Wired Magazine once indicated in a report that as the ultimate human-machine interface for various technological devices, AR technology in the 5G and 6G era will be used for integrating a comprehensive range of information and presenting it to the user in real time. With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, remote communication has become an important operating mechanism of society, highlighting the crucial role AR/VR plays in such systems. From this perspective, two resident teams at Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA), HorusEye Tech and Toii, led a discussion, "Crossing X Realms: Utilizing AR's new 'Realm of Vision' to enhance your immediate combat power," at a recent forum organized by Digitimes.
Bill Tseng, co-founder of HorusEye Tech, pointed out at the DForum that AR technology has become increasingly prevalent in the film and television entertainment industry, and that over the past few years the technology has appeared in movies such as Marvel's Iron Man and music videos by Jolin Tsai. As the application of this technology became more widespread, nonetheless, issues with interfacing have also begun to emerge. According to Tseng, image composition is in 3D whether it is AR, VR or MR, but the current interfaces for presenting this type of technology are all 2D screens, and therefore the quality of the 3D images presented is extremely limited. As such, he believes that mobile phones and other flat screens will only be a transitional interface for AR/VR/MR, and that near-eye display will ultimately prevail.
Among the quite diverse applications of near-eye display, currently the most demanding is medicine. Applications in this field are estimated to reach US$175.5 billion in 2026. Taking surgical navigation for example, Tseng stated that to ensure surgical procedures are more precise, surgical or drilling paths are simulated before the operation, and the surgeon performs the operation while comparing the simulated route on the screen. The current practice is to place the screen on the side of the operating table, and the surgeon must turn his or her head to look at the screen, but this unintuitive approach may affect the accuracy of the operation. The best way is to use near-eye display and AR technology to display the surgical information directly in the doctor's line of sight.
In the past, however, near-eye display still had three major issues - dizziness, loss of contrast and focal rivalry - that needed to be resolved. If these problems can be resolved successfully, application of the technology will widen significantly and market output value will also grow rapidly. HorusEye, a company composed of experts from diverse professional fields such as optics, software, hardware, IP and ID, has been able to eliminate the above-mentioned pain points in near-eye display optics, and is able to offer users a more comfortable and easy-to-use AR/MR experience.
In addition to niche markets, AR/VR can also be integrated into all aspects of life for creating various applications. Allen Yu, founder of Toii Virtual Gaming Lab, said that the company focuses technologically on AR+LBS (indoor positioning), an application that is currently mainly used in smart cities but has also been applied in tourism.
Yu indicated that AR technology has been on the market for quite some time with the most well-known application being the mobile game of Pokemon Go. The game, launched by in 2016, took the world by storm as soon as it came out, allowing consumers and industry peers to see the feasibility of this technology. Apart from games, AR can also be applied to other fields. In the retail industry, for instance, stores can use AR to provide various services. Consumers can see the location or information of the goods they want to buy on their mobile phones, and AR can also be combined with AI so that, when consumers have questions, the virtual customer service on the system appears instantly and answers the questions.
Another application is to integrate AR with tourism and create new business opportunities with new models as has already been done in both Taiwan and Japan. Two previous successful cases in Taiwan are the limited-edition Pokemon Go events in Chiayi and Tainan, where limited-edition Pokemon characters were released for players to catch while local merchants tok part in the design of various promotional activities for expanding business opportunities. In Japan, on the other hand, Guided Anime Spots Tours combining AR with well-known animation attractions are available. When fans take pictures at destinations such as Totoro Forest, the Slam Dunk seaside railway crossing and other places, anime characters will appear on the screen. In addition to the animation industry, local governments of rural regions have also cooperated with gaming companies in the design of various AR games to attract visitors and tourists.
As technical challenges continue to be overcome, the implementation of AR/VR will begin to accelerate. Tseng and Yu both think that with Taiwan's strength in science and technology, a large number of talented professionals from various countries seeking shelter from the COVID-19 pandemic will be bringing large amounts of resources in the forms of funds and technologies to Taiwan where epidemic prevention has been largely successful. Under these premises, the two urged Taiwanese businesses to take advantage of this opportunity by utilizing their own technological advantages to unveil creative applications of extended reality (XR) for manufacturing, medical and audio-visual sectors. This will enable businesses to create unprecedented experiences and business opportunities while simultaneously accelerating the upgrading of other industries in Taiwan, resulting in a scenario of mutual benefit for all parties concerned.
Bill Tseng (left), co-founder of HorusEye Tech, and Allen Yu (right), founder of Toii Virtual Gaming Lab
Photo: Sandy Du, Digitimes, April 2021