Mars Comes to Earth: Scientists ‘Visit’ Red Planet with Augmented Reality

by Denise Chow, Sci-Tech Editor

WASHINGTON — NASA is aiming to send astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s, but a new technology could help scientists explore the surface of the Red Planet — from its sprawling craters to its enormous volcanoes — from right here on Earth.

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, partnered with Microsoft to develop software that uses the tech giant’s HoloLens headsets to allow scientists to virtually explore and conduct scientific research on Mars.

The HoloLens is an augmented reality platform that “allows us to overlay imagery on top of the world and integrate it into that world as I’m looking at it,” Tony Valderrama, a software engineer at JPL, said Sunday (April 24) in a demonstration of the technology here at the Smithsonian magazine’s “Future Is Here” festival. [Photos: Microsoft’s HoloLens Transforms Surroundings with Holographic Tech]

The software, called OnSight, uses real data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars to create a 3D holographic simulation of the Martian landscape. Scientists wearing the HoloLens headsets can virtually walk around on the Red Planet and interact with the environment.

“We may not be able to actually go to Mars yet, but we can go there virtually,” said Parker Abercrombie, a software engineer at JPL who investigates different ways that software can enable augmented exploration.

And because the software was created using actual observations, researchers will be able to conduct valuable science, even while being more than 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) away. For instance, scientists could scale an escarpment to survey the view from that vantage point, or get on their hands and knees for a close-up view of the planet’s rocky terrain.

“What’s really exciting about this is [that] what we’re looking at is a reconstruction of Mars from real data sent from the Curiosity rover,” Abercrombie said. “This isn’t an artist’s conception of what Mars looks like. This is actually what Mars looks like.”

Additionally, because Curiosity’s mission is ongoing, JPL engineers will be able to make modifications based on the latest data.

“As the rover drives and takes more pictures, our reconstructions are constantly being updated and improved,” Abercrombie said.

This holographic technology is also helping NASA build new spacecraft and rovers. At JPL, the HoloLens is being used to design the agency’s next Mars rover, which is slated to launch in 2020. By projecting a virtual model of the rover in 3D space, engineers can get close-up views of how the various components fit together, add or move parts around easily, and even walk right through the model to see its inner workings. [Our sister site, Tom’s Guide, put together a guide on the best VR headsets on the market right now.]

“It allows us to attain perspectives that are difficult, or even impossible, to attain with a physical model,” Valderrama said. “It brings them out into the world so that our engineers can begin to reason and communicate about the models long before any physical artifact exists.”

But perhaps the most important advantage of integrating NASA’s work with augmented and virtual reality is that it helps make space more accessible to everyone, said Alexander Menzies, software lead for augmented and virtual reality development at NASA.

Now, when the agency sends rovers to the Red Planet — and eventually when human astronauts journey to Mars — technology like the HoloLens and virtual reality headsets will allow people all around the world to come along. These “telenauts,” as Menzies dubbed them, will be humanity’s virtual explorers of the future.

“A new era of space exploration has begun, and this time, we all get to go,” Menzies said. “I look forward to seeing you on Mars.”


Why Is News Corp Investing In Augmented Reality?

Trefis Team, Contributor

Recently, News Corp Australia made its first seed investment in augmented reality company Plattar — a cloud based platform that allows publishers to create, manage and distribute augmented reality content. The Plattar platform comprises a template driven app builder and content management system for managing augmented reality experiences and can deploy content to any device. Augmented reality is touted to be the next major component in consumer engagement, especially in the real estate and gaming. News Corp’s investment appears to be aimed at tapping the potential of this technology. According to a report by Manatt digital media, augmented reality is expected to generate $80 billion in revenue (excluding hardware) by 2020 and become the backbone of immersive journalism where readers can experience a story and be part of it. We believe News Corp’s digital real estate business can get a boost by use of augmented reality technology and an immersive consumer experience can drive the company’s revenues in future.

Digital Real Estate A Key Growth Driver For News Corp

According to our estimates, the Digital Real Estate segment accounts for more than 15% of News Corp’s valuation and we expect revenues of this division to increase from around 0.92 billion in 2016 to more than 1.31 billion by the end of our forecast period.

