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Virtual and Augmented Reality:

We must speak clearly of the vision

On August 2nd 2016 the TRENDONE’s “HoloLens Experience Day” will take place in the Munich House of Communication. Host of the event is the Plan.Net Group. In the run-up to the event, we spoke with Nils Müller, the founder of TRENDONE, as well as Stephan Enders, Head of Mobile Marketing for the Plan.Net Group, about the potential of Microsoft’s augmented-reality glasses, and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in general.

Nils Müller

Nils Müller

CEO & Founder Trendone
Stephan Enders

Stephan Enders

Head of Mobile Marketing, Plan.Net Group
  • First of all, the most important question: Will we also be able to play Pokémon Go with the HoloLens?

    Nils Müller _ I certainly assume so. There’s already a first demo version. For Microsoft, the hype is naturally the big sensation. That gives a big boost to the HoloLens, which isn’t even on the market yet, and to the whole subject of AR. Up until now AR always lacked a consumer application. Google Glass had this problem, too. We finally have the application with Pokémon Go.

    Stephan Enders _ In past months, AR, in contrast to VR, was at a bit of a disadvantage in media coverage. That’s completely changed. With Pokémon Go we now have the first truly wide-reaching tool on the market – and suddenly everyone’s talking about AR again.

  • At the HoloLens Experience Day one will have the opportunity to test Microsoft’s AR glasses. How does the HoloLens differ from other glasses like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, which have been on the market for some time?

    NM _ With the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive you’re dealing with VR glasses, whereby users are completely immersed in the virtual world and don’t notice their environment any more. Instead, AR blends the real and the digital worlds. The HoloLens scans and detects the room, it knows where there’s a table or a wall. It can thereby place digital objects on tables or floors. The holograms are truly three-dimensional – and not two-dimensional like the Google Glass or AR applications on a smartphone.

  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?

    NM _ I’m enthusiastic about the HoloLens because it simply works very well. The image quality in HD is super, you don’t see any pixels such as is the case with some VR glasses. As mentioned, it creates three- and not just two-dimensional holograms. And what’s also exciting: You will be able to network multiple HoloLens glasses. A weakness, at the moment, is that the field of vision is not large enough. In addition, it’s not suited for the outdoors, because the hologram effect functions best when it’s a little bit dark. But you have to bear in mind that we’re still talking about the developer version. Many things can still change.

    SE _ Up until now prices were too high, which naturally will play a big role in the overall market growth. To be sure, Microsoft hasn’t furnished the particulars, but it certainly won’t be cheap. The developer version costs $3,000. The version coming to market will definitely be less expensive, but you’ll have to reckon with $1,000 to $1,500.

    NM _ However, you have to consider everything you get in these glasses: It’s a full-fledged PC, a Kinect, that is the hardware used in the Xbox 360, and the entire technology of the glasses – and all of that within the smallest possible space. Naturally, that costs money. But I’m certain that over the long term the price will become affordable. Here we must speak clearly of the vision. We certainly see how quickly technology develops. If we look ahead two or three years, the performance as well as the battery life will have probably doubled, and the price halved. Then we’ll suddenly have glasses that are super powerful, use little energy, look good and cost only a fraction of today’s price. Glasses are also certainly not the end of the evolution. Google is already working on smart contact lenses. Samsung has already filed for a patent for AR contact lenses called Gear Blink. That shows where the road will lead.

HoloLens

The HoloLens by Microsoft is a pair of augmented reality glasses, by means of which interactive 3D projections are presented in the direct, real environment. The objects in the visual field of the user result from points of light projected onto the eye. A smartphone or a computer is not necessary to use it; navigation functions through gestures, speech, as well as head and eye movements. Currently it is only shipped as a developer edition to customers who have pre-ordered it in the USA and Canada.

  • Which applications are there for AR today, and which are possible for the future?

    NM _ The two main application scenarios at the moment are picking in warehouse operations – the order picker sees what has to go into the crate through the glasses – and maintenance, or repair: with the help of AR glasses a service technician in Germany, for example, can support a colleague in Singapore on repair jobs. The service technician can visualise the situation without having to be there and guides the colleague. In the near future, still other areas will come along, for example, augmented marketing as, for instance, Volvo is planning or augmented gaming which we already see. In addition, AR will certainly be used in the fields of medicine or education. The list is long.

    SE _ For us, as a communications agency, application scenarios are exciting first and foremost in marketing. It’s our task to point them out to customers, to categorise them, and to compare them to other technologies such as 360-degree videos or VR. To some extent, we’re still at the beginning with VR, the market is only really in motion this year. And AR with the HoloLens will certainly achieve a new dimension. The use of VR, especially when it concerns staging brand environments at point of sale or at trade fairs, is already very much in demand. For AR with the HoloLens, the applications are still somewhat lacking in marketing. At present, VR is closer to the end user, which is a great advantage. In any event, VR systems like the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift are still expensive. It will be important to let the power of the systems play out in showrooms, at trade fairs, and events.

  • Where do you see more potential? In AR or VR?

    SE _ Even though it doesn’t look like it currently, I believe that the range potential of AR over the long term is markedly greater. No question, VR is currently developing superbly and is – except for Pokémon Go – more available than AR. Nonetheless, I see in AR more potential for the mass market. VR is perhaps not unconditionally suited for everyone. I believe there will be more people who don’t want to seal themselves off and submerge themselves into virtual worlds. Offering reality with additional information, as is the case with AR, is thus less “radical” and, in my opinion, offers value to everyone and every sector. We must therefore tackle the subject of VR now, and emphatically so, whereas the subject of AR through the HoloLens or comparable systems will have much more impact perspectively.

    NM _ Actually, I see VR at least as strong. You can translate VR as well into all sectors. Let’s take for example older people, who are no longer so mobile, but still want to explore the world. With VR glasses they can at least virtually discover unfamiliar places.

  • What do the new technologies mean for our society? How will they change our professional and private daily lives?

    NM _ Especially through AR the Internet will finally become the Outernet. That means that the digital world will finally be liberated from two-dimensional monitors. The Internet will explode into the real world, that is, there where it belongs. We are entering a mixed-reality world, which will be navigated with gestures and speech. This development is at least as powerful as the introduction of the PC. It will change everything.

    SE _ AR will give us as a society the possibility to come closer together. With holographic elements, digital conferences with business partners and colleagues will feel more realistic and intuitive. Families and friends feel closer to each other in spite of geographical distance. At the same time, the challenges of “information overload” will increase further. In the future, with AR all information can be superimposed in every place and continuously. Here we will have to develop intelligent concepts for the consumption of augmented data, which will superimpose information only very cautiously and whenever possible condense it, so that the user isn’t overtaxed. In addition, I believe that we will see, as with every trend a counter-trend, so too with VR and AR: We will have to create opportunities to escape from permanent data availability and monitoring. There will (have to) be places of refuge where one feels oneself in analogue safety. That, too, will provide many exciting marketing opportunities.