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Augmented Reality Might Fix Our Posture, Social Lives

"That’s too much of a barrier, to be looking at your phone while you’re at dinner."

Twin Design / Shutterstock

“I think it’s a natural evolution that we will all be wearing some lightweight, head-mounted display in the far future,” Daqri VP of business development Brian Selzer said today on a panel at the NeuroGaming Conference.

Selzer’s sense of inevitability was echoed by most of the panel, which was there to discuss the potential of augmented reality. Unlike virtual reality, which typically involves strapping to your head a pair of goggles that block out the real world, augmented reality tries to find a middle ground between the real and virtual by showing you some of both, often through a wearable device such as Google Glass or Microsoft’s HoloLens.

As a result, consumer-facing AR experiences are much harder to develop because they aren’t limited to a controlled, virtual environment, Selzer said.

“A lot of the use cases [today] usually have an understanding of the environment beforehand,” he said. “You’re in a classroom, you’re on a factory floor, you know what the lights are like, and you can design and craft the environment to support that experience. If you’re out in the real world, that’s where it gets challenging: Day, night, lots of trees, reflective glass, all that kind of stuff.”

The stakes for delineating augmented reality as a distinct field worthy of continued development are high. Digi-Capital recently forecasted that AR could be four times bigger than VR by 2020 because it more closely aligns with the booming mobile ecosystem. And Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz thinks AR glasses will one day be so useful as to replace all computing devices — including our smartphones.

And for some of the panelists, that day can’t come soon enough. OpenBCI CEO Conor Russomanno said the first time he rode New York’s M Train from Manhattan into Brooklyn, he noticed a distinct change in his fellow subway riders’ behavior once the train ventured above ground.

“Most of the time on the subway, it’s the only time you’re walking around in public and looking at people’s faces,” Russomanno said. “But the M Train, you’re going over the bridge, and everyone’s down, staring at their phones.”

ZSpace CTO Dave Chavez, no stranger to discussing the social limitations of immersive technology, said humanity has already started to move past its phone-addicted slouching phase.

“I think the Apple Watch is like that, in a way, where you’re not stuck looking at [your phone],” Chavez said. “I think we want to look at each other and interact with each other because that’s how we’ve evolved for however long it’s been. That’s too much of a barrier, to be looking at your phone while you’re at dinner.”

“How do you like your potatoes?” he mimicked typing on a phone.

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