Why near-surface AR

At devEyes, we are working on near-surface AR for existing mobile devices. This post attempts to explain why.

Augmented/Virtual/Mixed Reality applications (see this for an explanation of the differences) are perceived more and more as the next big things in technology these days. It is sufficient to look at this list of people and companies working in the field: virtually every major technology player is pursuing at least one of the following topics:

  • AR mobile apps using existing technology (basically a Smartphone with camera) to enhance (=augment) the surrounding world with additional items – think Pokemon Go. This is already mainstream: from beauty apps (ModiFace) to world discovery (Blippar, Snapchat’s World Lenses)  it seems that sky is the limit. There is also another limit, which is precisely the point of this post.
  • Mixed Reality platforms like Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap and the like are basically refining the AR idea to a seamless integration of virtuality into reality via dedicated, currently expensive and rather bulky, hardware: glasses, helmets, head-up display and the like.
  • VR gear – like Oculus Rift (Facebook) and the like. Unlike AR or MR, VR attempts to fully replace the perceived reality with a virtual one. Which makes a lot of sense for some things (immersive games, sports events, etc)

None of the above technologies is currently suitable for near-surface interaction, at least to our knowledge (and apart from some academic research). It’s a neglected area where existing technology breaks, while it has, in our view, a currently underestimated potential for AR/MR applications, for a multitude of reasons:

  1. Availability: not only is office work typically done near-surface (on a desk/table), but also many recreative activities are suitable for near-surface interactions (table games, etc.)
  2. Naturalness and precision of interaction: handling a touch display placed on a table while moving it around feels natural.
  3. Tangible: devices can be used as tangible UI alements on a surface
  4. Low intrusiveness: no helmet, no “in-the-face” device screen,  no hardware installation except an additional device sensor (which can be incorporated in the device itself)
  5. Co-location: it offers an excellent sharing environment for social, multi-device co-located interaction – video here.
  6. Projection-enhanceable if a more immersive experience is desired –  video here.

We envision near-surface AR as a complementary, not competing, technology to the continuum of currently existing approaches. Find out more on our home page.

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