Augmented reality is more than just holograms

The AR in Action conference redefines AR to include many diverse technologies.

By Steven Max Patterson
Jan. 23, 2017

Holographic headsets are a central theme to augmented reality (AR) today, but the recent AR in Action Conference demonstrated the diversity of the field and the potential to include many more technologies to augment humans.

The AR in Action Conference, held at the MIT Media Lab, expanded the definition of AR through a TED conference-like lens, delivering 70 diverse curated talks and 32 panels over two days to over 1,000 experts and practitioners in the field.

As Chris Croteau, general manager of Intel’s Wearable Device Group, said:

“A liberal definition of AR focuses on the way data is presented to users and how they interact with it. The popular definition of the AR platform as a holographic projection system like the Hololens, Meta and ODG headsets limits what AR can be.”

The value of these holographic projection headsets was well represented with talks like the one by Harvard Medical School professor Jayender Jagadeesan, who spoke about surgical AR applications, and by combat fighter pilot Patrick Guinee, who spoke about enhanced 360-degree field of views that let the pilot look down, through his body, and the fuselage underfoot to see adversaries below.

 “The conference widened my myopic aperture to the universal possibilities,” said Guinee, who has 25 years of experience with holographic AR military applications.

He pointed out that AR can be visual, fitting the popular paradigm of holographic projections overlayed onto reality using a headset. But in its essence, it is the overlay of a data sources impacting human perception. It is not necessarily visual, but it could be sound or haptic perception of interactions with electromechanical stimulus, though this is still somewhat limiting to the definition of this emerging field.

Digitally augmented humans

AR can also change human perception of the surrounding space when a digitally augmented human interacts with a data source, such digitally enhanced senses or accumulated data from surrounding IoT infrastructure.

Juan Enriquez, genomic and life sciences visionary, writer and frequent TED conference speaker, and Carl Byers, chief strategy officer of Contextere, explained the seemingly infinite possibilities of overlayed data and augmented perception and enhanced human capability that defines AR.

Enriquez said:

“The potential of AR reminds me of the early definition of the internet: thousands of people loosely connected. A few decades later AR is a similar network effect that augments people’s cognitive capabilities and perceptions through their interconnecting data acquired from bio- sensors, worn sensors and the space around them.”

Byers said:

“The talks reinforced my view of AR as a broader concept. It is a suite of technologies that extend human capability and understanding using a variety of approaches across industries and applications."

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