Augmented Reality May Change How We Live Our Lives and Conduct Research

Existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” Working in an industry in which every day life revolves around identifying, researching, and solving business problems, Kierkegaard’s words ring a bit dissonant with current trends.

But Kierkegaard is not alone in his musings. Enter revolutionary tech company Magic Leap. Magic Leap is self-described as an idea, the idea that “people should not have to choose between technology or safety, technology or privacy, the virtual world or the real world.” Recently, though, that idea is becoming tangible.

What is Magic Leap?

After raising over half a billion dollars from investors, including a sizeable chunk from Google, Magic Leap President and CEO Rony Abovitz has stated that the company is preparing to build “millions of things.” What those “things” are, exactly, remains unclear. But insight from Abovitz points in the direction of a device that utilizes retinal projection. Tech blog engadgetexplains:

With a team of neuroscientists and PhDs, Abovitz said that Magic Leap has been researching deeply into the relationship between the photonic light field and the way the brain functions. Interacting with digital objects, he said, should feel completely natural. “With Magic Leap, your brain doesn’t distinguish what’s real and what’s Magic Leap,” he said. “Because as far as your brain’s concerned, it is real.”

Basically, tech followers are speculating that Magic Leap project images directly onto a user’s retina, tricking the brain into believing the object is actually, physically present. Rather than a hologram or projection, which requires some sort of matter onto which the image is projected, Magic Leap bypasses the physical world and exists directly in your brain’s natural systems.

Still struggling to understand what all of that means? Check out these two videos that were recorded directly off of Magic Leap’s hardware that show exactly what the wearer sees. The first video is tamer, showing off more of an overlay of augmented reality and the natural world. The second video really goes deep into the potential of Magic Leap, giving a glimpse into both the day-to-day uses, like email and messaging, as well as mind-blowing, immersive experiences, in this case a life-like video game.

Does it Matter?

Sure, Magic Leap is a cool idea. And yeah, I would definitely want to try it out. But does it mean anything? Or is it just a novelty akin to Google Glass or other new technology with a ton of hype but little delivery? I can’t speak to the actual technical specifics and whether they’ll pan out, but the potential applications and Magic Leap’s foundation in behavioral science is promising.

Take a look at the two observations made by Magic Leap on their website to illustrate their vision:

  1. That current technologies we use to access the digital world limit, or even take us away, from the real world.
  2. That the future of computing should be derived from respecting human biology, physiology, creativity, and community. Why can’t computing feel completely natural?

When I read these two observations, I get excited. Google “millennial” and I guarantee at least half of the images in the search results are of young people on some sort of smartphone or tablet. As Magic Leap’s first point illustrates, having to ignore the real world in order to participate in the digital world is limiting. Imagine instead that the two are integrated. The digital world exists within the real world and the two interact with one another seamlessly. By integrating the two, computing does begin to feel completely natural. It becomes part of daily life. It truly augments reality.

How About Market Research?

The everyday applications of Magic Leap are certainly impressive and exciting. Perhaps equally as exciting are its applications to consumer research. Immediately, I can think of several ways this technology can be integrated into market research. Let me highlight a few of my favorites:

  • Concept & Product Testing: What if instead of being forced to evaluate a potential product by reading a short description and seeing a small, two-dimensional image, an actual pseudo-physical version of that potential product was right in front of the consumer’s eyes? Instead of the solar system like in the first demo video, the new product is sitting on the table, and you can rotate and examine it as if it already existed.
  • Shopper Research: I can think of so many opportunities here that it’s hard to pick a place to start. Imagine a respondent walking through a store, looking at a product, and a question popping up right next to the product. Imagine inserting non-existent signage or products into a real shopping experience to understand how it alters the shoppers’ experience. Imagine a completely empty room, but to the shopper, it’s a fully stocked store for them to explore and experience.
  • General Survey Presentation: Here’s where I get a bit more abstract. Instead of a brand list, respondents can “grab” the logo of the brands they use. Instead of a sliding scale, a respondent can move their hand sideways to indicate their preference. Instead of scrolling through an internet browser and hitting “next,” the questions appear right before your eyes. Surveys become quicker, simpler, and more real. Data becomes faster, more relevant, and more accurate.

Now, these ideas are completely hypothetical. No one knows exactly how well this new technology will work or how easy it will be to leverage and integrate into existing business systems. But in order to be on the forefront of innovation, you need to think about new technology and its applications before it exists. That’s how you move from What’s Now to What’s Next. And with technology as exciting and potentially revolutionary as Magic Leap, the potential is overwhelming.