An augmented reality future? IT really needs to step it up

26 Oct 2016

Augmented reality at Smau, international exhibition of information communications technology. Image: Tinxi/Shutterstock

A growing wave of opinion that augmented reality is tomorrow’s favourite toy means many companies are shifting their focus, but can the current IT industry keep up?

“The first key challenge is complexity.” That’s according to Bryan Hill, Interxion’s director of marketing and business, who was discussing the plausibility of an augmented reality (AR) future.

AR works across, and relies upon, several spinning wheels and turning cogs. Pokémon GO is the finest example of AR done right; a blend of mobile analytics, Unity Technologies’ game engine, social data and two public clouds.

Future Human

Augmented reality

Cloud control

As Hill notes, this example is a marriage of private and public cloud – a battleground already causing disruption throughout industry.

“How you interconnect with the public cloud infrastructure is once again crucial,” he said. “Unfortunately, connecting the private infrastructure to the cloud over the public internet is simply not good enough.”

Beyond those infrastructural issues, scale is another concern, especially given the potential success of apps such as Pokémon GO. Supporting a service that works 24/7 globally means central data centres are, most likely, not enough.

Hill recommends something called an ‘interconnection hub architecture’ model to get over these significant hurdles, which is essentially a corporate network centred around regional interconnection hubs.

“By placing private infrastructure within ‘interconnection hubs’, you connect directly with partners, suppliers, public cloud platforms, network providers,” he said, allowing content providers serve continental and global audiences.

Everyone is interested

AR’s significance was underlined by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella this week, who said the company missed out on the mobile revolution and it won’t fail in such a way again.

“The ultimate computer for me is the mixed reality world,” he said at a WSJD Live interview recently. “Your field of view becomes an infinite display. You see the world and in the world, you see virtual objects and holograms.”

Juniper Research forecasts that the AR market will rise to 2.3bn apps by 2021, representing a 380pc increase from an estimated 482m in 2016.

Microsoft is hoping the HoloLens will be the device most people use to enter into a new, immersive realm of technology.

“Whether it be HoloLens, mixed reality, or Surface, our goal is to invent new computers and new computing,” he added, with AI now a dedicated strand of the company.

Interxion answer

Hill’s interconnection hubs idea is relatively straightforward: build a network of edge nodes, or data centres, in key locations. For the UK and Ireland, London would suffice, Iberia could be satisfied by a Madrid centre, Frankfurt for Western Europe, Budapest for central Europe etc.

Given that the likes of Pokémon GO rely on various interacting tools such a software engine, GPS maps, mobile analytics, and social media via API and clouds; strategic planning is clearly important, and constant connectivity a necessity.

“It’s only by adopting this model that mobile AR applications can overcome the challenges posed by blending all of these different architectures,” said Hill.

“In short, you can only optimise a mobile AR application if you first optimise your IT and your corporate network.”

Augmented reality at Smau, international exhibition of information communications technology. Image: Tinxi/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic