The Future of the AR Cloud — a Thousand Walled Gardens Bloom « Next Reality


By far the most significant development for AR in the coming months and years — the development that will drive AR adoption — will be our reliance upon the AR cloud.

Soon, you will see companies attempt to brand this technology with some moniker they’ve created (for example, Azure from Microsoft, the “Magicverse” from Magic Leap, etc.) that will allow them to market various unique features and approaches.

But, in general, it’s all the same thing, data in the cloud tied to mobile devices that will allow AR devices to become the gateways for our avatars in this new landscape of reality layered with virtual interactive information.

What’s particularly interesting about the early rumblings of this space are the mostly well-meaning noises made by some executives about keeping the AR cloud ecosystem “open.” This sentiment is common in developing technology spaces. Kum-ba-ya, let’s all work together to foster a collective approach to this emerging technology, etc. I support this spirit and attitude.

But it seldom ends up that way, at least when money is involved. And let’s be clear, AR cloud represents a massive new revenue opportunity, whether the AR application is entertainment- or enterprise-oriented.

(1) Magic Leap’s vision of an AR cloud dynamic composed of layers of immersive data and content. (2) Magic Leap’s vision of an AR cloud dynamic composed of layers of immersive data and content. Images via Magic Leap

Whether bundled in with your wireless package or offered separately as a standalone subscription service, the income that could be created by charging for access to the AR cloud — as well as AR cloud “in-app” purchases — will deliver a substantial new stream of revenue. There are already companies, like Cognitive3D, designed to provide detailed analytics focused on how users in AR operate.

“If a significant open AR cloud platform emerged, it could be great for developers. You could take your service, like Uber for example, and put a button on the street that you click to call a ride. Like a virtual taxi stand. Or look at a poster for a concert and see a ‘Buy Tickets’ button right on it,” says Anand Agarawala, the co-founder of Spatial.

“I’m thinking it will be a few years out, but could transform a number of industries. Think about how much advertising is littered around our urban environments. Now imagine that disappearing and becoming digital and hyper-personalized, like in Minority Report. Not that I’m in love with that idea, but you can see your future AR version of Instagram being powered by such embedded AR cloud ads.”

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And because there’s so much money to be made and data to be mined, the first AR clouds will not represent a massive network of seamlessly interconnected nodes, experiences, and services. Instead, a variety of walled garden AR clouds will emerge.

Each will have a distinct value proposition. Some will be completely free and cater to those ethics fostered by the creators of the internet and world wide web — open and free is best. Others will be freemium, providing limited access with value-add purchases and/or in return for your personal data that they’ll use to serve you ads. Others will be completely subscription only, allowing access to only those who have the monthly income to pay for the service.

By necessity, there will be corridors that allow us to interact across these AR clouds, but because of the walled gardens, our AR cloud experiences are likely to be just as varied as our streaming TV and movie experiences.

Consider how our digital content consumption works today. Some people consume free music and TV shows daily via pirated files, illegal streams. Some consume digital content via legal, publicly-funded radio and TV station streams. Others pay for the privilege to access highly curated and secure services like Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, and others. AR clouds will be no different.

So how will we choose? I think the answer is security and convenience.

If you care about security and your data, it will likely be worth it to you to pay for a service that guarantees some level of protection. I wrote about this recently when referencing Apple’s new Apple Card service and why the company is selling its role as a trusted custodian of user data and privacy rather than credit and payment services.

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In a March survey of 200 startup founders and executives, Perkins Coie found that 61% were concerned about data security and consumer privacy in the development of immersive computing technologies.



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