Alasdair Ford, Chief Technologist for Collaboration at Logicalis UK, considers the lessons businesses can learn from Pokémon Go.
Catch 'em if you can
It's impossible to avoid the worldwide buzz generated by Pokémon Go, although interest has waned a little from 45m active users in the first month down to a mere 30m today. My recent personal experience was being badgered by my teenage niece to go for a walk so she could hatch her current potential Pokémon progeny.
The technology behind Pokémon Go, augmented reality (AR), has been around for a few years and I was an early participant in Niantic Labs' Ingress back in 2012. Ingress was a less polished forerunner of Pokémon Go but started the journey to the phenomenon we have today. It was participating in Ingress that started me thinking about the boundaries between the real world and alternate digital realities and how we might blend them to improve collaboration.
Since Facebook bought Oculus, virtual reality (VR) has moved up the mainstream agenda. VR, unlike AR, creates a pure digital experience and we are at a point where most major device and console manufacturers support pure digital experiences with their own hardware or by providing simple adaptors like Google Cardboard and the technology is far more accessible.
VR and AR - not quite there
Whilst VR is interesting for collaboration, virtual and total digital realities offer great visualisation opportunities and are immersive. However, they can also, unfortunately, be isolating and disorienting.
When you try to introduce the real world or, more importantly, real people into total digital realities, it becomes complicated and involves a huge effort to model real world environments and bring them into a digital space. So whilst these experiences are interesting and often entertaining, their practical application in business can be quite niche. These niches are interesting and I’m talking to a couple of companies in interior design and construction to better understand the place VR has in their workspace and how they use it to improve customer intimacy.
Augmented reality has until recently been limited to labelling, translating and way-finding through a handheld screen, it's far from immersive but very useful for layering information over the real world. For retailers and public service providers it offers opportunity and new advertising revenue streams but its use in the enterprise has been limited.
At Logicalis we are looking at how we can combine our spatial intelligence capability that allows us to understand how modern offices and shared spaces are actually used with traditional digital signage and augmented realities to deliver personalised digital experiences within organisations.
What's fascinating at the moment is what I’m calling mixed reality. Pokémon Go introduces digital objects into the real world trying to provide the illusion of interaction with the physical space.
The next generation of mixed reality capability like Microsoft's Holoportation proof of concept using their fusion4d technology shows some fantastic possibilities in bringing people into physical spaces but portability has been a problem. Hololens and, to an extent, Google's project Tango, mobilise the mixed reality experience and allow portable mapping of the real world - they have truly started blurring the line between the real and the digital. While the experience can be a touch awkward at present, the opportunity for collaboration around real world objects is immense.
It's this need to collaborate in the real world on real world objects, above and beyond collaboration on written content, that will drive this conversation. Mixed realities will be truly disruptive to the creative process in many industries; automotive and product design, architecture and interior design, retail and medicine. The opportunity to blur the boundaries between digital and physical realities has huge potential to optimise workflow, increase productivity and foster creativity.
So next time you moan at your kids when they want to stop at yet another Pokégym, first be thankful they are getting some more exercise, then consider how natural the mixed reality seems to them and how easy they will find navigating the world of collaboration that is unfolding in front of us. We haven't arrived at our destination yet but the journey has certainly begun. The path we take next and where it takes us on the way will be really interesting.
Take a look at the windows Holographic video below for one vision of the art of the possible.