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Mixed Reality? Does AR always have to be fancy?

Lately, I’ve been noticing more and more discussions that AR needs to be “fancy.” Immersive. Realistic. Occulusion. But is that really necessary or maybe even a hindrance?

To put it bluntly: No. Of course, it is fascinating to embed AR content in the environment in almost perfect quality, with all that this entails: persistence (geo-coordinates), movement, physical laws (a virtual ball bounces differently on the carpet than on the stone floor), multi-sense, and so on. The demands on the hardware and software are immense, and the developments are (still) anything but suitable for mass production.

Assisted Reality oder Mixed Reality?

Many of today’s applications of AR are in the enterprise space. This means that workers receive work instructions or information embedded in their field of vision, in doubt via Google Glass or Vuzix glasses. That’s text, sketches, symbols, etc. And that’s right: that’s enough. More might not even be better. There are many situations in which minimalist content is better, because:

  • Content that is perceived as clearly virtual is unlikely to be confused with real objects. It would not be so conducive if technicians cannot distinguish real and virtual power cables.
  • High-contrast 3D content can obscure relevant real-world information. For example, workers might not be able to see switches on machines or warnings.
  • Realistic content can put people in a flow state; they forget about time and are fully focused. This can distract from hazards and is not conducive to work productivity.
  • Last but not least: Simple content is – ceteris paribus – usually more cost-effective. When it comes to efficiency benefits, this is essential.

So: Mixed reality applications are ideal for entertainment topics – e.g. games, simulations of products or AR substitutes. As fascinating as they are, the technologies required for them are still in their infancy. For many use cases, “less is more”. And the devices are cheaper and more marketable.

An example tool for such assisted reality applications is Giri from the Munich company AR Experts. We use this tool for demonstrators.