Skip to Main Content

Strategic Business Insights (SBI) logo

Connected Homes October 2015 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Kyle M. Whitman

Augmented Reality at Home

By Michael Gold
Gold is a senior research engineer specializing in innovations in digital technologies and their impacts on businesses, governments, and individuals.

Why is this topic significant?

Although augmented-reality applications emerged from research about enterprises' advanced-manufacturing environments, current trends point to a concentration on developments for eventual markets for personal and household devices, including for games.

Description

Augmented reality (AR) applications present text annotations and images of virtual objects that are superimposed over camera-captured images of the real world. Technology road maps point to major future improvements in AR hardware and software from Apple, Microsoft, and Magic Leap.

During May 2015, Apple announced it had acquired software developer Metaio, which previously concentrated on producing tools for developing AR applications, including for tablet devices and Google's Glass. Some Metaio demonstrations emphasize e-commerce: creating shopping lists by pointing at packages, and visualizing how new furniture and appliances would appear in a room. Another demonstration shows a user working on a car's electrical system with help from an AR wiring diagram.

Google is a major investor in head-mounted-display (HMD) developer Magic Leap, whose public announcements have emphasized gaming (a reflection of founder Rony Abovitz's strong focus on game development). A demonstration video presents a mock game wherein users shoot virtual aliens that invade a real-world room. One of Magic Leap's patent applications illustrates a user who selects video content by browsing virtual movie posters that seem to be mounted on his real-world living-room wall. A related illustration depicts a wall with virtual wallpaper that resembles a tropical beach scene.

Throughout 2015, Microsoft demonstrated its HoloLens HMD as a platform for diverse applications in medicine, industry, education, and entertainment. One popular demonstration depicts virtual structures from the game Minecraft, superimposed in a real room. Other demonstrations show a real room that contains no real displays and yet contains as many virtual displays as a user might want for entertainment, videoconferencing, and controlling networked devices. Microsoft has also depicted virtual pets and virtual robots inhabiting a room.

Implications

Personal (rather than workplace) applications are likely essential for manufacturers to achieve economies of scale and reduce their costs of AR HMDs. But even a retail strategy does not promise low initial prices: Within the next three years, next-generation retail AR HMDs might start out as platforms for the most fervent technology enthusiasts, with customers spending at least $500 on a new device. In contrast, during the next year or so, Apple might follow a relatively cautious approach that initially emphasizes tablet-based AR apps; new tools will likely make it easy for developers to build such apps, especially edutainment apps for children. Nevertheless, perhaps few analysts would be surprised if Apple were to develop its own AR HMD for eventual release.

Impacts/Disruptions

In the long run, many people might adopt AR as the default reality for many of their waking hours. AR promises valuable enhancements to the real world, as distinct from virtual reality, which promises maximum legal escape from physical reality. Both interaction styles have their place. But people's needs to stay at least somewhat grounded in physical and social environments point to the possibility that users might spend much more time engaged with a gamified, augmented form of physical reality than in occupying the far reaches of virtual reality.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 10 Years

Opportunitites in the following industry areas:

Electronics manufacturing, game development, e-commerce, education software

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Interoperability Standards

By Michael Gold
Gold is a senior research engineer specializing in innovations in digital technologies and their impacts on businesses, governments, and individuals.

Why is this topic significant?

Prominent organizations are producing competing standards for the Internet of Things, and they see connected homes as important proving grounds for interoperable technologies. But competing standards threaten to confuse both developers and end users.

Description

Interoperability frameworks are technical specifications that govern the abilities of devices to access information about other devices and to control one another. The frameworks do not necessarily require devices to share common operating systems, wireless standards, or other technology attributes. Two competing frameworks aim to enable interoperability among Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices in general, explicitly including home network devices. Both frameworks are available in the form of open source software; and promoters of the frameworks have each established separate alliances with the Linux Foundation.

  • AllSeen Alliance. Key supporting members include LG, Microsoft, Panasonic, Philips, Qualcomm, and Sharp; and some developer members are prominent in home networking, including AT&T, Cisco, Icontrol, and Insteon. Cablelabs enjoys a sponsored membership. A basic, free, self-certification program is in place, and a more comprehensive interoperability certification program is in the works.
  • Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC). The standards effort is led by Cisco, GE Software, Intel, and Samsung, with significant participation by Cablelabs. Certifications are not available as of early October 2015 but could become so in coming months.

Other industry alliances compete almost directly against the efforts that I mention above. Apple and Nest have each established interoperability specifications, compatibility certifications, and partner ecosystems. During 2015, ABB, Cisco, and Robert Bosch established mosaiq operations GmbH, a private joint venture to develop an interoperable, open-source platform for smart homes and the IoT; the openHAB alliance established a cloud service to integrate IoT applications; and Open Systems Gateway Initiative also stepped up its activities in support of IoT applications. In addition, Industrial Internet Consortium promotes an interoperability framework for IoT business applications that might find use in home networking, for example in smart meters and other energy appliances.

Implications

Consortium-led efforts compete with each other and with brand-centric efforts. Apparently, neither Apple nor Google (including its subsidiary Nest) participates in either AllSeen Alliance or OIC. Stakeholders who establish links among competing efforts might take limited but significant steps toward harmonizing standards. For example, AllSeen Alliance member Insteon sells home-network devices that are compatible with Apple's HomeKit. Efforts are underway to harmonize openHAB with AllSeen Alliance technologies. Additional organizations that conduct activities across multiple interoperability frameworks include Cablelabs, Cisco, and Samsung.

Impacts/Disruptions

As of October 2015, apparently nobody has yet figured out how to use an Apple TV remote control to adjust a Nest Thermostat. Similar puzzles will soon confront implementers of the IoT in diverse sectors of the economy. Stakeholders have long been aware of integration challenges in pervasive-computing environments, including home networks. Now, the stakes are growing as developers start to see home-network applications as part of a larger universe of connected wearables, vehicles, infrastructures, workplaces, and much else. The increased stakes might motivate competing factions to struggle with one another all the more vigorously to set interoperability standards that dominate multiple industries, or that at least survive in key sectors. Such struggles would indicate that interoperability problems will get worse before they get better.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now

Opportunitites in the following industry areas:

Electronics manufacturing, appliance manufacturing, illumination, energy utilities, communications services, software development, cloud services, cybersecurity

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: