Centered in the heart of Silicon Valley, a company called ContextGrid has a lot on its plate right now; their teams are working toward laying the groundwork for what they call the “new internet.”
And what exactly is the new internet? According to ContextGrid’s CEO, Arka Bala, the world is on the brink of seeing holograms everywhere that will replace websites and users will be browsing through a digital replica of the real world on their smartphones. Bala and his team envision a future in which any person or business can scan any real-world physical entity and place interactive holograms next to it. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
In this dialogue with CIO Applications, Bala opens up about ContextGrid’s body of work, which includes AR browsers, a universal hologram registry, and more.
The Initiation and Evolving Vision
When we started in 2016, we weren’t thinking of AR. Our focus was to plant data in the physical world since every object has contextual information about it. This interaction with objects in the physical world served as the precursor to AR. As seen in futuristic movies such as Blade Runner, holograms on the streets can feed information to pedestrians and interact with them. Soon, it made sense for us to use AR to show that data, or let people interact with that data. Initially, we used a Bluetooth beacon to place holograms, but we have now moved on to advanced technologies such as vision-based recognition, and other types of technology that utilize inertial measurements and earth geomagnetic fields.
Solutions We Deliver
Our expertise lies in holograms—interacting, managing, and placing them. We are creating a registry that will enable users to locate and communicate with every hologram and AR in the world. Our WorldBrowser, available on the App Store, allows users to browse stores, parks, and malls using AR and get information such as product info, discounts, and more. We expect this AR browser to augment and replace regular web browsers, eventually. We are currently talking to makers of some well-known browsers with hopes of integrating this technology with the new AR browser that they are designing. That’s where we are heading towards.
Message to Customers
As an active business, you can integrate our technology and choose where holograms should pop up on the map. This way, you can link the hologram to informational web pages or offer discount coupons, etc. Our guarantee: You don’t have to write a single line of code. You can just jump on board and set up!
Our WorldBrowser, available on the App Store, allows users to browse stores, parks, and malls using AR and get information such as product info, navigate, get discounts, and more
How our Clients Use Holograms
The way we’ve designed our apps, any business, regardless of size or industry, can share information with their customers. For example, a large retailer creates holograms to interact with their customers. By using our backend app, they scan parts of their store and use it as a AR based medium to help shoppers.
Our technologies can also benefit doctors. For example, it’s not easy to get from Point A to Point B in a hospital, which is like a maze. With the use of AR, arrows can guide patients and doctors to their next appointment, and using blockchain, they receive authenticated information on the patient they’re visiting.
Case Study: Solar Farm
We’re also empowering IoT devices. Case in point, we are working with a multibillion-dollar solar farm. As their technicians walk around the farm, they’ll see real-time data coming in from IoT sensors that will be shown in AR. Be it a broken solar inverter or something else, the AR will present them with real-time information.
In the pipeline
We are also trying to expand beyond iOS and venture into Android. We want to be on every platform and simplify the process of jumping from device to device. We’re also looking at trying to integrate our apps into head-mounted AR displays on the market.
Most of the retail clients we have dealt with are old school in their methods. Since their tech teams don’t comprehend new ways of doing things, let alone AR, they refuse to get involved in our processes. Therefore, we try to simplify the processes, making it easy for them to share data with customers. I would say that’s the key strength of Context Grid.
Why We’re Different
Unlike anybody else, we’re building a registry of all holograms in the world, along with location specifics and contextual data. This will also determine what type of hologram will pop up based on the search criteria. We will eventually be able to implement blockchain to manage the identity of each hologram. For example: If you’re in front of your bank and the hologram is talking to you, you can use our app to identify if it’s an authentic Chase Bank (or any other bank) hologram or a spoof.
The Bigger Picture
We’re one of the founding members of the Open AR Cloud Foundation, which encompasses the world’s top AR cloud firms. Just like how the W3C determines the foundational rules that govern the current Internet, we will be setting the guidelines for the special AR web, which will eventually take over.
History Repeating itself
During the first boom of the Internet, in 1993, it was hard to envision Facebook or e-commerce impacting the way our lives are governed. We’re in a similar situation now wherein the AR web is about to take off, and we don’t know what programmers are going to build. We’re really laying the groundwork for this new internet to exist. The way we’re designing the system, you can take this platform and build anything on top of it. We will also be working with a ton of verticals, from gaming to e-commerce, to tourism-based apps, and more.