VR was all over CES this year. Lots of excitement, but little content - and the incredible Oculus Rift has a catch: not only will it sell for $600, it requires a fast "gamer" PC to operate. It is believed that 2016 is the make or break it year for VR. As with 3D TV, which was flogged at CES for several years before being considered a flop, VR deserves and will have a longer gestation period. Besides Samsung and Sony, Google is working on a much less expensive VR headset. Yet, the hype could lead to a rejection. Instead, at CES I began to see the longer-term promise of VR's ignored cousin, AR.
AR has been rumbling and stumbling out of the gates. Google Glass was a flop. Microsoft shows promise with its HoloLens, but it is still a curiosity. Apple is said to be working on it, but then, Apple is said to be working on a lot of things. Its rumored plans to re-invent TV has never materialized.
The promise of AR was most visible in the auto section at CES. Lots of excitement over "3D dashboards" and the use of LADAR (laser radar) to image 360 degrees around a vehicle. You can already see this in high-end cars, where when backing out a 3D image around the car is shown on the dashboard screen. It is augmented with lines showing drivability. With LADAR now dropping fast in price, 3D dashboards should come to mainstream vehicles. With it should come augmented windshields, which show what is around the car with identifying information. Microsoft HoloLens could be used for this, and Apple is also rumored to be working on augmented heads-up displays for vehicles.
Where does this go? Right now, augmented 3D displays are only shown for slow speed driving, like parking or backing out. It would become hugely distracting for drivers at speed. Perhaps instead of augmenting reality for drivers, it will become the interface to make self-driving cars more intelligent.
AR for robots, not people ...