Life is persistent.
If I close my eyes, I know the coffee on the counter will still be there when I open them. If I run to the other room and back, it will remain fixed in position on my return. Even the baristas and other patrons in the room will all vouch for its placement and existence.
What seems obvious to anyone living in real reality is the thing currently missing in the augmented version of it: persistence. AR apps cannot remember where you left AR things, and they cannot allow you to view shared experiences, objects or overlays with friends. Just like the internet before email, chat rooms and instant messenger, AR is not yet fit for social behavior. There’s also not a thread, chain, feed or log that users can access to archive their activity. Trust that it’s being archived, just not for your own personal convenience or benefit.
My hunch is that persistence may become the next semantic darling of industry vernacular, taking the place of more seasoned tags like “immersion” and “experiential.” Persistent computing implies that our activity becomes memorialized after use. When stored in the cloud, one person’s world of interactions becomes accessible, in perpetuity, to anyone else. Rather than expiring after a user session, your progress is saved for the next time, just like any gamer, web surfer or streamer would expect after closing the browser or powering down.
When applied to world-scale AR, the illusion is that your behavior can be traced back to a physical location, detectable through any mobile device. This networked mesh of constant, spatial data has been deemed the AR cloud, and it’s being heralded as one of the most important software engines of the decade.
Think of cloud AR as digital 3-D cartography that’s perfectly coupled to the real world. It understands your environment in real time and enables unique display affordances like occlusion and synchronized interactions across multiple devices. It’s the new and spatially aware RWW: the real world web. The implications and extrapolations are limitless.
As a result of cloud AR, the marketplace for digital inventory is about to undergo a radical transformation. Commodities will be substantiated by physical and geospatial attributes and evaluated, ironically, like real estate. Could you ever imagine the phrase “location, location, location” applicable to the cloud? If you’re an advertiser vying to place a hologram in the middle of Times Square, you can count on paying a premium for the media spend—but paying who?
Venture investment might offer some clues. Blue Vision and Ubiquity6, arguably the two leaders in the cloud AR sector, have received massive backing by none other than Google, the world’s biggest advertiser.
A slew of other startups—including 6D.ai, Escher Reality, youAR, Scape and Sturfee—offer competitive products, but in the advertising world where inventory is valued by views, a platform’s worth is measured by the size of its user base. Assuming that 1.3 billion people continue to use Facebook in the wake of the privacy scandal, the winner of the cloud AR race is still up in the air.