How I went to Santa Clara and Augmented my Reality
I recently attended ARE2012 (Augmented Reality Event) in Santa Clara. I wanted to share a few thoughts on the event and AR in general. If you are not familiar with AR, I wrote earlier posts with some basic definitions that you can find here and here. Also, Got the t-shirt.
So ARE2012 drew about 600 attendees and about 100 speakers on a pretty good cross section of topics. What I took away was that even though AR technology has been around for quite a while (at least a decade) there are still some fundamental challenges with making it work well. That said, there are some pretty cool solutions out there and I’ll highlight some of those for you.
Most AR experiences require the user to have a phone with a camera or a table with a camera. Since so many of us carry these devices around daily, you’d think AR would be everywhere. The screen of your mobile device basically becomes a window to the AR experience. Typically, there also needs to be a target – either a printed “target” or in some cases a physical object. Some of these AR apps make for great demos. But, if the experience requires you to spend more than a minute or two, your hand and arm can get tired and it stops being an awesome experience. One Example that I found especially compelling was the AR Body App. It is designed to help with the shortage of bodies for medical schools be creating a virtual person.
You can see a video of this demo here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giu11mjPAWI
So, where does a tablet+target application make sense? Art Galleries and museums are a great example. You could be looking at an exhibit and get additional information and experiences on your mobile device from a target that’s already on the exhibit. Panasonic is already using a similar technology for its VIERRA AR Setup Simulator. Check out this video here. http://www.electrictv.com/?p=4166 Retail stores, trade shows, basically anyplace you might put a physical kiosk or interactive touchscreen could be a potential AR application.
Some other ongoing issues with AR apps are: poor tracking of 3D objects in a scene, no occlusion, annotation is often not very specific (i.e. points of interest are all at the same virtual “depth” so you don’t know what is really closer to you) . But improvements are continually being made and these issues are going away.
If you are thinking about designing an AR experience (on a mobile device) here are some good tips to keep in mind:
- Do include physical challenges for the user – time limits, movement, etc. They have a mobile device so make the user mobile too.
- Don’t think small – add large building or objects to the scene.
- Don’t trust your tracking technology – create experiences where its ok to be a little jittery.
- Include other inputs – for example – weather data – might the experience be different if the temperature on the day is different?
- Do give your characters character – put some thought into character design if the experience relies on a character.
- Don’t endanger your users – keep in mind that you don’t want people tripping over things or walking into traffic. There was a lawyer who spoke at ARE about exactly this – she crawls YouTube on a daily basis looking for way that users surprised developers by doing unexpected things.
So – with all the challenges posed by mobile devices for 3D Augmented Reality experiences, are goggles or glasses the answer? Many think so and about half a dozen manufacturers were there showing off the technology. These are different than Virtual Reality goggles, where they block you vision of the real world and only let you see a virtual world. With AR glasses, the promise is that you see the real world as it is, but you can receive additional information and experiences just by looking around. There is even one company working on AR contact lenses.
ADi is very excited about the potential of AR. There is a dearth of research about how immersive AR experiences are and how well users rate them when they work well. We already know 3D animation has a big impact on our brains (see here and here) memories and emotions, and AR is one more way you can deliver that to your audience.