This segment drives revenues by selling online advertising services on its residential real estate and commercial property sites We believe the introduction of augmented reality on such websites can attract more consumers. The trial conducted by the company with Plattar for its digital real estate subsidiary REA group was successful in simplifying the property search process by allowing the user to find their ideal property via a visual search. To use the technology, the end user needs to download the app and scan the print listing on his smartphone. The app then gives 3D interactive images of location map and information about the property. This improves and simplifies the user experience to search for the desired property.

Augmented and virtual reality technology is expected to change the real estate market in future. Recently, the luxury home real estate company Southeby’s started to use virtual reality headsets to showcase high end homes in the U.S. Other property companies are also launching virtual reality property tours at their offices, as the ability to see a property without actually visiting it proving extremely useful for investors looking to buy properties in locations away from their city or country. We believe News Corp’s investment in this area will boost its digital real estate business and provide a competitive edge to the company in future.

Mark Zuckerberg says augmented reality glasses are ‘what we’re trying to get to’

Mark Zuckerberg is optimistic about the future of virtual and augmented reality. At his Facebook F8 conference keynote, Zuckerberg said that the company was working on “a whole new set of social experiences” across VR platforms, echoing an announcement the company made earlier this year. “Virtual reality has the potential to be the most social platform, because you actually feel like you’re right there with another person,” he said, referencing an Oculus Rift “toybox” demo that lets two people play together in VR. But in the coming decade, Zuckerberg sees a progression that many people have predicted: that virtual reality will merge with augmented reality and become part of everyday life.

Over the next 10 years, the form factor’s just going to keep on getting smaller and smaller, and eventually we’re going to have what looks like normal-looking glasses that can do both virtual and augmented reality. And augmented reality gives you the ability to see the world but also to be able to overlay digital objects on top of that.

So that means that today, if I want to show my friends a photo, I pull out my phone and I have a small version of the photo. In the future, you’ll be able to snap your fingers and pull out a photo and make it as big as you want, and with your AR glasses you’ll be able to show it to people and they’ll be able to see it.

As a matter of act, when we get to this world, a lot of things that we think about as physical objects today, like a TV for displaying an image, will actually just be $1 apps in an AR app store. So it’s going to take a long time to make this work. But this is the vision, and this is what we’re trying to get to over the next 10 years.

Palmer Luckey, inventor of the Oculus Rift headset that Facebook acquired in 2014, has previously predicted that augmented and virtual reality headsets will merge into a single piece of hardware that people carry around or wear like a pair of glasses. Granted, that’s going to be harder than it might sound. Right now, virtual and augmented reality headsets use fundamentally different visual technology, and it’s difficult for a pair of small glasses to block out the outside world the way a VR headset can.

But the photo sharing technology Zuckerberg’s describing is already plausible on an early augmented reality headset like the Microsoft HoloLens. So is the idea of selling apps to simulate physical objects, although we hope he wasn’t being literal about paying an extra dollar to simply simulate a video screen. Judging by the ambivalent response to early augmented reality headset Google Glass, it may actually be tougher to sort out the social norms than the pure technology — an issue Facebook should be more than a little familiar with.

Report: Google’s main focus in the long run is augmented reality, not VR

Chance Miller

According to a new report from The Information, behind closed doors Google is much more interested in augmented reality than it is in virtual reality. Google of course has publicly marketed its Cardboard VR product heavily, but that’s apparently not the end-goal for the company — augmented reality is.

Google has recently formed a new virtual reality unit within the company headed by Clay Bavor. Within this group, however, it’s reportedly common knowledge that the augmented, or “mixed,” reality has a much bigger market in the long run. This market would center around digital information and images being overlaid next to a real-world view. Think products like Glass or HoloLens.

Google reportedly doesn’t believe that in the public eye, people will be willing to invest in virtual reality solutions that force them to wear massive headsets, such as the Oculus headset or Gear VR. The company thinks that there’s a much bigger profit opportunity in the long run in augmented reality versus virtual reality.

Google of course has its augmented reality Project Tango initiative and earlier this year announced the first consumer-ready device in partnership with Lenovo. While unveiling the device, Lenovo and Google showed off how they could instantly map out the stage and reconfigure it with furniture such as a couch and a refrigerator. Project Tango uses real-time mapping technology paired with a complex setup of cameras and sensors to map the 3D space around users in real-time.

