Thursday, January 30, 2014

Glass is NOT Augmented Reality and you Should Stop Comparing it to AR

First, let me say that I AM a Glass explorer and I'm also KickStarter backer #1 for Meta. I've also been working with just about every stereoscopic tech you can think of over the last 15 years (I'm a backer for Oculus Rift, was using LCD Shutter Glasses back in '97, used to DRAW stereoscopic images by hand as a child, wrote my own "Magic Eye" app in DOS 6 using qbasic at the age of 15, etc...)

I feel like I've been talking to walls the last year but here it is said better than I have been able to word it so far. The CEO of Meta (SpaceGlases, Meta-View) Meron Gribetz, the man that hired Steve Mann (a top authority on wearable computing) and Steven Feiner (credited with coining the term augmented reality), says in very simple terms that Glass is not AR so don't take my word for it. To understand how much of an authority Meta is on AR, make sure you know who Steve Mann and Steven Feiner are and then understand that the CTO for Meta has been working with Mann for more than 10 years.

"The 3D output allows you of course allows you to paint graphics on regions of interest in the real world; *TRUE* augmented reality"

"The modern definition of augmented reality; the ability to take digital information and register it to parts of the real world."

"Glass is a Notification Machine"

Glass is a HUD which can be manipulated to provide some VERY BASIC AR-LIKE behavior. That doesn't make it AR any more than a the Nintendo Virtual Boy was VR. That's not to call Glass inferior in any way. Glass just wasn't intended for AR applications. Eventually technology will get to a point where a real AR display like Meta will be useful for something like Glass (lightweight, unobtrusive, wireless, decent battery life; everything Meta is trying to improve right now but falls far short in compared to Glass). With its present design, Glass will never be real AR; no stereoscopy, no direct fov, no 3D tracking, almost nothing that would allow it to convincingly "augment reality" any more than your smartphone currently can. If you're going to call Glass an AR device, then so is ANY smartphone with a camera on the back of a screen. If anything, your phone is MORE appropriate for AR than Glass.

This is the man who will bring AR mainstream and who presently employs the two TOP authorities on AR. He validates what I've been saying since Glass was released. I hate to even mention Glass and AR in the same topic because I don't want to perpetuate the confusion but to clarify, I must do so.

Clarification: Based on a question just posed to me elsewhere, I came up with the following clarification.

The reason I'd more readily call a smartphone AR hardware is because of the fact that you can move the display in your line of sight and it will then (in general) have a camera pointed where your eyes do. Glass intentionally places the display above and to the side of your primary visions so immediately it cannot be in your direct field of view. It does have a camera facing forward with a huge FOV though so the display can be aligned with the camera. It might be a fine distinction, but that's why I say that it's isn't AR but has AR-like ability. You could call a car a bus because it can carry many passengers, but it's still not a bus, it's a car and the difference might seem insignificant, but only until you need a bus (something that does what the name implies). Furthermore, to "augment reality", you must have some reasonably level of belief that your reality has been augmented. As the Oculus Rift has proven, just putting a display in front of you does not accomplish this. Certain things like stereoscopic vision and latency are FAR more important than just having a display. A phone has a larger, higher resolution display that can easily take up a large portion of your primary FOV which is critical to AR. Add an auto-stereoscopic display (EVO 3D or Nintendo 3ds), and you'd also gain stereoscopic vision and with that, be much close to what AR needs to "augment reality" as opposed to just superimposing images into space. Glass has an interesting phenomenon where the display size is entirely dependant on what you see behind it. Because no stereoscopic cues are provided, the only way to make it even remotely believable is perfect scaling of the virtual image of the real one, something next to impossible with only the one camera. The Evo 3D has 2 cameras and so would be that much closer STILL to being a useful AR device but it falls far short in one way that Glass doesn't (not entirely anyway) and that is keeping your hands free so you can interact with reality. A major difference between superimposing graphics and AR is the fact that you not only could believe at some level that your reality has been augmented (not just projected over), but that you can still interact with your reality. That rules out the "phone as AR hardware" idea. So to sum it up, AR must make your reality appear to have changed (not just a projection) and you must be able to interact with that augmented reality. The primary difference between VR and AR is the fact that VR disconnects you from reality. Even with various hand-sensors, VR wouldn't be AR. Similarly, a HMD (head mounted display, like Glass and similar devices) will never be AR. The only real common thread is a see-through, head mounted display (HMD).