like “the sensory overload of watching all of Oliver Stone’s movies back to back.” Riordan was interviewed by Inside Edition, People Magazine, The Tom Snyder Show, and many others. From 1997-2000, Riordan created and co-starred in a local television program, Kankakee Valley Prime Time, which won six Crystal Communicators, three Tellys, and earned Riordan a Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Nomination for Writing the program. In the summer of 1999, James Riordan wrote, directed and starred in Maddance, an hour long dramatic project which won Crystal Communicators for Drama, Writing, Acting and Directing. On April 9, 2000, James’ 16 year old son, Jeremiah, was killed as a passenger in an accident that involved three drunk drivers. Shortly after this, James founded Make it Stick which works to warn teens of the dangers of substance abuse and publishes a magazine distributed to high school students. In 2001, he founded Jeremiah’s – A Place to be Yourself to give teens a place to hang out away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Force to close by its incredible growth rate, Jeremiah’s was recognized as one of the fastest growing and most successful teen centers in the United States. In 2004, Toastmasters International named Riordan Communicator of the Year for Central Illinois, the YMCA gave him their Service to Youth Award and the United Way named him the Outstanding Volunteer of Kankakee County. Returning to writing, Riordan went to Africa to write The Bishop of Rwanda, (with an intro by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren). In November of 2006, Harper Collins released a new edition of Break On Through followed by The Coming of the Walrus (Image Workshop) in December and The Bishop of Rwanda (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) to rave reviews (“Powerful …plumbs the depths of God’s forgiveness and finds no bottom – Publisher’s Weekly). In 2011, he won the Pledge For Life Harold Award for his work with area youth. In the summer of 2012, Lee and Shane Stanley (Gridiron Gang) optioned Maddance as a feature film followed by Apothecary Films optioning The Kill Switch in 2013 and Omni Films optioning Final Service to film in May. Riordan joined the staff of the Mancow Syndicated Television and Radio show in January of 2014 and is now seen and heard across America on a weekly basis. His biography is included in Who’s Who in Entertainment , Who’s Who in Poetry and Contemporary Authors of America. James Riordan – Works Books The Kill Switch, novel with Andrew Dahlmaine, Stonegate Ink, 2013 The Coming of the Walrus, Trade Paperback Editn, Image Workshop 2012 Springboard To Heaven ( Jojo Sayson Adventure), Image Workshop, 2012 The Elijah Collection, novel collection with Bill Myers, Zondervan, 2011 The Well Thought Out Scream (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 Madman in the Gate (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 The Deadly Loyalty Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Ancient Forces Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Enemy Strikes with Bill Myers (Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 Deception with Bill Myers (Book 2 Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 The Bishop of Rwanda (Finding Forgiveness) Thomas Nelson, March 2007 Paperback Edition May, 2012 The Coming of the Walrus (What Really Happened in the '60s) IW, 2006 Break on Through (The Life & Death of Jim Morrison), Morrow, 1991. (New York Times Bestseller, Published in 5 languages, Hardcover, 5 Paperback Editions, Harper Trade Paperback November, 2006) Stone (The Controversies, Excesses & Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker), Disney/Hyperion,1995. (Published in 3 languages, Hardcover, Paperback Edition). Making It in the New Music Business, Writers Digest Books, 1987, (Second Edition, Revised and Updated 1991, Two Hardcover Editions) The Platinum Rainbow (How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul) 250,000 copies with Bob Monaco, Swordsman Press, 1980, Twenty-Three Editions, Revised 1988) 25 Year Anniversary Edition, 2005 Capture the Wind (Microphones) w.Tom Lubin, Literary Mouse Press,1989 Private Biography of Russ Kalvin, founder of Kalvin Corp., 1990 Private Biography of Steve Stefano, founder of Joico Hair Products, 1993. Mystery of the Invisible Knight (Book 2 in the BloodHounds Series) with Bill Myers, Bethany House,1997. Matters of the Heart (The Life & Times of Edgar Cullman), Culbro, 1997. The Curse (Book 7 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1997. The Undead (Book 8 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1996. The Scream (Book 9 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1998 The Ancients (Book 10 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1999. The Cards (Book 11 Forbidden Doors Series) with Bill Myers, Tyndale,2000 Films Final Service, co-written with Gary Moore and based on his book, Omni Productions, to be filmed in May, 2014. Maddance, Writer/Director/Lead Actor, Search Engine Films, Simmcomm, 1999. (Winner of 4 Crystal Communicators including Best Drama, Screenplay, Director, Male Actor – Austin, TX.1999) Performance (The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Screenplay, Lancit Productions 1998. Returned to Author when film division closed)Rewritten2009 Shadowdancers, Story & Screenplay, Story with Bill Myers, 1997 Dr. Babylon, Story 1996. Air Guitar, Story & Screenplay, 1994 The Platinum Rainbow, Story & Screenplay, 1993 Television/Video Kankakee Valley Prime Time, Writer, Director, Producer, 1997-2000. (Nominated for Midwest/Chicago Emmy for Writing, 1998, 3 Telly Awards, 4 Crystal Communicators 1998-2000). Angels Among Us (The Amtrak City of New Orleans Train Disaster, Co- Producer, (Telly Award, 2000). River Valley Sports Authority, Producer, 1999-2003. I Hate The World (Hypnoises Music Video), Writer/Director/Producer, Crystal Communicator for Best Music Video Concept, 1998). The United Way (Video) Crystal Communicator for Best Video for a Charitable Organization, 1998.

If it isn't money and it isn't fame and it isn't sex... then what... God?

— James Riordan, 2000

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