Personally, I happen to agree with Google on this one. I’m not a huge fan of virtual reality products, but something like Project Tango offers incredibly useful real-world applications that could push it towards mainstream popularity. I wrote on 9to5Mac earlier this year that Apple should focus primarily on augmented reality as opposed to virtual reality for this very same reason.

What do you think? Should Google focus more on augmented reality or Oculus-like virtual reality products?

The Digital Art Collective Blending Fashion With Augmented Reality


One vision for the future of fashion. (Normals/

In the not-so-distant future, fashion models may wear nothing at all. The real couture would be the threads of code at play in devices—like Microsoft HoloLens or whatever rises from the ashes of Google Glass—worn by journalists, fashionistas, and celebrities, projecting elaborate outfits onto the models’ bodies.

At least, that’s the vision of Cedric Flazinski, co-founder of the French art collective Normals and co-developer of Apparel, a new app that designs digital clothing based on your social media data.

Once you give the app access to your Twitter feed, it uses the API to generate three shirts that represent your personality. Certain words, emojis, punctuations and sentiments guide the design. Say you tweet a lot about yourself—your digital chest might inflate. If you do a lot of mansplaning and tweet more authoritatively, the shoulders will grow. If your posts are cute and kind, your shirt might have a lot of cats and birds. Based on the number of animals on one of my shirts, my Tweets are more twee than I realized.

“It’s more of what you’d call a psyhcosocial profiling. It’s kind of related to the Jungian archetypes. It’s how you address others and relate to others, because this is the point of connection to fashion that we find online,” Flazinski said. “We’re not trying to better the world of fashion. We’re only reacting to more and more augmented reality. Big actors like Apple, Google and Microsoft are really interested in allowing everyone to see digital information in the environment.”

As those tech companies develop better augmented reality technology, Flazinski believes smartphones will be replaced by devices that could make many physical visuals obsolete. “What’s going to happen to the manufactured environment? What’s going to happen to fashion? What’s going to happen to signs we see in public if we can simply display them digitally? So this is where that project starts—as a piece of fiction—and this is where we’d like people to sort of reconsider the future of fashion.”

The craggy blobs you see in the app are a far-cry from Alexander Wang. But soon the app will be able to pull more data from Facebook and other sources, and the design will likely get more sophisticated. “Right now it’s more a theoretical piece, of course,” Flazinski said.  “But we’re ready, if we got some funding, to organize a proper fashion show around augmented reality. That would be amazing.”

A rendering of a future version of the Apparel app

If New York Fashion Week is any indication of what the future holds, then Flazinski’s vision of fashion might not be that far off. When he saw recent photos from the event one thing stood out as prominently as the fashion: Most people were watching the shows through their phones as they took pictures and videos to share on social media.

TED Ahead: Augmented and Virtual Reality Takes Off


  • Steve Rosenbaum  CEO, Waywire Networks; author, ‘Curate This’; Speaker: on curation and storytelling

Today – when we think of video we think of television. And when we think of computers, we think of desktops, laptops, or maybe mobile devices. But there is coming a new technology that melds video and computing into a new kind of reality. Augmented, Virtual, and beyond. It’s what comes After Television.

Last year, Chris Milk gave a TED Talk about his journey into Virtual Reality and his dream to become Evil Knievel. His talk was captivating and for many in the room, the first time that the future of VR clicked. Now he’s back – a year later – with a new TED talk. This is rare and exciting. TED’s process of choosing speakers is rigorous, and second TED talks rare and just one year later almost unheard of. But the area that Milk is working in is red hot, and his company Vrse has been collaborating to bring VR projects to New York Times readers, along with a free edition of Google Cardboard.


Milk stretches virtual reality into a new canvas for storytelling. So what did he share with the TED programmers that convinced them that he had really new things to share? We’ll, that’s going to be one of the great questions of TED2016, which takes place Feb. 15 to 19 in Vancouver,. Will VR be the big new thing? It very well may be.

