Previously, I have mentioned how Augmented Reality (AR) could be employed to evaluate nanomaterial properties through being able to switch from 3-D images containing three different parameters to a different view with one or more of the parameters changed. The real question is how might AR be beneficial to a large number of people.
One of the challenges of business is the necessity for meetings. Being able to meet face-to-face enables a strong interaction among the people present. Conference calls are okay but lack the ability to talk about figures and drawings. Yes, it is possible to send out the information and hopefully have people move to the page that is being discussed.
WebEx and similar approaches are beneficial by enabling the presenter to move through a presentation with everyone observing the same specific item being discussed. Yes, it is possible to add video so that individual can appear on a screen. The issue with multiple little rectangular video boxes on the screen is that once a small number of participants is exceeded it is difficult to focus on the presentation.
I have experienced video conferences where the multiple video conferencing rooms are set up. When this is done correctly, it is almost like siting across a table from the participants. The issue with this approach is the requirement for dedicated facilities to enable the communications.
What is it about face-to-face meetings that make them better that the alternatives we have today? Face-to-face meetings provide for the ability to observe how participants react during a meeting. Facial changes provide a significant amount of information on how an individual is reacting to the presentation. This is not possible under current virtual meeting alternatives – today.
Augmented Reality employs computer generated graphics into a real-world environment. In most of these instances, the generated image is three dimensional. This still requires processing power to achieve the desired images.
What if? What if it were possible to have a camera taking 3-D images of a meeting participant and sending the data to a computer to create an augmented image of that person? What if the resolution of that image were sufficient to observe facial expressions (on a 3-D image of the person)? What if there were sufficient transmission capabilities to send and receive multiple images simultaneously? What if there were sufficient processing power to resolve all the images being sent?
One can envision a future program that can insert meeting participants into empty chairs around a meeting table. (Obviously, everyone would need to be wearing an AR headset.) Physically present people would take a seat at the table. The computer would provide AR images of the remote people and place them in empty seats. Hands could be raised to ask questions. There would be no difference between the physically present and the virtually present people. Would this approach be as good as an in-person meeting? Not quite. The ability to have side discussions would still be available. With sufficient resolution, the reactions of the attendees would be recognizable. What would be missing is the side conversations prior to and after the meeting.
Is this possible today? Not yet. There are a number of issues and the technology is still in the early stage. If one considers the data requirements. If the image is 3-D, the data required is at least twice for a typical video transmission. The resolution needs to be higher, which increase the data to be transmitted. In some locations, the upload speed is more than a factor of 10 slower than download speed. If there are 5 or 10 people in one location, the system will probably not perform well. So, higher upload speeds will be required. The computational power required is significant. If the people are rendered (virtually), the refresh rate needs to be many times a second. Again, higher data transmission rates required. The computer that creates the virtual image must be refreshing the image many times a second. This needs to be done for each of the participants. Does this mean multiple computers with multiple cores? Probably. My guess is that a system with the capability described, would have multiple computers. Each computer could handle set number of virtual people. If that number was exceeded, a second computer would be brought on line. The possibilities are endless. We need for a company to come forward with a augmented reality meeting product. Consider that program to be something like WebEx on super-steroids.