Britain's Next Top Model (Of Interaction)
Britain's Next Top Model (Of Interaction)
To augment is to enhance, and augmented reality (AR) will enhance our lives by acting as an ever-present digital layer over the real world. The augmented layer will be our touch point to a live body of knowledge that’s always on, constantly updating, and sensitive to users’ context and preferences, so that the information it offers is always relevant. Augmented reality will be the next paradigm for interaction. It combines a three-dimensional visual interface with voice and gestural controls to create more instinctive interactions. It will disestablish text commands, traditional search, and today’s smart devices to usher in a new age of sophisticated discovery and seamless interaction.
AR concepts are now a reality and will start to enter the consumer market in 2013. Innovative industries – gaming, automotive and tech – are unveiling augmented reality products that will cement it as the future model for interaction.
The consumer, content and technology have not yet come together to tip AR into the mainstream.
Where is the content?
We’re still in the early stages of understanding ‘big data’ and content creation. More real world activity must be translated into data so a more accurate picture of real life can be painted online for us to interact with. The value of data must be better understood before we learn how to curate and refine it beyond lists and spreadsheets, to become something more subtle, digestible and useful. All of our online activity - listening to songs, watching films, sharing images, status updates – exist today as millions of separate databits but will eventually be a single fluid map of our digital lives, tracking, learning and constantly adapting. Our patterns will be learned and combined with our personal preferences and social influences to suggest and predict information that might be useful as we navigate and enhance our daily lives. For example instead of logging into Facebook and seeing a text notification that some friends have checked-in somewhere, if they’re in your area you’ll see a sweep of light in the corner of your eye that traces their recent movements, suggesting this may be a path you’d like to follow. Sensory recognition will also improve so that the interface can understand the user’s situation beyond simply time and location as it does now. It will include facial recognition, points of interest (public places, businesses, geographical features), sounds and weather to build a context rather than a dozen separate elements. If you’re wondering where to go for dinner, instead of Googling ‘restaurants East London’ you’ll be able to get a real-time glimpse into a dozen restaurants that suit your preferences and social recommendations. You’ll be able to see real-time ratings, what’s on the menu tonight, the music that’s playing, how warm it is, how busy it is and if any of your friends are in the area. Each feature of the physical and digital worlds will be recognised to contribute to a live body of knowledge for users to tap into; the next generation of internet.
Where is the Consumer at with New Forms of Interaction?
We all remember when mobile phones were only used for calling, texting and playing Snake, and it was considered rude to do any of these things in the company of others. Today it’s totally normal to sit on the tube, chatting, listening to music, emailing, Facebooking and to be completely frustrated if you lose your connection for a moment during the ride. These days, even though I still can’t get my parents onto Skype, their grandchildren can work an iPad and start a video call, and they have to be taught that images in real life don’t always move when you swipe them. Technology is moving faster than ever and consumers are becoming less resistant to change. Instead they’re embracing new forms of interaction and carving out new behaviours that developers and analysts are struggling to keep up with. The number of connected devices per household in the UK has been doubling each year Since 2010 and new behaviours like dual screening and showrooming suggest that technology isn’t feared but rather it’s embraced as we realise how it makes life easier, cheaper and more entertaining. What does this mean for new forms of interaction like voice and motion control?
What Have We Learned From Siri?
Voice commands such as Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Facebook Messenger are the next phase of interaction technology. The potential for fast hands-free commands is an easy sell to any smartphone user, as is the promise of Natural Language Interfaces to provide more sensitive and targeted search results than traditional keyword searches. Siri was a hugely anticipated addition to Apple’s iOS, but its technically troubled first incarnation failed to deliver the ease-of-use required to kickstart a shift in consumer behaviour from text-based commands to voice. Siri’s inability to cope with the complexities of language – accents, names, regionalisms and colloquialisms – meant that the great leap forward turned into more of a cautious toe-dipping by consumers, reinforcing the importance of flawless usability to achieve mass uptake of new technology. Although Siri may not be there yet, the ease-of-use that voice control promises – and the commitment by Apple, Google and Facebook to incorporate it further within their products – means we can expect it will eventually become as common as texting and emailing is now.
What Have We Learned From Gaming?
Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect were the first devices to introduce motion-control en masse to consumers, and have become the best selling gaming consoles on the market. Easy-to-use, motion-based commands meant that gamers and non-gamers alike could master the devices very quickly, proving that the instinctive nature of gesture appeals to a broad range of users, and demonstrating the readiness of the market for this type of interaction. Kinect’s next iteration – due for release in 2013 as a component of the new 7th generation Xbox – will be the first device to offer consumers their first immersive augmented reality experiences. It’s expected to integrate 4G and Kinect Glasses to create three-dimensional augmented reality images that players are able to interact with using voice and motion commands. Role-playing games will be propelled into a new level of realism and 3D AR interactions will be placed into the hands of what Microsoft expects to be 100 million users.
Where is the technology?
Wearable Tech Just as the iPhone removed keypads, and the Kinect removed the controller, interfaces are becoming less about devices and more about actions. Content is reaching us in ever more seamless ways as we edge closer towards the removal of the device altogether. As interaction becomes more user-centric than device-centric, smartphones will give way to wearable technology and the more subtle experience that they offer. The first generation of Google Glasses and augmented reality contact lenses are due on the market this year, creating the first major steps into wearable computers for everyday consumers. Like the first mobile phones, their functionality will be limited and their price tag (just under $1,500USD for Google Glasses or $500 for Vuzix’s rival model) may limit their appeal. But no doubt subsequent models will be more affordable as the technology develops and a competitive market is established. Automotive The automotive industry has long held the vision of a connected system with hands-free control and a heads-up display to create a more enjoyable experience for the driver. Cloud-based systems in cars are now a reality and 2013 will see manufacturers expand their capabilities with voice commands, heads up display units, and in-car apps that will transform vehicles into smart connected devices. Once a fully integrated augmented reality interface is realised, it could draw in information from the car’s passengers and surroundings, and present it subtly in the driver’s view. Information like road conditions and traffic could be shared between vehicles and the driver’s personal data can be drawn on to provide useful location-based information such as revealing which of their friends are in the area, or how many tables are available at that restaurant. Then with the flick of an eye you’ve made a reservation and invited a friend to join you. Smart devices and The Internet of Things Like connected cars, more everyday objects will become Internet connected. We are starting to see mobile apps act as controllers for household devices; you can use your iPhone as a stereo remote control or to turn your heating on remotely using an app. As this idea develops the notion of the Internet of Things starts to take shape. This is the idea that connected software will be contained in everyday objects. Food containers will talk to your refrigerator, the fabrics that we wear will react to our bodies, our environment will become more intelligent as it learns and reacts to our behaviour. If you push a light switch it will elicit a different response from one day to the next depending on a variety of factors. As wearable AR takes off and content improves, the need for physical devices may diminish. Do you need a light switch if you can turn the lights on with the nod of a head? Would you still watch TV if you can view programming through your contact lenses? Many physical objects may be reduced to an augmented visual the way DVD’s have been reduced to digital files today.
Augmented Reality will enter the consumer market in 2013 through wearable technology, automotive and particularly gaming, which will propel it into public awareness and start bringing AR concepts to life. The first versions of these technologies are likely to have limited capabilities and usability which will prevent them from achieving mainstream uptake, but which will create the start of the paradigm shift. Further into the future as content and technology improves, AR will connect us to a real-time internet combining information, people and objects, to create a more sophisticated web that will make our daily lives smarter, easier and essentially more enjoyable.