I expect amazing things from Milk, but the buzz that’s building for Meron Gribetz’s talk is almost deafening. Meron Gribetz is the founder and CEO of Meta. Meta is the first company to produce and sell augmented reality (AR) glasses with natural gestural hand recognition. Last year, the AR firm Magic Leap was slated to give a TED talk and pulled out. That never happens, leading critics to wonder if it hit a snag. But now the buzz is back, as Magic Leap has just raised another $793.5 million dollars – bringing their funding to 1.39 billion dollars.


But, back to Meta. Gribetz is leading an effort to produce and sell augmented reality (AR) glasses with natural gestural hand recognition. Gribetz’ first encounter with AR was during his service in an elite technological unit of the Intelligence Corps within the Israeli IDF.

One of the first to get to try on Meta, Tech explorer Robert Scoble explained that he’s still under NDA until Meta premiers at TED. But that didn’t stop him from in an emotional video that he thought Meta is the most important new product since the original Macintosh.

Said Scoble: “the biggest product demonstration, demo -the most interesting that I’ve ever had in my life. The most important product since the Apple II” said Scoble. If Magic Leap is even second to what I saw today, it’s so f*cking undervalued, compared to the 1.3 billion dollars in magic leap. I can’t even explain how undervalued it is. In the next five years, we’re going to be wearing glasses instead of using computer monitors. We’re going to be wearing glasses instead using mobile phones. And this is in the next five years. It’s coming. it’s coming more quickly than I expected. But the markets that are going to come in the next five to six years are going to be absolutely stunning. We’re talking about Augmented Reality Glasses, and I have just seen a ghost. The iPhone was an improvement over a product we had seen. This is a new product category. I’m emotional because I haven’t seen a product like this since the MacIntosh. That’s been 30 years. When you are in it and wear it, and walk around, and look at the world. Your head starts exploding. This changes computing fundamentally.”

So all eyes are on Meta and it’s first public demonstration of Augmented Reality.

“There is no other future of computing other than this technology, which can display information from the real world and control objects with your fingers at low latency and high dexterity,” Gribetz told CNET. “It’s the keyboard and mouse of the future.”

Magic Leap files for a big pile of patents, including for a sci-fi contact lens

  • by
  • The secretive company has applied for 97 patents, providing a small hint at the futuristic tech it’s developing.

    A futuristic tech company Google  GOOG -1.32%  has invested millions in has patented what seems like the coolest contact lens ever.

    Magic Leap, which is still keeping quiet about what exactly it’s building at its Florida headquarters, has applied for 97 patents, including one for an augmented or virtual reality contact lens. The company has only hinted at what it’s cooking up via a whimsical video released in March showing a mixed reality experience in which virtual objects or elements are projected into the real world.

    The group of patents, published between August 20 and 27, include devices and techniques for capturing and manipulating light and images. Several discuss “outside light,” which refers to the light from objects that bounces off the eye and creates what the brain interprets as an image. Glasses or a contact lens could interfere, and change what the eye sees. And because Magic Leap is in the business of augmented reality, it could use some of the technology it seeks to patent to dim some of the light from real objects to make the virtual ones it projects appear more real.

    Also, as Re/Code notes, the patents discuss displaying light at different focal points. A computer or phone screen displays everything on a single plane, but the 3-D world around us doesn’t, forcing our eyes to adjust their focus. Technology that accounts for this shift in focal points would likely be critical to a contact lens or any headset the company builds.

    Here are the signs that point to Apple’s next big innovation in computing

    Lisa Eadicicco

    Apple could be working on its own augmented-reality technology, which would be a first for the company, according to Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster.

    Apple usually focuses on mainstream consumer products such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

    Munster has picked up on a few clues within the industry that indicate Apple could be working on some type of augmented-reality device. For example, the company acquired a German augmented-reality startup called Metaio earlier this year, a move that was reported back in May.

    Munster notes that Metaio owns 171 worldwide patents related to augmented-reality technology, which would put Apple in 11th place for the number of augmented-reality and head-mounted-display patents held. Google, Microsoft, Sony, and Samsung remain ahead of Apple in that regard.

    Apple also acquired a company called PrimeSense back in 2013, and we have yet to see its technology appear in any of Apple’s products. PrimeSense makes cameras that can sense motion, and it is best known for making the cameras in Microsoft’s Kinect accessory for the Xbox.

