The AR Cloud
Simply put, the AR cloud is a persistent 3D digital copy of the real world. In more technical terms, it is the essential set of technologies that can enable the vision of the Mirrorworld, Spatial Web, or the Metaverse - a 1:1 machine-readable representation of the world. The AR cloud represents the superconvergence of the physical and digital in spatial computing. It encompasses the creation, management, and use of persistent, dynamic, and shareable 3D machine-readable representations of physical spaces and real-time services to offer AR experiences to users.
The alignment of a machine-readable representation of the world with real-world coordinates helps connect and fuse the digital and real worlds, allowing for shared persistent digital experiences. When algorithms recognize features in camera images and match them up to a map in the cloud, digital experiences connected with those features and spaces can be accessed. This enables nearly limitless possibilities for interacting with places, infrastructure, buildings, and equipment.
Digital information in the AR cloud can allow you to see what a place looked like in the past or to imagine it in the future. You could visit a place, let’s say Gettysburg, and watch a holographic reenactment of Abraham Lincoln making his address in the very spot he originally delivered it. Six Degrees of Freedom (6DoF) in AR allows you to move around a holographic projection onto the physical world. Pokémon Go gave us a taste of this as a popular game, but mapping virtual information into real places will help inform our journeys through actual landscapes. Some call this “Annotated Reality.”
When AR Cloud information that is inscribed in space is activated, it changes the way we perceive our surroundings and opens a hidden world of information. As Mark Pesce says in a video for the National Trust of NSW in Australia, the AR cloud can change our understanding of space, so that "if you change the data in space, you change that space." This means that there is great power in the AR cloud, but also great responsibility on the part of those who control it. Whose version of the past will be linked to historical places, and how will the stories told there with AR affect our actions in the future?
Most big tech companies currently work on proprietary platforms for this type of technology, perhaps intending to battle it out in a typical platform war, which would be a short-term and narrow strategy. It is important that the superpowers of the AR cloud be provided without risking anybody's loss of privacy, freedom, safety, security, and control over their personal and private data. People don't like to be locked in!
The stakes are high: Are we entering a digital renaissance or golden era, or are we facing a dystopian black mirror scenario?
The Open Spatial Computing Platform (OSCP) was conceived by a group called the Open AR Cloud as part of its efforts to standardize the AR Cloud and make it interoperable. It contains protocols for AR cloud-based positioning services, spatial discovery, and reality modeling services. The OSCP is heavily inspired by the Open Web Platform and is based on a core set of fundamental standards and protocols to maximize interoperability and scalability across different industries and technological domains. It contains protocols for AR cloud-based positioning services, spatial discovery, and reality modeling services. It is also developing open-source reference implementations of client and server software that speaks these protocols.
The Open AR Cloud Association (OARC) is a global non-profit founded in 2018 that contributes to and advocates for open standards and protocols as well as the ethical best practices needed to realize the full positive potential of the Spatial Web / Mirrorworld / Metaverse. The AR cloud should work for everyone everywhere regardless of what device or platform they are on.
While OARC is not a standards development body, the members are contributing to standards bodies like the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), ETSI, IEEE, and W3C to help the industry converge on the new set of standards needed for the spatial computing era.
A great example of this is the OGC Standards Working Group on GeoPose, formed after a proposal/initiative by OARC. The standards they are developing will allow for a universal encoding of the real-world position and orientation with six degrees of freedom for any real or digital object. The intended use of this encoding format is a core piece of the GeoPose protocol for AR cloud-based positioning services. An initial specification for GeoPose was published in in February 2021.