Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality and a New Age of Interface

by Matt Nesbitt

The Augmented Reality Event 2011 just wrapped up in Santa Clara last month and I am excited by what was going on there. Flat pieces of paper that come alive as interactive, virtual product displays; Books that explode with the depth of a pop-up book combined with a movie; Art that exists all around us, yet unseen to the naked eye. This augmented world is brimming with stuff that we are just now getting the commonplace technology to effectively see. While the industry is maturing beyond the initial wave of exploratory applications, it still has lots of potential. We at projekt202 were inspired by all of this and sat down for some concept studies of unique Augmented Reality(AR) products that both solve a real need and utilize existing technology.

AR in Construction

Today, architects and engineers are creating 3d BIM computer models of their projects, but these models are only being utilized at a fraction of their potential. These parametric models are rich with information; however they are mainly only utilized in the design process and not during construction. For construction, the digital models are ossified into sets of 2d drawings called construction documents. This invariably results in wasted time and energy when architects and contractors meet about a 3-dimensional detail that is difficult to understand from the 2d construction documents.

What is missing is a way to get that rich, 3d information into the field without printing out large and potentially outdated paper documents or gathering around a computer and monitor. The job site is a harsh condition and it is hard enough to find a place to set the construction documents, let alone a desktop or laptop computer to view a 3d model, so the value of the model is unrealized.

The solution is to utilize the latest in Augmented Reality on mobile devices to display the architect’s virtual model over a contractor’s live phone camera feed. The mobile phone already plays a prominent role for contractors as it is usually the only method for communication on-site. By leveraging this ubiquity, the contractor would be empowered with the richness of the 3d model and be able to increase efficiency and construction schedules.

AR for Networking

What if you could know about your next important business contact before you even meet them?

The social connections we make have always been important to being part of the business community. Networking and conference events provide great opportunities to expand those connections, but often the events are chaotic and intimidating. Because there is limited time to network around an event, you want to make sure you spending your time efficiently by meeting with the people that are most important to your business.

With Augmented Reality on mobile devices you could find out who you need to meet – without having to rely on someone else to make that introduction. Utilizing facial recognition technology similar to what Facebook has today, attendees of a conference could be scanned with your phone’s camera and relevant CV data displayed directly on your screen. You would be able to sort through the attendees’ information and find the ones that mattered to you. You would even be able to learn a little about them beforehand, allowing for a natural conversation starter.

So how will we interface with these new products? The mobile, touch-device platforms seem the most promising. But it may by a hybrid of Kinect-like spatial sensors combined with touch. Or even onscreen, composited interactions between the virtual and real objects. Whichever path, we look forward to the next chance to explore these ideas in greater detail!