Within three years (in time for ISMAR 2012), which is either a very short period of time or an eternity, depending on your point of view, I predict the following:
* 1 Million wearable displays, with transparent lenses, reasonable field of view, integrated accelerometers, and possibly a high-bandwidth short distance wireless connection, sold on the commercial market.
* Market generating more than $1B in revenues
* Vuzix currently the best positioned to deliver technology and products to the commercial market.
* Vuzix, Microvision, and Lumus Optical the current leaders in wearable display technology
* Companies like Sony, Apple, and others will have branded versions of their own. Probably with licensed display tech, or the fruit (ha! apples) of their own R&D.
* There will be at least one terrorist attack that has used mobile augmented reality for planning, practice, and execution.
* Marketing, Advertising, and Entertainment will be the early industry leaders to adopt and monetize augmented reality. More practical uses in visualization, training, education, medical, manufacturing, etc. will follow closely, but take longer for adoption as some technology requirements will be more stringent.
* The problem with visual tracking, registration, and orthorectification will be solved within the next 18 months, if not sooner.
* North America will continue to lag behind Asia and Europe. Early market dominance (in terms of mindshare and branding/exposure) will be led by Europe. Asia (particularly South Korea, Japan, and China) will be the quickest markets to adopt and monetize AR. North America will continue to be insular, inward looking, and still lagging behind.
* In general it will take North American venture capitalists and institutional investors at least another 18 months to wake up and engage fully. In the meantime…
* within the next 12 months, a flurry of augmented reality startups will come out of the woodwork in Silicon Valley, and will likely be overfunded startups looking to make a quick dollar and a fast exit. The majority of these will not have a clear strategy, vision, or technology, and will ultimately die a slow death. The early attempts will be on trying to leverage Web 2.0 and Social Networking into Augmented Reality, but this is backwards. Anyone trying to augment web sites or facebook is missing the point entirely.
* The first major VC funding of a augmented reality startup, of at least $5M USD will occur in the next 6 to 9 months.
* The “big boys” will continue pouring more money into internal projects and R&D, focusing on key technology areas, preferring to acquire companies with a broader focus, market share, and applications.
* By 2011, augmented reality will be a target rich environment for acquisitions, and some of the valuations will be staggering.
* Mobile devices combined with wearable displays will prove to be the ultimate combination for the full potential of augmented reality.
* A huge shift in advertising dollars will have a measurable impact on traditional channels, such as print, broadcast, and web. The mobile device already has broader and deeper market penetration, with more information about the user possible. AR will be the method to leverage this the most.
* In 12-18 months, Governments will begin to wake up to the real benefits, implications, and risks of mass-market mobile augmented reality in terms of national security, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, privacy, intellectual property, and so forth. Questions and concerns we have now with the internet, virtual worlds, and social networking will pale in comparison and are merely foreshadowing the future.
* The IPhone will not be the king of the hill. However, Apple will eventually open up their API and quit stalling AR innovation. I also predict their attempt to patent a grossly broad invention of augmented reality on a mobile device will be rejected, or at least suffer significant paring down.
* Mobile Augmented Reality will likely be a contributing factor to economic recovery with the creation of wealth (revenues), new industries, many new companies and jobs, as well as entirely new professions. Artists, designers, developers, educators, trainers, interior decorators, architects, and others will all find new opportunities and job titles.
* Augmented Reality will possibly be rebranded as something else, likely based on the product name of something. This sort of thing has happened in the past where a product has become synonymous with a brand (Xerox, Kleenex, etc.)
* Augmented Reality content (virtual objects) will be referred to as Holograms by the general public, changing the definition of the word. [Personally, I’d prefer to call them holons]
* Early standards, protocols, and methods of ineroperablity will emerge in the next 12 months, but will be radically different in 36. The “best practice” now is to use off the shelf where possible for speed of development, followed by new ones that are designed from scratch for AR and context, relevance, time, and space (location).
* Also within 36 months, early “holographic” interfaces will be experimented with, the industry will finally develop its own lexicon, and there will be much discussion and prototypes for a system of 3D icons (iconographs?) that will eventually become a visual standard for representing different types of data and information in augmented space.
* Tight registration and body tracking from any angle will also be accomplished, enabling users to anchor 3D objects such as clothing, armor, rabbit ears, masks, and animated textures/tattoos to themselves. The Cosplay, Furry, Trek, D&D, and SCA nerds will spend more money on this than the height of the Magic the Gathering industry.
*Virtual pets will be phenemonally successful and will likely be THE christmas gift in 2012. Due to the glasses, and full visual tracking, users will have a Denno Coil type of experience, where the pets can follow them around, interact with other pets, and do all sorts of fun things. Next-generations of this will evolve into “best friends” which will effectively be intelligent agents with limited voice recognition and a host of functionality. Yes, the porn industry will be all over this. As will the Otaku nerds wanting an anime girlfriend.
* Destination experiences, such as Las Vegas hotels, concert halls, sports stadiums, museums, and so forth will all be highly augmented to some degree or another, starting from content and services tied to the location with useful visualizations, to full-on 3D stuff all over the place. It is questionable at this time whether this will be an amazing experience, or if another few years are needed for better implementation, higher standards and interactivity, and adoption.
* Telcos will be at risk of being marginalized.
* AR in the medical field, both practice and research, will establish itself as useful. It will take more time to become necessary.
* A whole subculture of artists, both traditional and urban (grafitti) will begin to assert itself within 18 to 24 months, experimenting and provoking with hidden AR art.
* Branding wars, over what is linked to the brands of major companies, will begin. Overlays based on image (logo) recognition have the potential to be greatly misused.
* Government use of augmented reality will call many things into question. Of particular concern are submlinal messages or other methods of influencing people based on biometric sensors, and other feedback data, combined with visual and auditory cues and triggers.
* The mobile device will have completely replaced the wallet in some countries, and will begin to make inroads in western countries.
* The vision of Dream Park (albeit in a slightly different manner) will begin to be realized as the technology matures and the game industry embraces the cutting edge of mobile AR.
* Telepresence, using life sized avatars in remote locations, will become useful, and not be a gimmick.
* The mass media will completely FAIL when describing augmented reality.
* Some venture capitalists still won’t get it and will wonder why it takes more than $50k to build a company when you could just create a facebook widget or a basic iphone app for the same amount. Further, they will still think this is all a game because it has 3D in it.
* User generated content will dominate.
* No, still no AR contact lenses. Maybe 2018-2020. No mind reading devices either.
* The first major mass market augmented reality April Fools joke will occur on April 1st, 2012
* It will take longer than 3 years for AR to become ubiquitous in education, medicine, and therapy, although early experimental applications and research will gain a lot of ground.
* There will still be no singularity, neither will the internet become self-aware, although a famous celebrity or politician will take credit for inventing augmented reality.
* Bruce Sterling will likely comment on his blog about what I have written here.
My name will still be Robert Rice, and construction on my evil overlord lair will be nearing completion. All your augmented reality will belong to me. Or google.
[* Seriously. You MUST watch Denno Coil. The whole thing. In Japanese with Subtitles. Right now. If you haven’t seen this, you shouldn’t even be in this industry.]