We are at the start of a new era, where it is getting increasingly impossible to distinguish real from fake, where reality is seamlessly connected to the virtual world.

That can be frightening, yet it is also very promising. Take for example Augmented Reality; with a standard smartphone you can wear virtual make-up today or search for Pokémon characters. With AR glasses it becomes even more interesting, and this future is less distant from us than you might think.

People like Tim Cook from Apple have already announced the “post smartphone” era, a new era in which smartphones have been replaced by AR glasses. Just like Google Glass but more advanced, and hopefully also with more style.

There are already several products on the market, but they are not really suitable for the public. Too expensive, too big and with too few interesting AR apps. And that while there are hundreds of AR apps available for smartphones. Then an Augmented Reality Cardboard is the solution: affordable AR glasses.

Branded AR Cardboard

More and more branded AR glasses are emerging, AR Cardboards with logo that are ideal for marketing, and AR Cardboards for companies that, in addition to promotional value, can also be used to provide information.

Just as Google Cardboards have fueled the popularity of Virtual Reality, AR Cardboards will do the same for Augmented Reality.

The rise of the Augmented Reality Cardboard

Even before the Oculus Rift existed, and long before the HTC Vive came up with “room scale VR”, there were two Google employees who came up with the idea in their spare time to design a cardboard box in which you could use a smartphone. With two small lenses you could watch VR movies on the screen and play simple VR games.

That was in 2014, and now we see the market overflowing with VR headsets like the Rift and Vive, but also the Gear VR, the Oculus GO, the Vive Focus and many more. With most new VR glasses, the emphasis is not so much on image quality, but on portability. No cables, so all-in-one solutions.

Wearable technology

Where Virtual Reality paved the way for virtual worlds, Augmented Reality seems to be the young and trendy little brother.

Instead of closing yourself off from the world around you, the digital images are part of the environment. Think of navigation with arrows on the road, or games where the characters walk in front of you on the street.

You are no longer locked the outside world, you only have to look at the screen of your smartphone or tablet. However, thiss is limited, because AR technology lends itself perfectly to “wearables”, computer glasses that allow you hands-free to explore the world with a new layer of information.

Not yet suitable for the end consumer

Google Glass was the first attempt to entice consumers to wear AR glasses, but that ended in a fiasco. The image quality was poor, the battery was empty too quickly and the built-in camera turned out to be a nightmare for privacy.

This was a matter of a good idea with a wrong implementation, and also the wrong target group.

In the professional world there was a lot more interest in this type of product: brands like Vuzix, Epson and ODG have achieved quite a lot of success with their own AR glasses for professional use. Of course this also came with a professional price tag. That’s where the AR Carboard comes in.

Mixed Reality

Time does not stand still, and the Microsoft HoloLens showed that a floating frame will certainly not be the end station. This Mixed Reality headset was a real “wearable” with 3D holographic images that are also exactly in the right place in space.

This is the future of AR, but the HoloLens is by no means suitable for the masses with the large size and limited range of apps.

Daqri is a company with similar AR glasses, this is also a product that focuses exclusively on the professionals with a price tag that matches this group. Magic Leap is a new candidate to storm the AR market, but they have the greatest difficulty getting out of the starting blocks. Many promises with few concrete solutions.

AR Cardboard

Would it not be great if there was a cardboard version of the VR Cardboard for the emerging Augmented Reality market?

You are certainly not the first to have wondered about this, although specific challenges appear to exist here. Where VR apps as developers have the complete freedom to show images to the user, you should always consider the real world in AR apps.

There have been experiments to use the camera of the smartphone in combination with the screen but this 2D image could not deliver the desired result.

One of the first successful attempts to develop the standard “AR Cardboard” was Aryzon’s design – which we offer on this website. This time it was not a project from Google, but a company from Enschede, in the Netherlands. This AR Cardboard was a success on Kickstarter where the target amount was amply exceeded.

How does this Augmented Reality Cardboard work?

The first AR apps were able to place flat graphics in the world for you, on a screen in your hand. They seemed to be floating in the air separately from the background. Later, the AR images were anchored to reality by using so-called “markers”, small markers that a smartphone can recognize.

Apple and Google later developed ARKit and ARCore, respectively, that are capable of realizing tracking without markers, but they only work on their own platform. Marker tracking is universally applicable, so you can relatively easily develop AR apps for the Augmented Reality Cardboard.

You do not look directly at the screen, by using a transparent reflection screen you look through a slanted window where the images from the smartphone screen on projected. That sounds complicated but it is actually a very ingenious “low tech” solution. It is comparable to an autocue machine that are used by news readers to read texts while still being able to look straight into the camera.

What comes after AR Cardboards?

There are many companies that work on Augmented Reality glasses for both business applications and the end consumer.

Nevertheless, it is often still niche products that require considerable technical knowledge. Apple has not yet announced user-friendly AR glasses, even in the area of ​​VR they only sell an iPhone holder from Zeiss.

Magic Leap seems to be promising, but they have already indicated that their first generation AR glasses will not be cheap. And that while AR apps for smartphones are becoming increasingly popular.

Lenovo has even released a Star Wars AR system for roughly three hundred euros, there is no smartphone included.

The first affordable standalone VR glasses such as the Oculus GO have only appeared on the market four years after the introduction of the modest Google Cardboard.

Chances are that the Augmented Reality Cardboard holders will have the same innovative value. As a company, you can already make your impact now, with the AR Carboard, or Aryzon Cardboard Business Edition.

Read more about the AR Cardboard