The future of virtual objects seen through your phone is about to get more realistic thanks to some impressive graphics.
Virtual reality might still be a while off until it’s commonplace, but augmented reality is becoming something everyone can connect to, and it’s beginning to get even more realistic.
If you’ve not heard much about it or the jargon throws you a curve, augmented reality is a little like what happens when virtual reality and actual reality mix, but you don’t need to wear a headset to experience the results.
Also called “mixed reality”, it’s what happens when you take elements of the digital world and throw them into visuals from the real world, and then experience the results through your phone or a pair of smart glasses.
While we’re not all rocking a pair of special glasses to see that last one, we all typically have phones, and can experience augmented reality quite easily these days. Pokémon Go has helped normalise this sort of thing, and in the past couple of years, Google has introduced augmented reality as part of its search abilities, allowing you to search for animals and have them appear in a virtual way through your browser, looking at 3D objects in your real-world space.
You can find other examples of this, such as from IKEA, which lets you test what furniture might look like before you buy, but another pioneer in this category is that of Snap, which has been dabbling with special filters and fashion items to make things appear rather out of nowhere, and work through your phone in your own space. You won’t be physically donning a pair of Gucci shoes, but Snap does offer the ability to see how Gucci’s shoes might look on your feet before you buy thanks to augmented reality examples.
However Snap isn’t resting on that idea alone.
At its recent Partner Summit, Snapchat noted that it now was over 330 million active users around the world, with over 250 million people working with its augmented reality lenses, accessing them over 5 billion times. And the future for the area appears to be getting more realistic.
Snapchat noted that its AR system “Lens Studio” will soon support ray tracing, a technology known in animation and games to simulate lighting, reflection, refraction, and shadows to make for more realistic digital objects in its app.
“We’re introducing several new capabilities that help increase the realism of AR elements. One of which is Ray Tracing where AR objects realistically render lighting and shadows and reflections shine in a way making it true-to-life,” said Kathryn Carter, General Manager of Snap for the Asia-Pacific region.
“This technology works well with jewelry and as an example, we are working with Tiffany-and-Co. to build a Lens featuring their ‘Bird on a Rock’ signature broach that truly sparkles,” she said.
You can find ray tracing used in games where there’s often a meaty graphics card attached, but this isn’t quite like that. Rather, it’s likely Snapchat’s use of ray traced augmented reality products will apply to a handful of items appearing inside Snapchat, and not to a full scene needing a big graphics option, since phones are the main target here.
Snap hasn’t quite said how the technology will work and whether it will only work on select devices, but our guess is the power of the cloud will be doing the work for phones, allowing ray traced 3D objects to appear realistic on nearly any device, high-end or otherwise.
It’s not the only addition to the service, either.
As part of this announcement, Snap announced that it will include a dedicated fashion area to let people try on fashionable digital in “Dress Up”, working for more than just the Gucci example we noted before, while support will be added for developers using Snap to sell wares.
And there’s even a selfie drone coming from the company in the “Pixy”, though initially it will only be available in the US and France, and only in a limited supply.
As to when all of this is coming, much of this is very much a “watch this space” sort of thing, though given it’s about things you view through your phone, you may want to take that literally.