    Munster initially predicted that PrimeSense’s tech could be used for motion detection inside the long-fabled Apple television, but that ended up being a bust. Now, however, Munster acknowledges those types of sensors could benefit an augmented-reality headset, since the motion-detection cameras could be used for indoor navigation.

    The company also recently poached an audio engineer from Microsoft who worked on its HoloLens augmented-reality headset. According to LinkedIn, an Apple engineer hired in July named Nick Thompson previously worked as the audio hardware engineering lead at Microsoft for the HoloLens.

    Audio is important in augmented reality, Munster says, because positional audio can make the experience more convincing (i.e., feeling like a certain object is in front of you or behind you, etc.).

    Apple mobile virtual reality patentUnited States Patent and Trademark OfficeApple patent for heads-up display.

    If Apple is working on an augmented-reality project, it would be doing so at a time in which almost every other major technology company is exploring the space. Microsoft, for instance, has been showing off its HoloLens headset at recent events.

    Google initially hyped its augmented-reality efforts with Google Glass back in 2012, and it is said to be working on an enterprise-focused version of the headset too. The company has also invested heavily in Magic Leap, a secretive company that is working on its own augmented-reality platform, which is supposed to be mind-blowing.

    This would be the first time Apple has explored the augmented-reality field, though it has filed patents for technology related to AR in the past. One, for instance, covers “interactive holograms,” while another describes a head-mounted display.

    Read more:

    Augmented reality is the future of design


    In 1992, researcher Tom Caudell coined the term Augmented Reality (AR). It’s an experience that supplements the real world with a virtual layer of information. Until recently, AR sounded like something from a cyberpunk novel. Some sort of cyborg capability that could go the way of PDAs and laser disks.

    However AR doesn’t rely on wearable technology (e.g.Google Glass) – and considering the millions who’ve opted for Lasik, it’s hard to imagine people embracing a constant need to wear special eyewear. Even if the cost of Google Glass was more accessible, the fashion faux pas of unchic fashion is a major hurdle – not to mention something blocking  your range of sight. That’s why there’s more to AR than just wearable devices.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.53.30

    Image source: 35 Arguments Against Google Glass 

    In this piece, I’ll explain the benefits and challenges of designing for augmented reality, then dive into why we must start thinking of products as connected services instead of standalone items.

    Getting Real About Reality

    Last year I was invited by Austin’s Chief Innovation Officer to help facilitate a workshop for businesses and institutions which included public libraries, YMCA, business development centers, etc. who’d qualified to receive free Google Fiber.

    Google claims it solved a common complaint of many internet users by engineering a faster, more reliable broadband network. Google Fiber boasts a download speed of a whopping 1,000 megabits per second.

    The question posed during the workshop was: How might programs be improved once anyone can freely access the internet without limitation?The unfortunate answer amongst participants was that they had no idea what to do with ubiquitous high-speed broadband. They didn’t know what it meant, but were grateful to have it.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.53.57

    Photo credit: Google Fiber

    Facilitating the workshop brought AR to mind as an important consideration for UX Designers. Once we’re no longer limited by broadband connections, it’ll be possible to design a smarter and more interactive modern world. I’m not convinced we’ll be walking around wearing special glasses or gear, but as services like Google Fiber change the broadband game, I see a modern world seamlessly enmeshed with technology.

    We’re All Becoming Cyborgs

    In 2012, Amber Case delivered a keynote at SXSW and spoke about AR as something valuable with a real purpose.

    A cyborg anthropologist who spends most of her time thinking about AR, Amber believes mobile devices are becoming an extension of our brain. Amber contends that our phones are becoming an extremity of ourselves. She says:

    From earliest times, humans had tools like hammers that extended our physical self. Today’s technology extends our mental self. It’s changing the way we experience the world.”

    Our phones already do so much more than make voice calls and send text messages. Case and other digital anthropologists track the use of technology to reveal that the tools may change but the behavior does not. As the free e-book Interaction Design Best Practices by UXPindescribes in the second chapter, you must always design faster and easier way to do simple things.

    Technology must fulfill that criteria of efficiency (perhaps even laziness) if it wants to survive.

