Originally published for the YORD official blog – June 2020
No, you aren’t seeing an article from the late ‘80ies, the biggest impact of 3D technologies is still ahead.
While the technology is complex, cumbersome, and expensive, it will inevitably be the tool of big institutions like governments and corporations. Only when the average person has access to create will the technology bloom and reach its full potential, reshaping the experiential landscape for the average consumer.
While the advancement of 3D technologies, from modeling to imaging, media production, and even 3D printing are numerous, the real 3D revolution has not yet happened. The hurdle of accessibility for 3D creation is inching ever downward, and in a few short years, we will see an explosion of 3D technology applications that will touch every corner of our lives.
While analog 3D, in the form of stereoscopic photography has been around since 1832, computer 3D modeling came to light in the 1960ies. It was still relegated mostly to the domain of computer science and hardcore math. The University of Utah has pioneered some of the core 3D animation and modeling technology in the ‘70ies, with alumni going on to create historical companies like Pixar and Adobe. These companies helped popularize the idea of 3D, creating a market for digital computer graphics in fields as different as gaming, architectural design, and medicine.
These new forms of media brought about the technologies that enable the average consumer to participate in the creation of 3D content as well. With platforms like Blender, a free 3D modeling and animation solution, as well as a range of free game engines like Unity and Godot, anyone can become a creator.
For the time being, however, most 3D experiences are tethered to bulky desktops and specialized 3D rigs and peripherals that will isolate the user in their virtual reality worlds.
Traditional VR, whether experienced in a cinema, through gaming or even in a professional context is an adventure that is isolated from reality. VR has the power to transport your experience somewhere else, cutting you off, however momentarily, from the place that your body occupies. This keeps 3D technology in a limited state, either too immersive or not immersive enough to be integrated into your everyday life.
The emergence of powerful mobile technologies gives a hint of the true potential of 3D meeting the real world. As hardware has gotten smaller, portable connected devices have now provided virtually ubiquitous access to the web. They’ve also lowered the bar to entry and increased incentive for programming, design, and media production, spawning a renaissance of creative development for mobile platforms.
Augmented Reality (AR) has been cautiously, and sometimes sneakily implemented by some visionary developers for more than a decade. With the growing presence of powerful mobile computing platforms like smartphones or tablets, 3D is coming to the real world, closing the gap between input and output. Equipped with stereoscopic camera arrays, data connections, and powerful processors, the AR revolution is creeping into every facet of life. From interactive entertainment to design, and even industrial automation and maintenance. Even the more mundane areas of business, like retail shopping, are going experiencing change.
Augmented Reality is still limited to tablets and phones. As the industry painfully learned from the Google Glass experiment, form, function, and cost need significant improvements for AR glasses to be adopted by the consumer. Rumors circulating around a potential new product, Apple Glasses, suggest that a hardware leap may be imminent. Even if the device relies heavily on being tethered to a user’s phone. Truly functional heads-up display hardware will launch a new industry, in the same way, that the first iPhone launched the mobile app gold rush.
If current implementations of 3D technology are anything to go by, we will see a significant reduction of costs with much higher precision of the end product. For architecture and construction companies, being able to model, troubleshoot potential geometry clashes, and then design custom solutions is possible at a large scale with 3D design. The addition of AR will help implement 3D modeling and the use of 3D references in the process of construction. The manufacturing industry is already using significant 3D and AR capabilities to produce more precise machines, as well as maintain automation lines efficiently. With the addition of ubiquitous AR, implementations on the spot will become the standard, with each field technician having access to high quality interactive 3D technical information that makes repair a breeze.
Multiple companies are working on a truly accessible AR hardware solution, and once the first product launches in the market, we are likely to see a flood of competitive hardware. 3D imaging will be everywhere you go. 3D design will be a key component for Augmented Reality at work. With accessible, wearable AR practically everything you do will be conducted in some version of 3D space. Your navigation of the real world will change significantly as well. With a flood of information coming directly to your eyes, your world will become infinitely customizable and curated. Wayfinding and discovery will be driven by Augmented Reality, as well as media and advertising. By combining the location and AR information accessibility, the way we share experiences and communication will change drastically as well.
With the possibilities promised by AR technology that is just around the corner, virtually no industry will be untouched by the 3D revolution. No company can afford to ignore the coming change, but preparing for it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Learning the basics of 3D design and getting comfortable with the possibilities is a good start. If you want to see some cutting-edge application of AR for your business, get in touch for a free demo.