Many are hailing 2016 as the year that virtual reality goes mainstream, and that certainly seems to be the case. Google is one of the biggest players in the field, as you would expect, but private conversations with CEO Sundar Pichai and VR head Clay Bavor have revealed that VR is a means to an end for the search giant. Their real goal? Everyday augmented reality.
Their reasoning is fairly straightforward, but it runs the opposite direction of one of their major competitors in this area, Facebook. The Oculus-Rift-owning social obelisk sees a future not unlike the one presented in science fiction novels like Ready Player One and the real Ready Player One by Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash. Facebook is anticipating a future in which we live in simulated realities, physically separated from each other but interacting through a wide array of gaming environments, VR education systems, and other social mediums. Google has the opposite in mind. They are anticipating a future in which we continue to walk around in the real world and engage one another physically, but a layer of information will be overlaid across our reality thanks to “third eye” technology that gives us constant additional data about our surroundings.
In the long run, Google thinks that AR will have more profit potential than VR because nobody is going to wear VR in public. VR is fundamentally isolating, and Google is banking on people continuing to want to get up and go out into the real world. And those people are going to want to take their technology with them.
Fortunately for the sultan of search, a lot of the technologies required to make AR work are being developed in the current VR boom. Accelerometers and other sensors designed to match up physical motions with digital overlays are going to be core components of mass market AR in the future, and the need for higher resolution screens that the VR market is demanding will be essential for the commercial augmented reality of tomorrow. So while it appears that Google is throwing their full weight into virtual reality at the moment, their end-game is to give us all Terminator vision sometime in the future.
Now, some scoff at this objective, pointing to the legendary failure of Google Glass. However, those who doubt should take note of the hockey-stick curve that modern technology now follows. Modern smartphones were unimaginable in 2000, and fully immersive AR experiences like those touted by Magic Leap may be much closer than you think.
What are your thoughts regarding Google’s AR ambitions? Total pipedream, or are we going to have crazy tech contacts in the next couple of decades? Let us know your theories and predictions in the comments below, and as always, stay tuned to Android Authority for all things mobile, VR, and beyond.