    The Same Devices, More Interaction

    More than likely, we’ll continue to use the same devices, but objects previously passive will become interactive. Genevieve Bell is an anthropologist who works at Intel and spends a lot of time thinking about technology and culture. During her SXSW panel discussion on User Experience Design Shaping Our World she shared:

    When I think about what smartness looks like in the future, we’re going to encounter devices that have never been smart before, like your parking meter.”

    Essentially, everything will eventually have some sort of computer inside it.

    Honeywell has recently created a UX team in Austin focused only on building more intelligent products. Consider:

    • Would you eat better if your fridge had a built in computer?
    • Could clothes be washed based on their care instructions by your smart washing machine?

    I don’t know what Honeywell will come up with, but smarter homes are becoming a reality for many people.

    Big Companies Already Embrace Augmented Reality

    Also in Austin, IBM is working on a project known as Watson. IBM describes Watson as, “a cognitive system enabling a new partnership between people and computers”.

    Apple’s recent acquisition of Metaio (an augmented reality software company based in Germany) indicates that hardware companies are looking to built-in AR capabilities. The expectation is that Apple will use the Metaio software to make all Apple devices AR-compatible.

    It makes sense to create AR Apps for popular products. Metaio’s showroom app for Ferrari perfectly illustrates the value that AR technology can provide. Customers can customize their ideal car in the showroom using the AR app that animates 3D images.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.54.42

    Photo credit: Youtube

    Not to mention services like Wink, which enable users to connect all of their smart products to a single control system. The signals are clear: augmented reality is the future of product design.

    The Internet of Things Meets Service Design

    Augmented reality will rise as a layer of connected services through high speed WIFI. The design challenge isn’t creating new devices, but how existing products are connected by a single service.

    Too often users are burdened by poorly designed services. Service design is an important arm of UX because as information becomes freer, our ability to access it becomes more limited. We are experiencing information overload. All of these stand-alone apps certainly aren’t helping. Many apps die a slow death because they’re so difficult to use with other things. Service design acts helps connect all these formerly unconnected things.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.55.23

    Photo credit: Peter MorvilleCreative Commons

    A service needs to link different types of channels and devices, and the experience must be seamless. Many times, workarounds are required to enable a user’s ability to easily get from point A to point B. Workarounds are a short-term solution because software design has so many variables. Different languages, different browser compatibilities, different device optimisation and so on.

    Service design considers all of the related touch-points across a mix of channels and devices for a user to complete a task. If the touch-points aren’t compatible, the workarounds are a short-term fix. A new version might render the workaround obsolete and that can break the service.

    Siloed Product Design Is A Serious Obstacle

    Large companies tend to design products in a silo.

    A perfect example is AT&T. I moved into a new house last month and had Uverse installed. As a current AT&T customer, I was surprised that my cell phone account wasn’t automatically connected to my Uverse account. I’ve seen this type of disconnect before in my work as a UX consultant. Large institutions and corporations have siloed teams responsible for individual products. They don’t integrate products so the customer has to manage them as separate accounts.

    It is possible to connect a Uverse account with other AT&T accounts through a single sign-on, but management of the accounts remains separated. Here’s what happens:

    • If I update my address or payment option for my cell phone, it won’t be updated for any other account.
    • This means a lot of unnecessary data entry and maintenance for me, as well as introducing opportunities for human error.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.55.55

    Photo Credit: Mike Mozart, Creative Commons 2.0

    All of these silos negatively affect the opportunities for augmented reality. In order for AR to be usable, it must be quick and simple. Unlike other experiences, AR screens are layers to an existing object or device. No one will use AR apps or tools if they take just as long or longer than the conventional way of doing something.

    Let’s use the AT&T example, again.

    Let’s say I want to modify my account settings. I could design an augmented reality interface where I open an AT&T app on my smartphone or tablet and direct the camera at my WIFI modem. Similar to the Ferrari showroom app, the app would then show me all options for managing my WIFI service.

    If my AT&T accounts are linked, I can then select an option to apply address changes to all other accounts. Most likely a customer who wants to change their address for WiFi would also want to change their address for all their other AT&T services. Using an augmented reality app makes it possible to detect the customer’s address based on GPS, verify the account holder by voice recognition, verify the device in question through camera display and essentially make our lives a whole lot easier.

