For access to opportunities in augmented reality development, underserved neighborhoods need broadband deployment

The news …

The Internet Innovation Alliance released the following about the increasing importance in the markets of augmented reality:

“Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology makes use of sensory devices to modify a user’s surroundings, creating an immersive, simulated environment. In 2019, it’s forecasted that the market size worldwide for AR/VR will be $16.8 billion, with forecasts for 2023 reaching $160 billion. Given the anticipated growth in the market, companies have begun to allocate significant R&D budgets to AR/VR, including big tech companies like Facebook, Sony, and Microsoft.”

So four short years from now, the augmented and virtual reality world’s market will grow almost ten-fold. Bit what does this AR/VR world promise to bring to consumers?

Of smartphones and tri-corders …

Back in July 2016 in Dallas during a conference, I was persuaded by two college-aged young ladies to check out one of those virtual reality visors that promise to take you to a popular vacation spot without having to leave your room.  It took me awhile to get my bearings, reconciling what I believed to be real (the conference hall lobby I knew I was standing in) versus the vacation spot projected to me as reality.  That was three years ago and that demonstration seems primitive to what appears available today.

The website, HowStuffWorks.com, presents an insightful mega-analysis of the current and forecasted uses of AR/VR. Augmented reality with the use of digital technology is able to overlay digital elements on what we call the real world.  If you have a smartphone, there are AR/VR apps out there that allow you, for example, to point your phone at a building or landmark and obtain information about them.

“The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real time. Sounds pretty simple. Besides, haven’t television networks been doing that with graphics for decades? However, augmented reality is more advanced than any technology you’ve seen in television broadcasts, although some new TV effects come close, such as RACEf/x and the super-imposed first down line on televised U.S. football games, both created by Sportvision. But these systems display graphics for only one point of view. Next-generation augmented-reality systems will display graphics for each viewer’s perspective. ” — Kevin Bonsor and Nathan Chandler, How Stuff Works

The imposition of these graphics and other sensory enhancements can take place on your smartphone.  It seems that depending on your VR/AR consumption needs, one need not go out and buy or use the visor I tried on in Dallas.  From a producer perspective, there are a number of platforms that leverage Android or iOS operating systems to create the VR/AR technology and applications that merge “real” and “virtual” worlds.  Among these platforms are Maxst, Vuforia, ARCore, ARKit, and Wikitude, to name a few.

Again, these platforms are supported by mobile operating systems that need need broadband networks to run on.  But as elected and appointed government officials talk about economic growth, are they putting their money where their mouths are?

Policy makers need to encourage broadband deployment…

If neighborhoods are going to attract entrepreneurs capable of leveraging mobile platforms to create employment and income, then policy makers on local, state, and federal levels should remain vigilant in making sure that the rights-of-ways that they manage are being made available for the deployment of mobile networks.

If policy makers are serious about closing income gaps between affluent and less affluent neighborhoods, then purposeful policy must be used to encourage the broadband facility investment necessary for deploying advanced networks in less affluent neighborhoods.  If not, then the ten-fold growth in the VR/AR market will by-pass these neighborhoods.

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Author: Alton Drew

I graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can follow me on Twitter @altondrew.

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