Augmented Reality

In our last Fredricks Design Review, we took a look at Google Cardboard, an inexpensive gateway to virtual reality. Today, we’re going to dig a little deeper into another reality bender called “augmented reality”. “But whoa, bro. Isn’t all reality augmented”? you might say. That’s a rabbit hole that neither of us have time for today so we’re going to focus on an area of technology called “augmented reality”.

Augmented reality is, very simply stated, a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data1. Got it? Think of it as a clear transparency sheet that you hold between you and what’s in your field of view. Now envisionthat this transparency sheet has graphics on it that give you information about what you’re observing. Now imagine that the graphics are constantly updating and moving to give you real-time information. Simple, right? Let’s take a look at this example2 from Faraday Future (or “FF” as they prefer to be called):

Faraday Future

In the above image, you can see a postcard with a sketch. When you fire up the FF app and look through your smartphone, the FFZERO1 concept car appears. Whoa. You can move your phone or the card around and the car remains “stuck” to the card, offering you the illusion of a little car sitting on your desk. The detail is actually pretty impressive. FF did a fantastic job with this marketing piece; it’s both original and very well executed. Here are a few screenshots from the app:

augmenting reality app

In this example, my smartphone is doing the augmenting of the postcard reality. There are many other forms of augmented reality: heads up displays (HUDs) in helmets for motorcyclists and pilots, handheld video games (e.g. Nintendo 3DS), Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, a super-secret thing called MagicLeap, and there’s even talk of contact lenses being developed. The purpose of all of these methods is generally the same but the execution is very different, some more successful and appropriate than others.

forms of augmented reality

1: BMW Helmet, 2: Pilot’s HUD, 3: Nintendo 3DS, 4: Google Glass, 5: HoloLens3

Marketing, gaming, and entertainment? Sure, that’s cool. Providing vital information to drivers and pilots? You’re already wearing a helmet so why not step it up a notch? These seem like appropriate uses of the technology. When people start to wear these things (like Google Glass) just walkin’ around on the street, terms like “Glasshole” start to get thrown around. It’s just a little much for social acceptance. Does one really need to have a digital overlay to tell them how far their Starbucks is ahead?

I’ll admit, the demo videos for HoloLens are pretty cool but it?s tough to get past the fact that you’re lookin’ like a chubby, latte drinkin’ Robocop watchin? YouTube. The future evolution, adoption, and implementation of AR will be interesting. What’s appropriate and useful? How can we use AR in our product development work?

Communicating forms, shapes, and information in general is a large factor in the success of our business. Following our demo with the FF marketing piece, we started to throw around ideas for how we could use this technology. We imagine heading into a design review and tossin’ down a coaster-sized card with our logo on it. Nothing special until the attendees view the card through their smartphone. An image of the product that we’re reviewing hovers above the table, allowing each viewer to rotate, zoom, and inspect the virtual product. This would allow us to better understand proportions, material choices, and other information about the product to help inform our design decisions moving forward in the development process. This seems appropriate.

Try it for yourself. As I mentioned, there are many ways to get a taste of augmented reality. Get out there and research. What do you think is appropriate? How would you use this technology? Would you wear AR contact lenses? We?d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Cheers!

Stay tuned for Fredricks Design Review 3: Skynet and What It Means for Humanity.

1“Augmented reality.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 21 Feb 2016. Web. 15 Mar 2016.

2Source: Faraday Future collateral material collected at CES 2016.

3 Image credits: BMW Helmet (BMW), Pilot?s HUD (Wikimedia Commons), Nintendo 3DS (Ubergizmo), Google Glass (Getty Images, Justin Sullivan), HoloLens (AP)

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