Startups

Two startups try to use AR to bridge the Covid-induced communication gap

AR, Augmented Reality, EyeWay Inc, Upgrad, AR in India, Adloid, AR featuresAdloid is using their own engine to help build AR experiences for large enterprises.

We might still be a few years away from getting to interact with three-dimensional images like what Google showcased with its Project Starline at I/O last month. Till then, AR could plug the communication gap which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The use of AR to change the way we humans interact with the virtual and the real is not new. Thanks to filters on Snapchat, Instagram and Google’s 3D animals and now 3D athletes, many of us have experienced AR in some small way or the other. But the pandemic and its social distancing protocols have already prompted many larger enterprises to us AR tech to reach out to customers as well as to connect with their, now remote, workers.

Gurugram-based Adloid, which has been in the space for the past four years, which has built its own proprietary engine for AR, is seeing its technology being leveraged by large enterprises such as Hero MotoCorp, Asian Paints, Tanishq and others.

“The business in itself is to create a virtual replica of the physical world,” Kanav Singla, Founder & CEO, Adloid tells indianexpress.com. He cites the example of how Hero MotoCorp is using their AR engine to completely digitise their sales and their training processes for workers.

AR, Augmented Reality, EyeWay Inc, Upgrad, AR in India, Adloid, AR features Kanav Singla, CEO of Adloid.

“The trainer is augmenting the part, let’s say the engine of the bike in front of him, and he’s assembling, disassembling everything on his own, and showing that assembly disassembly process to the frontline and the backline workers,” the IIT-Delhi grad explains, adding that this is what they had envisioned when they first started off four years back.

With the physical world still not being accessible to everyone, more companies are shifting their focus towards the virtual, and this is an opportunity that Adloid is hoping to exploit further. “Demand increase actually started before Covid itself. January 2020, companies started reaching out to us that they want to use our technology, they want to use our engine. But yes, consumer behavior has also changed which has helped,” Singla says.

In his view, companies now know there is upside in investing in creating a virtual world, “because the customer is going to come there only”.

The Adloid CEO says their edge is their AR engine which renders the entire experience even on a smartphone browser, a device accessible and comfortable for most users in India. He claims their engine doesn’t require a lot of processing power on the device.

One example of a successful campaign was a Tata Safari AR experience for Tata Motors, which had more than a million people try it within the first 15 days. “We are able to run this on browsers on web browsers, so you don’t need to download an app as well,” he pointed out.

The way he sees it, AR will be used a lot more in remote assistance, manufacturing and communications. And the reason they are focused on phones is because they don’t see large enterprise clients investing in specialised headsets.

But running AR on smartphones, while it can help achieve scale, is not the ultimate goal for most AR-focused experts in the field.

“My experience with AR is very old, because I actually started working in AR for the military 25 years ago. I think smartphone AR is a classical example of helpful AR. The most natural evolution of that is the smart glasses,” Dr Nikhil Balram, CEO of EyeWay Vision Inc, based in Silicon Valley, tells indianexpress.com over a call.

AR, Augmented Reality, EyeWay Inc, Upgrad, AR in India, Adloid, AR features The way EyeWay envisions AR, it would look natural and immersive to the user. (Image credit: Eyeway)

In his view, the ultimate AR glasses would offer a clear usefulness in their experience, which is what the company is hoping to do in the field of ed-tech in India. It has partnered with UpGrad to help create a unique AR glasses experience for learning.

But Dr Balram, who was previously head of Google Display, knows that it will take some time to get to this path. The idea is to have an experience of AR which feels natural to the eyes, avoiding that ‘fundamental discomfort’ which is often a part of VR and AR headsets, which as he points out is what leads to users feeling sick and disoriented over time.

For Upgrad, the glasses will be geared for the particular niche purpose for education and not something that students will wear all day. These AR glasses could help with lessons on data science where 3D visualisations on the screen will seem much more natural. “The concept or module is shown to you in 3D and you can touch it, rotate it, if it’s some sort of image of a globe of data,” he explains.

Dr Nikhil Balram, CEO of Eyeway.

But he also adds that the development of content to use the glasses properly is a key aspect to making these a success. That’s why the company is also working and engaging with universities for the same.
While he feels Covid-19 and its rules of social distancing have opened up new opportunities for AR, hardware is still a problem that needs to be solved. In his view, people want a “natural” experience when using AR glasses where the digital content and real world are visible at the same time.

“In traditional AR glasses, what you do is you basically flood the face with light. And the reason you do that is because you don’t know where the person’s eyes are, where they are looking,” he said. But EyeWay’s insight was that the light is wasting power. “So we rely on a low-power laser that scans the image only on the eye, and follows the eye, so the light is only given to the eye, and as the eye moves, the image moves with the eye,” Balram explains. This, he says, will ensure a more efficient computation, more efficient transmission of data as well.

The AR glasses of the future, in his opinion, would do everything right. They would look like regular glasses, are immersive, but the user can also interact comfortably. He calls it the iPhone moment of AR, but cautions that these are still some time away from becoming a reality.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/tech-news-technology/two-startups-try-to-use-ar-to-bridge-the-covid-induced-communication-gap-7364322/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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