Holographic computing takes the spotlight as the user interface of choice

Everyone takes notice when Apple CEO Tim Cook makes a prediction

During the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call with analysts, he said, “AR is going to change everything.” He was not exaggerating.

Augmented reality (AR) is re-shaping our use of technology. , Consider how quickly we have moved from typing on PC keyboards, to the smartphone’s tap and swipe and on to simply using voice commands to ask Alexa or Siri to answer our questions and help us get things done. Now AR brings us to the age of holographic computing, providing a captivating, futuristic user interface alongside animojies, Pokémon and face filters.

Whereas textbook holography is generated by lasers, holographic computing is coming to us now through our the mobile devices in the palm of our hands. As a result, we are now witnessing a surge in the use of hologram-like 3D – and to Cook’s point, it will completely change how we interact with businesses and each other.

The evidence is everywhere. The release of Apple’s iOS11 puts AR into the hands of over 400 million consumers. The new iPhoneX is purposely designed to deliver enhanced AR experiences with 3D cameras and “Bionic” processors. Google, meanwhile recently launched the Poly platform for finding and distributing virtual and augmented reality objects, while Amazon released Sumerian to facilitate creation of realistic virtual environments in the cloud. We are also in the midst of an AR-native content creation movement, with a steady stream of AR features coming from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and other tech players.

The instantly engaging user experiences of 3D are obviously attractive for gaming and entertainment, but are capable of so much more, particularly in the training and customer-experience sectors where the technology is already making substantial in-roads.

In training, holography is useful for virtual hands-on guidance to explain a process, complete a form or orient a user. It also can effectively simulate real-life scenarios such as sales interactions or emergencies.

Holographic computing interfaces add new dimensions to traditional instruction methods. AR enhancements can be overlaid for greater depth and variety in information presentation, such as floating text bubbles to provide detail about a particular physical object. They can generate chronological procedure-mapping for performing a task, or virtual arrows pointing to the correct button to push on a console.

There are countless opportunities for adding more digital information to almost anything within range of a phone camera. Why should staff travel to a classroom if an interactive, immersive 3D presentation can be launched on any desk, wall, or floor and “experienced” through the screen in the user’s hand? And unlike passively watching video, holographic interfaces add an extra experiential element to the training process. As a result, users can more readily contextualise what they are learning.

In customer experience, consumers are using AR and holographic computing for self-selection, self-service, and self-help. And it will not be long before the range of uses expands. IKEA’s AR app, for example, lets a customer point a phone at their dining room to see how a new table will look in the space. Taking this further, it should be possible to point the phone at the delivery box in order to be holographically guided through the assembly process when the table is delivered.

Holographic computing will also emerge as the preferred means for obtaining product information and interacting with service agents. Walk-throughs of hotel rooms and holiday destinations with a 3D virtual tour guide, travel planner or salesperson are also not too far away.

There are other appealing use cases, of course. And as adoption and implementation spread, there will be many instances where this new user interface is preferable and will quickly become standard.

Along with the Apples, Googles and Facebooks of this world, there are a number of new entrants to the AR arena. The sheer amount of money being thrown at speedy development shows that the ultimate nature of the holographic user interface is up for grabs. Will it remain phone-based or involve glasses? Will it shift to desktop or evolve beyond our current hardware, to be integrated into on-eye projection technology? Or will it be all of the above – who can say?

The one certainty is that significant brain-power is being invested by companies of all types in the development and application of this emerging technology. The increased dispersal of AR experiences in all their incarnations, combined with the mounting accessibility afforded by our smartphones, will drive mass-adoption and widespread affinity for the holographic interface.

About The Author

Simon Wright is Director of AR and VR at Genesys. Genesys, the world’s #1 Customer Experience Platform, empowers companies to create exceptional omnichannel experiences, journeys and relationships. For over 25 years, we have put the customer at the center of all we do, and we passionately believe that great customer engagement drives great business outcomes