Augmented Reality, or AR, is often used as a comparison to VR when talking about success. Last year AR proved to have a winning formula in the form of Pokemon Go for about two months. Whether that counts as real AR is a point for debate, but it does show at least one way it can be utilised. Epson, the electronics company, and So Sofitel showcased yet another use on Wednesday. The experience was nothing to write home about but could be the start of something remarkable.
Epson’s AR headset
Epson and Sofitel invited Media over to the So Sofitel in Singapore to showcase their new AR tour of the hotel. Before the tour however, a lot was spoken about the potential of AR. Melissa Khoo of Epson said that AR has a wide variety of uses, from education to gaming, healthcare to training. Likewise Eon Reality’s Sridhar Sunkad emphasised just how much VR and AR can help shape how we approach certain professions.
If Epson’s AR headset, the Moverio BT-300 is meant to represent this new step forward, then there is still quite a ways to go. After the talk, we were given a very short tour of the hotel lobby and one of the suite’s to see how it would work. The tour consisted of four trigger points. You look at them with the glasses, and a short video starts with the interior designer of the hotel telling you all about the design choices at that point. Each video takes about half a minute give or take. For now, there are only four of these points, and the fact that we were strictly corralled down the corridors would suggest that the are the only ones for the time being.
These videos were not impressive. Isabelle Miaja, the woman in the video, definitely knows her stuff, but does not command that much attention. Also, for some reason the videos other than the first one were very laggy. Whether this is because of some data issue or a lack of charge in my pack its unclear. However, it definitely took away from the experience. Also, the AR glasses were not that comfortable to wear. They were heavy, and having a look at the tech specs they were not super impressive. With an FOV of 20 degrees it falls very far short of even the PSVR.
There is a silver lining however. If this is the baseline to be expected from an AR experience in a tour, we can only assume that the next iteration will be even better. Today it’s the SO Sofitel, tomorrow it will be an art gallery, or a museum, or a classroom. A few years ago this would have been considered the realm of science fiction. The fact that something as revolutionary as an AR tour was not particularly impressive says a lot about how far the technology has come. Anyone with an interest in AR should take note and expect a great deal from the next AR headset.