Augmented reality: Next-gen headsets show business promise

Developers are racing to turn AR into an important enterprise technology.

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Technology entrepreneur Raven Zachary has seen things he has difficulty talking about.

"It is a profound moment to put on the device and see an object on your table, and then to walk around that object and see that it is fixed there and behaving as if it were real. It is impossible for me to communicate the experience. You have to experience it for yourself," says Zachary, cofounder of software firm Object Theory.

Fellow developer Ryan Peterson, head of Finger Food Studios, is a little more grounded. "The Star Trek: Next Generation holodeck is real today," he says. "You can sit down with any corporation and come up with 20 ideas for using it that would transform their business."

They're talking about the latest generation of head-mounted displays that let the wearer interact with an enhanced version of the real world.

What the headsets offer is not virtual reality (VR), where the user is presented with an entirely artificial visual experience by a head-mounted display that typically blocks out the rest of the world. Instead, these devices provide augmented reality (AR), which adds information to your environment -- images are projected against the back of the goggles, but you can continue to see through the goggles to the real world beyond.

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