Published On : 2017-05-22
Project Tango by Google could well turn augmented reality from fiction to fact in classrooms
In the realm of technology, there could not be a more exciting and dynamic market than the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Market. Both AR & VR are considered the next ‘big focus area’ and companies as diverse as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple are investing billions of dollars in this potential goldmine. It is widely believed that the next battle in technology will not be won on the basis of hardware expertise or software proficiency but by having an edge over the competition in both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. While virtual reality is typically more well-known and focussed on by the media, augmented reality can scarcely be considered less important. At Google’s I/O 2017 developer conference, the Silicon Valley Company profiled a few of the new features and technologies that could transform augmented reality into reality!
The biggest declaration was the Visual Position Service (VPS) offered by the company. VPS is an inaugural service that allows accurate location indoors by seeking out specific visual markers. VPS uses Google Maps data in tandem with the visual processing abilities of Tango and a camera. Surprisingly, this service isn’t meant to help people navigate their way across a new city or find their way home, but is designed to locate specific locations or even items inside a premises. The example demonstrated at Google I/O saw the service find a screwdriver located in a home improvement store. With the help of real-time imaging data, Visual Position Service compares a large number of specific visual feature markers to track the precise location down to the accuracy of a few centimetres. However, individual users or companies might want to upload supplementary data to receive directional navigation, or even other VPS user data could be shared in the cloud. The company aims to use GPS to get users to their desired location and then VPS to find the exact item that they might be looking for.
VPS even shows initial promise for the visually impaired as it can be used together with audio to give directions around objects or obstacles located in the vicinity. Most important of all, Google’s VPS tech will be a key component of the Google Lens software, meaning that Google anticipates widespread support of this service across a range of devices in the near future. Education is one area where Google sees immense potential for Project Tango. At the I/O keynote, senior company executives stated that almost 2 million students had used the Expedition cardboard software for the purpose of virtual reality field trips. The company now plans to extend this programme with a new augmented reality mode known as Expeditions AR. This will allow students and teachers to see objects in AR and can be used to enhance the learning experience. A few examples of where this could benefit both would be seeing a strand of DNA, human organs, or even the Statue of David. Google has promised to bring AR to classrooms by the end of this year with its Pioneer Program.
In the long run, Google sees both augmented reality and virtual reality as an intrinsic part of what it calls ‘immersive computing’, where devices function in a manner similar to how one sees and interacts with the world. In place of a heads-up display superimposed atop the world, augmented reality could one day provide a great deal of information about one’s surroundings and could present it in such a way that it would be a natural fit akin to a hand in a glove. These concepts are extremely exciting, and Google’s dedicated efforts in Tango hardware, Google AI, and machine learning certainly point towards a bright future for the augmented reality and virtual reality market.