Augmented Reality is Back!
We are seeing a resurgence of interest in augmented reality (AR) with its increasing integration into virtual reality (VR) to enhance the VR experience.
Where AR typically used to rely on mobile devices, web cams etc., VR headsets with front-facing cameras can augment our vision directly to provide AR. Wearable VR and AR technologies, which can interpret and augment what we see, present exciting new possibilities (especially compared with the relative limitations of past AR implementations).
We’re seeing how the combined benefits of VR and AR can create even more immersive experiences by incorporating our real world surroundings into our digital experiences. Some good examples include: the Magic Leap , Google Project Tango, Microsoft HoloLens, and Sulon.
Sulon showcased this to good effect with their recent reveal. In their demo (a VR storytelling of the fairy-tale ‘Jack and the Giant Beanstalk’) they showed how real-world surroundings can be incorporated into the virtual
environment to create a seamless transition from one into the other. This transition adds realness, blurring the lines between real and virtual worlds, gradually drawing the user into the experience.
In this way, VR augmented with AR presents a number of possibilities for creating unique experiences where users are not necessarily placed in an entirely new virtual environment but their real-world experience is enhanced. For example, a user might be able to use augmented reality within a large store to navigate to a specific aisle or product using wayfinding (as shown by Google Project Tango). It might also be used to display information overlays on products, to present the wearer with information regarding correct assembly and usage or as a way to give them an idea of size and shape before purchase.
Augmented Reality has already been used in car showrooms. For example, with features that are hard/impossible to demonstrate in person an augmented reality demonstration can provide a good alternative. Volvo and Microsoft are developing an augmented reality showroom solution to visually demonstrate, among other things, their car safety features.
This is also a great way to show off customization options. Where a customer might only get to see one version of a product in-store, augmented reality solutions can be used to overlay customization options on top of real-world products to give customers access to more options. Ferrari, for example, has developed an app for use in showrooms which allows customers to try out customization options on their cars (such as colour changes) as well as view component and assembly break downs, wind tunnel visualizations etc.
This also translates to a business setting. Imagine, in a meeting, the ability for a group of people to view a digital representation of a product projected into their meeting space. They could simultaneously view different options and features or different products altogether (without the need for full-fledged prototypes or demo models, which can be costly). People could take part across the globe and share their input. This offers cost-saving benefits by removing the need for expensive prototyping at design stages and, at the same time, providing a much better insight into how a product might look and function than 2D visuals.
Training and Manufacturing:
Similar to our discussion on how VR is being adopted for training in safety and training AR is also being adopted as a way to aid specialists in their training and performance. AR is a great way to enhance a user’s vision productivity, by providing them with immediate access to work related information and visuals within their immediate field of view. For example, Tesla are using an iteration of Google Glass (or similar product) to augment a factory to their workers in order to optimize their manufacturing and repair processes.
Creating Educational Experiences:
A visit to your nearest museum may not be the same again because AR can also bring the extinct back to life! AR has the ability to bring the visitor on a journey through time and space.
In May 2016, communications agency 23Red created an impactful campaign for the NHS using AR to encourage people to donate blood.
As the tech continues to make waves and improve, we can only get excited about what’s yet to come and how virtual reality and augmented reality can work together to create great things.