Â Â Â Kevin Kelly, who is the founding editor of Wired magazine, a best-selling author, and a technology thinker, is highly esteemed by Huateng Ma and Xiaolong Zhang as a "prophet of science". He gives out his prediction of the future trend of the internet in a recent interview. Kevin Kelly believes "the mesh" will dominate the next internet era and AR cloud will be the most important digital technology trend in this era.
Â Â Â Since the beginning of the development of the internet, we have gone through two stages.
The first stage is the era of information digitization, where all text information is digitized. Pieces of information are connected by the network so that people can index them through the computer and search engine. This is the reason that this entire era is dominated by search engine companies such as Google and Baidu.
The second stage is the era of social network we are now in. Peopleâ€™s relationships and behaviors are connected by the network in this era. Take Wechat and Weibo which we use every day as examples, they connect you with all kinds of people and even analyze your behavior with AI and Big Data to provide you better services. Of course, they also use these data to push you too much advertisement.
"We digitized information using the Internet and digitized interpersonal relationships using social media, such as WeChat. Now we want to realize more aspects of digitalization, including the Internet of Things or geographical location, and we are about to make the entire world cloud-connected through mobile phones, AR terminals and other devices."
"Connect the entire world to the cloud"Â may sound a little bit ridiculous, but in fact, we are already walking into such an era that everything is connected. In this era, everything can be computed and linked online. our world is turning into a supercomputer. I will call this era â€œthe spatial internetâ€, which means that it realizes the connection between physical world and the online world.
To realize the interconnection and networking of all things, we first need to digitalize them. Every room, building, street and even every object in them such as tables, cups, cars and of course humans, will be connected after being digitized, and will be identified and indexed by smart devices.Â This may sound to be confusing; we may understand the concept of the internet of everything better with the help of some film and tv shows. In the movie "Kingsman", the agents conduct remote conferences. Eggsy, the protagonist, can see the real-time 3D virtual image of other agents as soon as he wears the glasses. Some other sci-fi movies may also have scene like seeing virtual information bounded to real objects through wearable devices. In these movies, everything in the virtual world and physical world are so closely connected that the flow of information becomes extremely efficient.
Recognizable, visible and interactive, the movie scenes are enviable. You may ask that these are only special effects in movies, how will we be able to recognize, see and interact if we realize the interconnection of everything.
Â Knowing AR Cloud
PokÃ©mon Go, this globally popular AR game allows more people to know about AR, which is essentially a technology that fuses virtual information with the physical world.
In recent years, giant companies such as Apple, Google and BAT have also announced their AR lay-out in a high-profile manner. You may see this as the sign of the coming of AR era, but the reality is always cruel. Despite the hot-selling products and high-profile lay-outs, AR has still hardly been seen on large scale in our real lives.
Â So, there must be something wrong here.
This question is thought-provoking, the internet connects people to people and people to virtual world while AR, which is widely seen as the next-generation computing platform, connects people to people, people to virtual world and the virtual world to the physical world. The problem here lies in the connection between virtual world and the physical world. We are lacking a connecting medium, which we called the AR cloud.
As the industry does not yet have a clear definition of AR cloud, in my understanding, AR cloud is in narrow sense a combination of continuous point cloud maps and real-world coordinates. By scanning the real world, it builds the real-time updating 3D digital world models and provides the ability for smart devices to index and fuse virtual information. In simple words, just like the online search engine indexing all virtual information, AR cloud indexes the 3D virtual information that convers the real world. On the other hand, AR cloud in a broad sense contains more meaning.
To help you better understand the AR cloud, I will introduce it to you by two dimensions: how to build it and its capabilities.
Let us first go through the methods of building the AR cloud. Generally speaking, there are two ways of collecting map data: centralized collection and decentralized crowdsourcing collection. Centralized collection is like the traditional map collection method. The collection procedures, including surveying and constructing, is completely done by the manufacturer. One of the drawbacks to this approach is that since each user is in a different space, the AR cloud built will not be complete. The world is infinite, while the areas where our daily activities and interests take place are limited. However, if we start with limited interest points, different users will build different data through different phone cameras. By collecting these data, a complete AR cloud can be formed. By this crowdsourcing, progressive, divide-and-conquer decentralized collection method, a complete, real-time updated and evolvable AR cloud can be gradually built, and the cost is much lower than the centralized approach. Of course, the data privacy problem arising in this process need to be take care of.
