Augmented Reality, my presentation to the Frontiers Conference

A few days ago I had the exciting opportunity to speak about Augmented Reality and IoT at Frontiers Conference 2017. A series of encounters took place over the space of two days, during which I took part in discussions with some of the world’s greatest names in the world of digital technology.

The panel I was part of, was discussing the relationship between Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things. Our objective was to establish what benefits can be gained through the use of these two technologies.

Herewith follows a summary of my contribution to the debate.

Why the talk about Augmented Reality

It cannot be denied that, at the moment, the phrase Augmented Reality is one of today’s most used buzzwords, and the reasons for this, in my opinion, are as follows:

  • by the end of 2018, 1.2 billion people will have access to this technology;
  • the smartphone market is almost saturated, and it’s reasonable to think, therefore, that the major players in the digital world are investing in this technology to add new shine to this market;
  • through both its wide availability and potential Augmented Reality is set to become the eighth Mass Media, as forecast a few years ago by Tomi Ahonen in his TedxMongKok;
  • recent releases Apple’s ARKit, and Google’s ARCore, are going to make it much cheaper and easier to create applications based on Augmented Reality.

So, with the stage set in terms of the business and the numbers, I decided to centre my contribution on the designer’s point of view.

I focused on 3 key concepts that I believe are going to be fundamental to the successful development of Augmented Reality in the coming years.

  • New Aesthetics
  • Scarcity
  • Sense Filter

New Aesthetics

Generally, Augmented Reality constitutes a digital layer placed between the physical world and our senses, enriching our experience of content and information. In other cases three-dimensional models are created to provide a digital reality that can mix with the physical. These experiences have become notorious for their inability to interface convincingly with material reality.

The most successful solutions are going to be those able to switch between two-dimensional and three-dimensional elements without continuity problems.

A new aesthetics is going to require great skill in managing the ‘space’ component, and will rely for its success on the input of people highly proficient in three-dimensional design.

So, requiring a strong correlation with the space around us, the new interfaces will need to be able to adapt to our environment which, of course, can change very quickly (darkness, rain, fog, etc…).

One example of success in this area is Google’s iTranslate app: this app, after quickly assessing the parameters through a two-dimensional interface, returns a result whose look is perfectly merging with the reality that it is modifying.

Scarcity

This term was coined by Jaron Lanier, to contrast with the abundance of content and information that is constantly available, anywhere on the planet, where there is internet access.

With the development of Augmented Reality, many experiences will be strictly connected to the specific location where they take place, and in some cases to the precise moment they happen. For example, some content will only be available during that particular concert, in that stadium, and only in that particular time frame.

We can already see this concept in Pokemon Go, where some of the characters in this well-known game can only be found in particular areas of Japan.

Sense Filter

Of course, we all know that whether used in smartphones or for embellishing cinema experiences, Augmented Reality is all about our sense of vision.

However, taking a wider view, it should perhaps be seen more as a filter placed between reality and all our senses, with the aim of adding to the information any of them receive.

In the future, as this new concept of Augmented Reality spreads, we should expect a growing diffusion of products for use close to our bodies, providing increasingly pervasive interface with the digital world.

Actually, we are already experiencing this connection between the real world and digital output when, for example, we listen to a Spotify playlist when we’re out running. The app invites you to start running so that your smartphone, or smartwatch, can record your running rhythm. Then, based on the collected data, the app changes the bitrate of the music, creating a close connection between your movements and your senses.


Conclusion

The future of this technology is closely depends on the creativity of developers in creating experiences that really justify the use of this new method of interaction.

When Charlie Sutton foresaw the end of interfaces limited to rectangular screens, in favor of models of interaction with reality, he also stressed how design was going to need cross-competences in terms of design, psychology and perception.

We can only hope it won’t end up being just hype, like 3D cinema.