    This technology exists. It’s just not being used because companies have limited themselves by building their products in silos. They burden themselves and us by not recognizing the power of connected products.

    An Informed Consumer is a Happy Consumer

    Layar is a great example of how to design AR capabilities into formerly inactive objects like printed materials. Instead of merely creating a digital recreation of a printed magazine, AR apps bring the pages to life.

    Consider producing a single source with layers of capabilities instead of recreating the same information into multiple forms of media. This allows a product team to work collaboratively on a single product instead of multiple unconnected products.

    The one product is an analog format with digital layers, which provides a richer reading experience while deepening brand engagement. Engagement provides a lot of passive feedback about content and design, which in turn provides continual feedback to both the user and the product team.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.56.25

    Photo credit: Layar on Youtube

    Consider the process of discovering a new movie. Think about where you are when you are introduced to a new movie coming to a theater near you. Usually you’re at the cinema, or walking nearby a movie theater, sitting on the bus reading, in a cab, or watching something contextually related on your phone.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.56.49

    Photo Credit: India PR Wire

    An AR app could allow you to scan a poster or screen so you can buy tickets, select the seats in the theater, choose your refreshments with a clear understanding of what the seats physically look like and the actual size of your popcorn. Consumers will be able to make far more informed choices with AR apps and reduce customer service complaints.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.57.18

    Photo Credit: Fandango

    Fearing the Rise of the Machines

    Some people might worry that this kind of technology will eliminate jobs or that relying too heavily on technology is risky.

    AR is not the same as AI and isn’t about designing intelligent services that eliminate the need for human thinking. AR is really about designing layers of added value that reduce the time to complete simple tasks. AR apps should reduce human error by removing room for interpretation because you’re presented with a realistic rendering of something. As the collaborative design app UXPin first explained in their free e-book Interaction Design Best Practices, task efficiency is the core of every great product.

    Vernor Vinge is a science-fiction writer and retired San Diego State University Professor of Mathematics. Vinge authored a pivotal paper during his time at San Diego State called The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era. He is quoted widely on his theories about intelligent technology and has pointed out, “Reality can be whatever the software people choose to make it, and the people operating in the outside, real world choose it to be.”

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.57.48

    Photo Credit: Wikipedia

    Well designed services include contingency plans for technology failures in case of an outage. These services all have some sort of analog component to ground them in reality. And although reality can be whatever our minds allow us to believe in order for people to collectively perceive something as useful there has to be a shared mental model of reality.

    The First Step Is Designing a Service Blueprint

    When designing augmented reality apps, you first need to research the time and place in which the service will be used. The environment affects AR design significantly because there’s always an object that becomes the background to display the layers upon.

    Successful AR apps are grounded in reality. Consider real tools that solve real problems at a particular location and time.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.58.22

    Photo Credit: MHSzymczykCreative Commons 3.0

    Look at the internet of things. How does adding interactive elements add value? Technology just for the sake of technology might be interesting as a gimmick but it won’t change behavior. Augmented reality apps need to be based off an existing behavior. Figure out what tasks people already perform and map the touch-points involved.

    The best way to do this is by creating a service blueprint.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.58.55

    Image source: Brandon Schauer, Creative Commons 2.0

    A great resource is There are all kinds of activities and templates to use for designing services that work well and add value.

    Real Services for a Real World

    Through the capabilities of our smart phones, the internet of things, and WiFi everywhere, we are all slowly becoming cyborgs.

    Augmented reality is a valuable added layer empowering us to make more informed decisions. As consumers experiencing information overload, we are desperate for advanced customer service. Augmented reality is like our own personal assistant providing us with an easy way to customize our world. Designing for an augmented world requires an understanding of how to design services that solve problems.

    To learn more about designing for human behavior, I recommend checking out the two free e-books below. Across over 200 pages, both ebooks boil down complex topics like psychology and design principles into simple tips for everyday design.

    I’ve also started playing around with the UXPin app and found it quite helpful for approaching design from a service rather than product standpoint. With thousands of built-in elements for different devices (like mobile, tablet, and wearables), you can quickly design for many digital touchpoints in a single project. It certainly helps keep everything in the right perspective throughout the UX process.


    Screenshot 2015-04-29 15.30.54