Augmented Reality is Poised to Change the World

Clive Maxfield
|  Created: October 16, 2019  |  Updated: March 16, 2020

Imagine 50,000 fans streaming HD video on 5G phones (Image source:

One of the big topics on everyone's lips at the moment is the forthcoming deployment of 5G smartphones and infrastructure. As I wrote in my 5G Meets 50,000 Fans at Super Bowl 2025 column on, I was idly watching some adverts on television when I saw one showing people streaming video from an American football match. This set me to wondering what the bandwidth requirements would be if 50,000 fans at an event like the Super Bowl in 2025 all decided to stream high definition (HD) video of the halftime show on their super-duper 5G phones.

Since I'm not an expert in this sort of thing, I called my chum Nir Shapira at CEVA (these guys are creating the 5G IP that will be used in the SoCs and FPGAs powering 5G mobile devices and 5G infrastructure). Nir gave me some very useful feedback, but he also talked to a colleague who said that I was missing the bigger picture, which was that those 50,000 fans may well be wearing augmented reality (AR) headsets.

The reason I'm kicking myself is that I'm really interested in what the future holds technology-wise, including things like AR, so how could I possibly have neglected to consider AR in the context of my 5G Super Bowl 2025 musings?

Actually, we should perhaps pause to note that AR is only one aspect of mediated reality (MR); the counterpart of AR is diminished reality (DR). In fact, I recently wrote a column that introduces these concepts -- Fundamentals: VR, MR, AR, DR, and HR -- in which I briefly introduce the concepts of alternative realities, physical reality (PR), virtual reality (VR), mediated reality (MR), mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR), diminished reality (DR), and hyper reality (HR). As I noted in that column:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) refers to an interactive experience of a real-world environment in which the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.
  • Diminished Reality (DR) involves removing or diminishing information or stimuli from the real world. Examples would be to fade down (or out) extraneous voices or other sounds when you are conversing with someone in a noisy environment, fading or blurring portions of the scene you are viewing, or completely removing objects or people from the reality with which you are engaging.

Returning to Super Bowl 2025... You know how, when you are watching a football match on television, they can superimpose graphics showing the yellow “down line” and the blue “line of scrimmage”? Well, this is one small portion of what could be displayed in your MR headset. You could also be presented with relevant statistics, graphics drawing your attention to particular players of interest, and all sorts of other information. For example, you might be able to tune in to the video from the "flying camera" (the cable-suspended camera system zipping around the field) or from cameras mounted in the players' helmets. We really are limited only by our imaginations.

Of course, the combination of MR (i.e., PR + AR + DR) with AI won’t be limited to sports; this technology is going to permeate every aspect of our lives, including our homes, stores, offices, and factories.

Mass adoption of these technologies is widely predicted to take less than five years. Sad to say, managers and planners at many companies are struggling to wrap their brains around how virtual, augmented, or mixed reality pertains to, and will impact, their businesses. This is unfortunate, because planning data, content, and software pipelines for the coming months and years is going to be crucial with regard to determining which companies will sink or swim in the XR (cross reality) revolution.

But turn that frown upside down into a smile, because the VRX Conference & Expo is coming to San Francisco on December 12-13. The conference organizers say that, "At this event, global decision makers will guide your XR strategy, putting customer experience, sales, and user data first to facilitate innovation and adoption across your business, saving you time and money."

I hear that tickets are selling fast and that there are only a few discounted passes left; also, that prices will be going up this coming Friday (eek!). So, if this event is of interest to you, you might want to think about getting getting your discounted pass here.

I personally believe that, in the not-so-distant future, the combination of MR (i.e., PR + AR + DR) with AI is going to dramatically change the way in which we interact with the world, our electronic systems, and each other. How about you? What do you think about all of this?


About Author

About Author

Clive "Max" Maxfield received his BSc in Control Engineering in 1980 from Sheffield Hallam University, England and began his career as a designer of central processing units (CPUs) for mainframe computers. Over the years, Max has designed everything from silicon chips to circuit boards and from brainwave amplifiers to steampunk Prognostication Engines (don't ask). He has also been at the forefront of Electronic Design Automation (EDA) for more than 30 years.

Well-known throughout the embedded, electronics, semiconductor, and EDA industries, Max has presented papers at numerous technical conferences around the world, including North and South America, Europe, India, China, Korea, and Taiwan. He has given keynote presentations at the PCB West conference in the USA and the FPGA Forum in Norway. He's also been invited to give guest lectures at several universities in the US and at Oslo University in Norway. In 2001, Max "shared the stage" at a conference in Hawaii with former Speaker of the House, "Newt" Gingrich.

Max is the author of a number of books, including Designus Maximus Unleashed (banned in Alabama), Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (An Unconventional Guide to Electronics), EDA: Where Electronics Begins, FPGAs: Instant Access, and How Computers Do Math.

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