I’ve tried virtual reality on various occasions, but until last weekend I never had the opportunity to experience true augmented reality.
Personally, I find augmented reality more interesting.
In virtual reality, you are transported to other worlds (video games, movies, sporting events, etc.), but you’re limited to your headset.
With augmented reality, you have the ability to change the world around you by interacting with everyday objects in new and more interesting ways. Anything can essentially be turned into an interface via glasses, contact lenses, projectors, and cameras.
Augmented reality presents more productive and exciting use cases for both commercial (engineering & manufacturing) and entertainment purposes (Pokemon Go & Snapchat).
When a friend mentioned that he knew a Ph.D. student who was looking for people to try his augmented reality prototype, I said yes without hesitation. Augmented reality is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and having the opportunity to play around with it was a no-brainer. I got even more excited when I learned that we’d be using a Microsoft HoloLens.
The prototype allowed you to copy digital images that only you could see, turn around 180 degrees, and then paste them onto the TV for everyone else to see. You could also interact with a lamp and turn it on/off or change its colours and brightness.
The tasks were accomplished by registering commands via hand gestures and eye movement. If your eyes followed pattern A, it accomplished task B, if your eyes followed pattern C, it accomplished task D, etc.
At first, I was a bit confused about how exactly I was supposed to execute each command.
Do I keep my head still and only move my eyes?
Can I follow the patterns with a slight head movement?
Do I tap my fingers once or twice?
Can I use both hands?
Running through the commands a second time was a lot easier than the first, and felt quite intuitive. This was surprising because I wasn’t expecting to acclimate so quickly.
The whole experience was a lot of fun and really made me think about where this technology is headed. I wrote down the following notes after playing around with the prototype:
* Augmented reality will unquestionably allow us to interact with everyday objects in magical ways. The question is how exactly will we do it. Hand gestures? Eye movement? Both?
* Augmented reality will make us more productive and creative, allowing us to complete tasks easier and express ourselves in new ways.
* I’m not informed enough to give an estimate of when I think this technology will go mainstream, but I think it’s a lot sooner than most realize.
* Designing a natural user experience in augmented reality is going to be extremely challenging but rewarding. Whoever gets it right will literally change the way people interact with the world and the objects around them.
Trying out the prototype
I asked my friend to take a picture of me trying out the prototype for future reference. When we’re all seamlessly manipulating our environment via augmented reality, I want to take a look back and see how crude this technology once was. :)