Head-up displays (ideal to view 3D configurators) are currently one of the most important developments in the digital economy. In the following article, we would like to take a closer look at further trends in the areas of global culture, design, music, video and social media.

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When Pokemon Go was released in 2016, it was for many an introduction to the magic of Augmented Reality (AR). Their smartphones changed the immediate world of players: A local church became a Pokestop or a park a gym to fight for Pokesupremacy.

But the game is just an insight into the potential of the medium. With hands-free AR headsets like Microsoft HoloLens or Google Glass and their Head-Up Display (HUD) that instantly changes the world in front of their eyes, a new experience emerges. Imagine going to work with a HoloLens – you could unexpectedly spy on a salamander from a mailbox. AR could make media content like Pokemon a seamless part of your daily life.

That’s the appeal of AR.

Virtual Reality (VR), with its bulky headsets that swallow up your entire field of vision, cuts you off from the world and immerses you in a world that doesn’t exist. AR, on the other hand, keeps you anchored in the world around you and mixes digital information into it.

As Anne-Fleur Andrle, CEO of the AR conference company AMA XpertEye, puts it: “VR is like putting a bucket upside down and diving in somewhere else. With AR, you’re still interacting with your environment, so there’s so much more you can do.”

How much more? The current and future iterations of HUD and AR promise to fulfill the vision of individuals in a range of industrial and commercial applications that will do nothing less than change how we literally see the world.

A brief history of the Head-Up Display.

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The potential of HUD in the future is partly determined by its past. Head-up displays (HUDs) were invented in the 1950s with the aim of enriching the real world with external visual information. The first official HUD was developed as a military tool to help combat pilots better fight enemies in the air by providing data on target, altitude and speed and more.

Like many military inventions – tape, GPS, microwave – the HUD even made the leap into other industries. In particular, some commercial airlines began using HUDs in the 1970s to help pilots take off and land using visual guides.

The development of HUDs seemed to be guided by a key question: “How can a task be improved by representing information in the line of sight of a user? The same is currently leading today’s development of AR and HUD.”

The future begins with the industries.

Such a question is often asked in the industrial environment, where rationalization is always at the forefront.

The manufacturer of Head Mounted Displays Aero Glass produces intelligent glasses that use AR to support aviation. The pilots put on the glasses and are then guided through take-off, flight and landing with information on navigation, weather and more. But in contrast to the static traditional HUDs, Aero Glass conveys relevant flight information in 360 degrees. “The great advantage of the Head-Up Display is that we can display information in all directions you are looking for,” says Akos Maroy, founder of Aero Glass.

But industrial applications of HUD and AR go beyond aviation. Think of every area where employees can benefit from information within sight as they work.

Take the aforementioned AMA Xpert Eye, the video communications software that can be installed on a range of smart eyewear. It is specifically used to connect experts with local people – sometimes with long distances between them – to guide them through different processes. For example, Xpert Eye was handed over to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority last year to allow experts in an office to guide field mechanics through public transport repairs. This is only an industrial application, but many more are possible. “We work with trains, aerospace, commercial insurance and medical technology,” says CEO Andrle. “We listen carefully to the market.”

Xpert Eye is not alone. Organizations such as Pristine enable remote insurance valuations, Upskill’s Skylight enables the construction and repair of industrial and mechanical equipment and Ubimax supports picking and sorting in warehouses.

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What would this look like? Imagine an insurance adjuster looking at a damaged car with Google Glass and a program that analyzes the car in real time and helps create an evaluation in minutes, a factory worker using Magic Leap to see an animated step-by-step guide to assembling a device, or an Amazon employee using a HoloLens to get a GPS guide to a product location in a huge shipping warehouse. It is these realities that others believe will contribute to the success of AR in industrial applications. “It needs to specialize in different industries to really work in the long run,” says Andrle.

Beyond industry and everyday life.

Even though AR and HUDs thrive in industry, there is still room for them in our everyday lives. Let’s not forget the great appeal of Pokemon Go.

More of it will come, albeit with more ambition. For example, Magic Leap introduced an AR game called “Victory” in which attacking robots are seamlessly integrated into their 360-degree environment, and Microsoft HoloLens has demonstrated the ability to play Minecraft directly on their living room table, or to use the game Project X-Ray to close the gap on aliens bursting through their living room walls.

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Nevertheless, many of us are most likely to be confronted with commercial AR in a way that affects us daily, where we will spend much of our daily lives in cars. The automotive industry is an early commercial user of HUDs. Manufacturers like Toyota and Nissan have been involved with the technology, but General Motors has been playing with more primitive forms of HUDs for decades, primarily showing their speedometer or gas indicator on the windshield.

But now stand-alone devices like Navdy, Carrobot and SkyScreen are able to project GPS routes, SMS, calls and other information onto the windshield in front of the driver. A 2016 Juniper Research report estimates that more than 16 million such HUDs could be installed by 2021, triggering four times the market growth and potentially changing our view of the world while driving.

It can even change life, also thanks to telemedicine potential. For smaller applications, programs such as AccuVein can project visual guides onto patients’ skin to find their veins. On a larger scale, the European Space Agency has developed an AR headset that astronauts can use to make medical diagnoses and even perform minor surgeries, or there is Proximie that doctors can use to help their colleagues in remote clinics improve care.

However, all this blue sky potential should not overlook the challenges of flooding our worlds with digital information.

The challenges of Visual Cutter.

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The AR and HUDs not only change our perspective, but also what we see with visual images, there is a question that both industrial and commercial applications have to face. How do you find the balance between providing the information you need without compromising your vision? The key question is whether it helps or disrupts the user.

The answer to this question will be sought in the coming years, especially as a unified approach will not work. For example, a pilot may want a lot of information from his AR headset and this can be accommodated thanks to the wide open sky in front of him. On the other hand, a surgeon working on a tight nerve cluster does not have much room to project visual information without hiding what he is doing.

The question of who sees what with which device will require a lot of cooperation, but Andrle says that leaning into these applications will pave the way. “There’s a lot to do, but I think it’ll work if you specialize in different applications and industries,” she says.

Small outlook.

Market research firm Tractica expects annual HUD shipments to increase from 2.7 million units to 36.0 million between 2015 and 2025, and TechSci Research expects the global market to grow at an average annual growth rate of over 20 percent through 2021.

There is little doubt that AR and HUDs will have an enormous impact on technical applications. It could soon be possible for a world-renowned doctor in New York City to guide a surgeon through an operation in a disaster area, a parent on a business trip with his son at home to build LEGO in AR, or a detective to immediately analyze a crime scene for clues.

Looking ahead to AR and HUDs, Andrle says: “We are at the forefront of a brand new industry and a brand new way of doing things. We still have a lot to expect.”