Everyday Wearables and the Future of Augmented Reality

As a greater number of device manufacturers enter the Augmented and Virtual Reality space, some interesting questions and philosophies of adoption are raised.
What can AR wearables do that my phone or watch can’t already do? Will the manufacturers develop the software or create a platform or others to build on? Who will actually wear these things?

We recently stumbled across and a great video from The Verge checking out Vaunt, Intel’s new Smart Glasses. We’re loving their very pragmatic approach to the wearable and see it as a big contender in the space for early adoption. Here’s the video and some our additional thoughts below:

 

Who will actually wear these things?
This is actually one of the most interesting aspects of the Vaunt. Intel’s approach is design first, focusing on breaking the “I look like a dork” barrier that plagued Google Glass. We agree that one of the keys to adoption will be wearables that don’t interfere socially.

What can AR wearables do that my phone can’t already do?
Much like smart watches, the potential here seems to be providing contextually relevant information without the need to visually disengage. Smart watches are great at keeping your phone in your pocket when you receive notifications, but they do still keep you looking at your watch like you need to be getting somewhere. Grocery lists, driving directions, restaurant reviews (of the restaurant you’re currently walking past)…these are pieces of information we’d love to have access to without having to avert our glance.

Will the manufacturers develop the software or create a platform or others to build on?
Intel brings up a great point here too. Much like with early smartphones, it can be difficult to anticipate the advancements that will come from a new platform (who could imagine Uber or Venmo in 2007?). While solid core software will be the key to the primary use cases of initial adoption, an open, easy-to-develop-for (we’re looking at you Apple) platform will be what really advances the field as it grows.

SeeSaw Labs Virtual Park

For our latest Lab project, we’ve been working on creating a Virtual Park where we can experiment across multiple platforms. For HTC Vive and Oculus builds, we’ve been working at combining some more advanced interaction methods (like climbing, using objects while teleporting, etc.). For mobile builds where interaction is often constrained by the lack of a controller, we’ve been experimenting with other ways to more naturally transport the user and allow them to explore the space.

The space features elements inspired by some of my recent travels and is a great example of how real life spaces can help shape better virtual ones. One of the most surprising things I’ve learned so far, through the experience of modeling after a real life space, is how incredibly well VR communicates the sense of scale. Anytime I felt myself stuck on a “design decision” a pop into VR mode to explore quickly gave me the insight I needed to answer “where that umbrella should go?” or “how tall should that mountain be?”. In my opinion, one of the most powerful use cases for VR right now is communicating projects of scale and depth. Photos just can’t quite produce the feeling of standing in a canyon or looking over the edge of a bridge—I look forward to expanding more on this concept in future projects.

Update: Check out the experience on Viveport

SeeSaw’s Virtual Office

SeeSaw Labs is a 100% remote team, meaning its employees and contractors are distributed around the globe. It’s what allows us to find and hire the brightest minds, regardless of their geographic locations. However, obtaining bright minds is only a fraction of what it takes to run a successful company with a fully remote team. Minds must be connected to bring about their full potential and effectiveness. How is this achieved?

Scheduling? – Easy. Google Calendar!
Formal communication? – Phone and Email, tried and true!
Instant messaging? – Slack, Hipchat, Skype, Google Hangouts, IRC, etc.
File sharing? – Dropbox, Google Drive, shipping hard drives via UPS1

Why do software companies bother renting office space at all if these tools are available? Clearly there must be some element missing from this list, or we’d be seeing a lot more realtor signs downtown. We at SeeSaw argue that modern communication tools are brilliant at connecting computers, but fail miserably at connecting _humans_. If you’ve ever been a member of a conference call, you know this pain. If you’ve ever group video chatted with a room full of six people, you know this pain. If you’ve ever been sent a document to ponder in-meeting and wished you could scribble a note in the margin, you know this pain.

There is a staggering amount of silicon between your mind and your associates’ minds in a remote context. Funneling human nature into a microphone is analogous to breathing through a straw; you’ll survive, but the act can hardly be classified as enjoyable. We aim to combat this problem by leveraging cutting edge VR technology to create one of the first virtual offices.

For our first experimentation in networked VR, we built an open structure where we could demo some basic object manipulation. While we loaded our heads and hands in as simple cubes, it was a bit shocking how much life motion tracked objects have (we were actually able to scare each other and share a laugh by teleporting, hiding, and then jumping out from behind cover). To test networked object manipulation we loaded in more cubes which could be picked up, thrown and caught.  This task is especially challenging as it involves the real-time networked position and ownership handoff of the objects.

With our virtual office, your conference call is now a brick-and-mortar2 meeting place, your six person room just became a seven person room, and I now have the ability to physically hand you that TPS report that you’ve been nagging me about. Go ahead, make some comments in the margin with your virtual pen, see if I care.

1 We know you’re out there somewhere…and we feel for ya.
2 “vertex-and-texture” meeting place is maybe more accurate, but doesn’t carry nearly the same ring.