Thursday, March 15, 2018

Augmented Reality: what could be, should be

Tony Stark operates his Iron Man suit from his office, Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn overrides Tall Necks, and Shuri drives a car remotely in Black Panther. Pok√©mon GO overlays your environment to show creatures, and Vuforia allows you to see and interact with digital content. All of these are powered by Augmented Reality, though the first three fictional examples are a bit different, aren’t they: they physically influence the real world, not just overlay it, or provide additional data. This is what needs to change about Augmented Reality development.

Just as the remote control revolutionised the use of the television, augmented reality should revolutionise our lives: allowing us to potentially remote control everything! Wave your hand at the TV to change the channel, or grip and turn your hand mid-air towards your air conditioner to turn it up or down. These kinds of gestures can surpass things like voice control because they are universal – no translation needed!

In Sydney, Australia, at nsquared solutions, I work with the team to create some truly amazing applications and experiences. We turn what was the ‘future’, into the ‘modern’, and show businesses and people how they can work together better, by harnessing technology to its full purpose, so to make our lives easier, and allow people to be more collaborative.

More recently I’ve been working on an application called nsquared space planner, which is usable with both the Microsoft HoloLens, and the new Mixed Reality Immersive Headsets. Though, it provides the user with a different experience, depending on their device. The core premise to the app is to help people design and plan their spaces. The app provides you with various furniture options (over forty), which can be placed in your space, so that you can see what it might look like in your space, in actual scale. The included tools allow for changing the various material styles of the furniture, and the ease of placing them in the world, using position and rotation. In this way, it helps people be more productive, by taking away the logistical headaches that would otherwise be associated with such a task.

What if you could take it a step further though, and whilst overlaying your surroundings, also interact with the real world? Make that lamp brighter or turn the stereo up! Have your Italian friend speak to you and receive live translation. Or mute your smartphone, because you’re too busy having fun – I mean, planning and designing your space.

The good news is that this is all very possible. We are already doing it at nsquared, in Sydney! Object shape, and image, recognition is available to devices like the HoloLens. So is translation of hundreds of languages, and the ability to interact with your lamp remotely.

So, the next time you are watching Tony Stark transform his environment with augmented reality, you will be able to also, and it won’t be so futuristic. From now on, let’s aim to work together better. 

Elliot Moule

Coogler R, Black Panther (Marvel Studios 2018).
Favreau J, Iron Man (Marvel Studios 2008).
nsquared space planner, (nsquared solutions, 2018).
Tatsuo N, Pokemon GO (Niantic 2016).
van der Leeuw M, Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerilla Games 2017).
Vuforia (PTC Inc 2011).

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