Charles Gannon, a professor at Saint Bonaventure, a futurist, and a frequent military consultant for the Department of Homeland Security, says that augmented reality could become an important aid in combat as well. For example, an anti-terrorism team could use AR technology to show HUD pop-ups for dangerous toxins in the area that are not discernable with the naked eye, or to examine the sound of gunfire and identify which automatic weapon is being used and from what vantage point.
“A SWAT team would have greater perception,” says Gannon. “AR would connect at an instinctual level, helping them determine whether to move in closer. It’s not just about more maps or more statistics,” which Gannon says can be a detriment in tense situations, rather, “it’s more about primal sensory data.” Equipped with AR technology in this scenario, police and military forces would have to think less about how to deploy or which tactics to use as augmented reality offers real-time, enhanced feedback on surroundings, allowing them to react faster to breaking development. For example: A moment’s glance could be enough to identify where a sound is coming from, with an overlay displayed on a visor helping identify the attackers making these noises’ possible locations or identifying assailants with color-coded warnings.
Gannon says another interesting use of AR has to do with representing physical objects that are not visible yet. For instance, in the airport terminal example cited above, this could consist of showing you a virtual picture of an airplane before it reaches the gate so you can see what type of aircraft it is and where you will be sitting. Often, we have a hard time understanding the absence of data, but augmented reality would readily fill in the gaps and help project future scenarios to give us a better understanding of developing variables and potential ways to react to them.
The Future of Augmented Reality
So where will all this innovation lead? Gannon says that in the next 10-20 years, augmented reality could become commonplace – but he also warns about the dangers of using AR technology just because it is available.
“Augmented reality is just another tool, and like all tools, we’ll need to match the problem with the right solution,” he says, giving the example of an incoming commuter flight and how he’d rather just get a text message and not have augmented reality even part of the equation.
In the end, experts agree on one thing, however. Augmented reality is certainly a major step toward the virtual world intersecting with the physical, enhancing our perception, and providing clues about underlying data that we would not normally understand. It’s up to tomorrow’s innovators, however, to make sense of the technology and find ways to really help make it compute.