Twelve years ago, I caught my first glimpse of the power of Augmented Reality (AR) as a new communication medium. It was pure magic: a virtual 3-D cube appeared in my physical surroundings and I was awestruck. The augmented cube demo wasn’t interactive at the time (it did nothing else other than appear), however, it ignited my imagination for how AR could grow and evolve. At that moment, I dedicated my creative work, research, and public speaking to the new experiences AR made possible.
I wrote this book because I began to witness a much-needed shift from a focus on the technology alone to a push towards creating compelling content and meaningful experiences in AR. This book is about exploring those big ideas and the extraordinary new reality AR affords. Now is the time to dream, design, and build our wondrous future.
As AR advances, we must ask: How can we design AR experiences to enhance a user’s life and make it easier and better? MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte said, “Computing is not about computers anymore. It is about living.” AR is no longer just about the technology, it’s about living in the real world, and creating magical and meaningful experiences that are human-centred. This book is about how AR will enrich our daily lives and extend humanity in unprecedented ways.
It’s not too often an entire new medium emerges. You should read this book if you’re a maker, a doer, and an explorer who is excited by creating a path where there is no trail, and want to contribute to this rapidly growing industry. You should also read this book as an informed consumer for a peek at the new experiences that will change the way we live, work, and play.
You are a designer, a developer, an entrepreneur, a student, an educator, a business leader, an artist, and a technology enthusiast curious about and excited by the possibilities AR presents. You are committed to designing and supporting AR experiences for the deepest of human values to have a profound impact on bettering humanity.
No prior knowledge of AR is required to read this book. To get the most out of this book, I do recommend trying out an AR experience first-hand (several ideally), including any of the examples referenced throughout the chapters.
This book is organized as follows:
Chapter 1 revisits the classic definition of AR from 1997, expanding on how AR is changing today and beyond. This chapter introduces the next wave of AR that enables a new spatial understanding and sensory awareness to create a more immersive, integrated, and interactive experience.
Chapter 2 explores how computer vision is giving us new eyes and perspectives to engage with the world, from artist installations, to robots and self-driving cars, to assisting people who are vision-impaired.
Chapter 3 investigates research and innovation in haptic technology (touch feedback) to sync what we see with how something feels, as well as creating new ways to communicate using tactility.
In addition to audio used for navigation and narration, Chapter 4 explores approaches to augmented audio and “Hearables” (wearable technology worn in the ear) that make it possible to alter the way you hear your environment, and how your environment even “listens” to you.
In Chapter 5 we learn how digital smell and taste is a growing area of research, prototypes, and product design that can augment the way we share and receive information, enhance entertainment experiences, deepen our understanding of a place, and affect our overall wellbeing.
Chapter 6 looks at how AR is moving past novelty to create compelling storytelling experiences, noting where we’ve been with recurring storytelling themes and conventions, and where we’re headed with emerging styles and mechanisms.
Chapter 7 queries how avatars, intelligent agents, objects, and materials are becoming living contextual change agents: learning, growing, predicting, and shape-shifting to your context.
Chapter 8 surveys the way we are augmenting our bodies from electronic textiles, to technology embedded in the body, to brain-controlled interfaces.
Chapter 9 identifies ten AR experiential categories to date, with the intention to grow the possibilities into the near-future and beyond with a sense of wonder and a commitment to uplifting humanity.
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I consider myself tremendously lucky to have an incredibly loving, supportive, kind, patient, encouraging, and inspiring family who has lifted me up throughout life, not just in the process of writing this book. My dear parents, your love and care is bountiful and you are tirelessly dedicated to our family’s happiness and wellbeing. It is with great love and gratitude that this book, and everything I do, is for my family.
Thank you Caitlin Fisher for your amazing mentorship throughout my M.A., and Ph.D., and for inviting me to be a part of York University’s AR Lab 12 years ago. It was life-changing! You opened my eyes to the wonder and magic of AR with the fantastical way you see the world. I am grateful and in such awe of you.
Without my editor Jeff Bleiel, whose helpful guidance, patience, and enthusiasm for the subject made for a very supportive and enjoyable writing experience, and Susan Conant and Laurel Ruma at O’Reilly, this book was but a dream. Thank you each for making it a reality and believing in my work.
Special thanks to Tom Furness, Tom Emrich, Matt Miesnieks, Soraya Darabi, Stefan Sagmeister, Jody Medich, Al Maxwell, Jonah, Dan, Mary, Sophie, Tom, Fredelle, and Martin.
And thank you, to you my reader, for picking up this book. We have the incredible opportunity and privilege to design the future; let’s make it truly outstanding.