Augmented reality, where virtual objects are projected on top of the real world, took center stage at E3 2014 with Microsoft’s astonishing demo of Minecraft on the company’s Hololens gadget. But this is not the only case study showing how the way we see the world could change in the future. Here are five examples of the technology’s huge potential.
1. Minecraft on the Hololens
In this jaw-dropping clip from Microsoft’s press conference at E3, the virtual world of Minecraft turns into something more like the fun of LEGOs available for play right on your living room table. Not only can you show off your digital creations from a heavenly perspective, you can even see players running around inside the game and strike them with lightning bolts. It’s the closest we’ve ever come to a real god game.
2. Real-Time Water Flow
It’s not just entertainment that augmented reality is set to revolutionize. Here’s a scientific simulation from the University of California, Davis that allows digital water flow to cross a real sandpit using actual fluid-dynamics equations. Digging holes in the sand means they fill up with water, and damming the flow stops it in its tracks. In the future, developers hope to use this technology for teaching and within science museums.
3. Interior Decoration With IKEA
Among the many companies looking into augmented reality for advertising purposes is IKEA, the flat-pack furniture giant from Sweden. The 2014 edition of its annual catalogue allows users to download an iOS or Android application and then scan selected pages to see what virtual versions of its furniture would look like in their living room.
4. A New View for Sports Fans
Chris Kluwe, a former American football player, reckons that augmented reality will totally change our experience of sports–letting us feel what it’s really like to be on the field, pitch, or racetrack. In this TED talk, he outlines how players will soon receive crucial information from their coaches right in their visors, and fans will be able to see the games through players’ eyes–perhaps even fostering more empathy among viewers.
5. The Far Future
These are all fairly practical examples of how augmented reality could change our lives in the near future. But now let’s look beyond, to a world where augmented reality is built into contact lenses, where it’s in front of our eyes at all times. This short film, titled Sight, gives us a glimpse into that gleaming future “¦ and what could go wrong.
How We Get To Next was a magazine that explored the future of science, technology, and culture from 2014 to 2019. This article is part of our Design & Innovation section, which looks at new devices, concepts, and inventions that are changing our world. Click the logo to read more.