There is a saying that "it takes a village to raise a child." If this is true, then it also takes a village to fully realize augmented reality (AR).

 VR and AR Advancements Are Intertwined

Looking around the internet, there is a noticeable impatience towards VR and AR technology. A few years ago, VR was all excitement and wonder - while AR was still viewed as a pipe dream, a technology that was too far away to really invest in. Now, passions on VR have waned while AR is starting to build steam - at least according to prominent journalists. Nevertheless, VR and AR companies continue to rake in venture capital investments as each technology improves towards true viability.

The issue is that neither one exists in a vacuum. This is nothing new when it comes to developments in technology. Computers were not ready for mass market dominance once the monitor was worked out - keyboards, the mouse, operating systems, training - all of these obstacles had to be overcome. When looking at AR, there are several variables outside the core technology that stand as barriers to its successful implementation. The largest of which is internet connectivity.

Connectivity Hurdles

AR features are filled with displays updating with current information that change dynamically by the minute. This is standard feature discussed when looking at the future of AR. Real-time world enhancement, with robust features tailored to the user that change constantly based on location and time of day. This augmentation is not possible on a 4G wireless network.

Chart from 2015.

Yet even as 5G rolls out, the entire network will first need to see an overhaul. Consumers hate dropped calls and poor connections now but these hassles will be much more pronounced when wearing an HMD. And this is only AR in the consumer arena. Looking at its use in enterprise settings raises the stakes. Currently, ODG has an AR headset model designed to be worn in hazardous environments, where even a minute's delay could have dire consequences. AR workers will need the right information streamed to their device, be able to act on that information, and then send accurate results back to be diagnosed - all in real-time. Wireless network strength needs to be dramatically improved for this to happen.

Another potential issue comes from battery life. Current smartphone batteries last longer when the device is not in use. This will not be the case with AR glasses, which will be worn and (likely) always on. A typical worker shift lasts eight hours - so this will be the bare minimum that AR headset batteries should last. A device that needs to be frequently charged is a device that is not being used.

Overcoming Privacy Issues

An additional issue to talk about is security. AR devices will see what users see, meaning that information such as PIN numbers, Social Security numbers, and credit card details will be filmed throughout the course of daily life (not to mention a plethora of other intimate/private moments). Users will need to be comfortable revealing this information to their glasses, meaning that security software will need to impregnable. This will be true in enterprise and consumer settings. No one will want to wear a headset - for work or pleasure - if they are not sure who else is watching.

Developing Intuitive Controls

Finally, how users will interact with their headsets is an issue critical to AR's success. It is likely that one interface will not do. While speech controls sound futuristic, it would be really impractical for a variety of situations (assuming the user could talk). For example, police with augmented reality headsets could endanger themselves if they constantly had to issue voice commands. Another example is a user on a bus trying to work on private documents. Speaking confidential information out loud will never be popular. Mouse-related controls and hand gestures frequently used, but each come with their own issues. Hand gestures will also be problematic for users in tight spaces, public places, and for people who cannot readily move their limbs. Mouse-related controls are not necessarily intuitive or natural for consumers.

It is difficult to envision users carrying around sophisticated controllers wherever they go.

It is likely that a combo system will be developed around the primary form of interaction: eye-tracking, which is software that is still evolving today. Every system needs a refined interface before it sees widespread success. Expect AR to be no different.

The road to AR is much like the road to VR - long and full of important hurdles to be overcome. Nevertheless, developers are definitely on the right track, as impasses have been falling like dominoes. AR still needs many important developments, not to mention apps that convince the public and corporations of its true potential, before it can reach maturity. It is still years away from real viability.