Augmented Reality

“The essence of real creativity is a certain playfulness, a flitting from idea to idea without getting bogged down by fixated demands. Of course, you don’t always get what you thought you were asking for.” Vernor Vinge

Designing forAugmented Reality

When all the world is your interface and everyone around are the players, how do you design the game?

Augmented reality (AR) is a live view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated media such as sound, video, graphics or other data.

A critical aspect in the design and implementation of AR is the dialogue between the media viewed and how the media responds to and changes the context of the real world. The real world can be interacted with in real time - helpful for ambient intelligence and smart environments.

At BrightSky Labs we were particularly interested in looking into specific ways we could utilize AR to enhance social video messaging experiences. We wanted to design for the augmented reality of the moment and experiment into what could happen next.

Current Implementations

Designing augmented reality in 2015 looks a bit different than it may look in 2-5 years. Currently, most people have mobile phones that can be used as AR viewers. AR also currently requires very specific markers in the real world to make the media that shows up in your viewer work properly.

Mobile devices and their sensors provide a foundational environment for augmented reality. Their cameras, location awareness, gyroscopes and accelerometers provide a rich data set that can be used to create a media-augmented, contextual aware physical world. Contextual awareness is the most critical element for designing augmented reality experiences.

With more and more sensors giving data points, showing data as an interface has become ever more common. It can be interesting, but we found it at BrightSky to not be very valuable for the user. My friends don't care that I went 45mph down the mountain today. I'm proud of myself, but my friends just don't have any data to compare it to. It's not really a story.

However, people were very interested in showing their friends something very personal - something meant just for them. We started experimenting with augmented reality as secret messages between friends. If I'm at home in the morning and I'm watching a wave that a friend is surfing, by holding up my phone to the TV I could know what exact spot they are surfing. We used surfers as an example of the ever evolving nature of video privacy. Surfers often like to keep their surf spots a secret. They can get crowded fast if the waves are quite good. They would love to post a great wave and let some of their friends know where they are, but keep the masses out of the loop. We designed an AR layer that shows their location, but is just available for friends. However, you don't need the extra hassle of augmented reality to make this really work.

Just Because You Can

One of the key things we worked through in designing for AR is ease of use. You can also see this in VR applications as well. Intuitive interaction is key when implementing. If it's not right in front of us and meaningful - all your hard work isn't going to matter.

Guiding Principles

Intuitive interaction is direct,3 easy-to-learn and natural,4 fast, simple and effective,5 easy-to-use, self-explanatory,6 ‘present at hand,’7 physical,8 has a clear representation in respect to human perception,9 (e.g. contrast, shape, texture, colour,shading, and is easily embedded in the user’s working and interaction space10.

One of the key takeaways from our explorations and ultimate implemetation for augmented reality is that currently true utilitarian value in augmented reality is really about privately shared experiences. It's like having an Instagram layer and a Snapchat layer. Instagram is what everyone sees and the Snapchat layer is the augmented reality - it's a private experience that is a lens that is created and built around me.