The next thing we are going to talk about is the capabilities brought by the AR cloud. The first capability is persistence. For a long time, the AR experience has not been sustainable. The users are not able to see the virtual object that they placed in the physical space after they reboot their smart devices. This has greatly limited the application scenarios of AR. On the other hand, AR cloud has given AR persistence since it has obtained the absolute position of physical space. The second capability is multi-person sharing, which changes the situation where AR can only experience by a single user. This capability further expands the application scenarios. AR social interaction, AR multi-player online games and so on are all made possible.
The development of AR Cloud will not all happen at once. I divided AR Cloud into four development stages by scenarios:
Desktop Scale: Usually refers to the size of a desktop or less. Saying â€œdesktopâ€ is just for intuitive understanding, but it doesnâ€™t limit the usage scenario to the desktop. At this scale, the amount of data is relatively small and can be generally saved to local. In this scenario scale, application scenarios such as â€œAR manualsâ€ will appear. For example, the Sightplus AR manual for car allows users to obtain detailed descriptions and guides of various parts of the car through mobile phones or smart glasses and save time for flipping through paper manuals.
Room Scale: Usually refers to the size of a room or less. Saying â€œroomâ€ is just for intuitive understanding, but it doesnâ€™t limit the usage scenario to indoor scenarios. At this scale, the amount of data is relatively small and can be generally saved to local. In this scenario scale, I believe that â€œholographic roomâ€ will be a strong usage scenario. For example, on day in the future, when you are visiting the Imperial Palace in the Palace Museum, you will be able to see the 3D virtual scene of the emperor reviewing the memorials.
Building Scale: Usually refers to the size of no more than a building or a street. The amount of data is getting larger and it is not recommended to save it locally anymore. In this scenario scale, â€œAR navigationâ€ is very promising. We will no longer get lost because of complicated roads in a city. Furthermore, it can directly show you the promotions of the stores in front of you. The application of AR navigation in retail and service scenarios has great potential for your imagination.
City Scale: Usually refers to a city scale. The amount of data is getting too large to be saved to local, and it will face high concurrency scenarios. This is the last step to form an â€œAR cityâ€. At this time, the world we live in will be as fantastic as the urban street scenes in the screenshot of the concept video â€œHYPER-REALITYâ€ which we showed above.
These four stages are all essential processes for the development of AR Cloud. From a technical perspective, there is no possibility of leapfrog development. However, this does not mean that we must follow these stages rigidly. Instead, we should take full consideration of the market changes and make adjustments accordingly so that we can respond flexibly to meet the market demand.
Reshaping the configuration
In the past, we have seen big companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Snap, Niantic Labs, and Samsung paying close attention to the AR Cloud and taking their first steps. At the Samsung press conference just ended, Samsung announced its AR cloud plan. Prior to this, Google and Apple have already started the construction of their AR clouds. None of these overseas giant companies dare to despise AR Cloud and give up on this cake which is even larger than current internet market.
John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic Labs which developed PokÃ©mon Go, said that â€œWe think of the Niantic Real World Platform as an operating system that bridges the digital and the physical worlds. Building on our collective experience to date, we are pushing the boundaries of geospatial technology, and creating a complementary, interactive real-world layer that consistently brings an engaging experience to usersâ€. Niantic has made huge investments in AR Cloud for their ambition.
Charlie Fink, â€œForbesâ€ columnist, former Disney and AOL executive, and Ori Inbar, the president of AWE also expressed their opinions that AR Cloud will become the most important software infrastructure in computers, believing that its value will far exceeds Facebookâ€™s social network and Googleâ€™s search engine.
In addition, AR star company Magic Leaf has named its AR Cloud as Magicverse Layers. Their ultimate goal is to implement a city-scale AR operating system.
Facing AR cloud, international giants with strong acuity has flood in. They know that AR cloud is a very broad era stage and what is coming to us is an increment market far beyond the current internet scale. Any company on this stage can get a share regardless of its size, and they may even reshape the whole business configuration.