Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Machine Learning are currently the biggest trends when it comes to technology and development, whether if it’s for a website, an app or a video game. How do they intersect though? What’s the power behind ultra fast-processing machines combined with Virtual Reality? Why SLAM is reshaping all the apps we are currently using to move around and for navigation? Let’s break this down in more detail.
SLAM is an acronym which stands for “Simultaneous Localization and Mapping“. This protocol permits us to create, elaborate and define a precise space in the real world that will be translated into the virtual one (or vice-versa) by using sensors and an actual VR headset. This technology has been applied to many different technologies, with the biggest one probably being Microsoft’s HoloLens. On a technical level, this application has reached unimaginable peaks, compared to when it started: Elon Musk’s Tesla, for example, is planning to build their entire autonomous driving system around this technology.
Where’s The “Machine Learning” Part?
Machine learning is a big part of this technology, given the amount of data these sensors are amassing every single second. While the headset (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and so on) is merely a vector that gathers information from the surrounding area, an external machine (keep in mind we are still talking about Virtual Reality, so it has to be a very powerful computer, in terms of processing potential) is actually translating this data using SLAM, applying them to the real (or digital if it’s in the opposite way) world.
Machine learning-wise, the process is still in its early phase, since the compiling times are pretty slow. In the future, this will be done in a matter of nanoseconds, but for now, these machines are still a dream.
The Mobile World
With Pokemon GO and all the other big Niantic’s games SLAM and Augmented Reality became a “mainstream” technology, giving many app developers a new path to follow when implementing this technology in their development. The future is ultra bright on this side: many will be the games which will focus on this approach, while of course focusing on the user experience, in particular when applied to online-based ones. Niantic is currently working on a fully AR-based game set in the magnificent Harry Potter’s world.
Maps and SLAM
Mapping an entire city on Google Maps has become pretty easy with Google’s latest technology, but still, it requires a bit of time (fluctuating from 3 to 6 months to update). Google already admitted their usage of SLAM applications to better develop their Maps, which will be updated (on a 4D level, potentially) instantly while requiring some simple AR sensors that will be included in their new smartphones.