Why content is key for AR platforms

Content in the context of Augmented Reality (AR), is defined as the presentation of existing information in a format applicable to the current world-view. This takes the form of visual and/or audio but can also take on other sensory formats such as touch or even smell.

This distinction between content and information is important to understand when considering the functional applications of AR platforms. In simple terms, an AR platform will not create information but rather consume it from existing sources and create, package and deliver it as AR content.

AR platforms such as Appearition’s Experience Management System (EMS), rely on the availability of information to create and deliver contextually relevant content to connected clients. AR platforms should, therefore, be regarded as mediums for connecting to existing data stores and aggregating and formatting that information based upon the context of the intended audience.

There are several challenges facing AR platforms today. At the outset, any effective platform must provide an intuitive user interface that is accessible and available to non-technical users. More often, it will be business staff who will be interacting with the platform to manage and create information and content.

  1. Access to information

A key concern of AR platforms is access to information. This demands connection and integration to various types of data stores. It comes with adherence to security and authentication protocols, data privacy laws and compliance and the support of various types of data formats such as CSV, XML and JSON.

With this concern comes the fundamental need of having a scalable, robust and highly responsive infrastructure for reliable functional performance.

  1. Contextualising information

Once information is available to the AR platform, it is important to be able to classify and group it. This will become an integral step in content creation as it will be important to link the context of the audience with the context of the information.

Meta-data is a common concept used in IT systems to help with classification. You can apply meta-data to existing information and then filter and query that when creating content.

  1. Delivering a good user experience (UX)

A well delivered UX has these two common properties: relevance to what we are doing and is quick to load. The former is something we have already touched on above. The latter is about network latency and is best understood when we think about today’s websites. According to studies, more than 40% of users bounce from websites that take more than 3 seconds to load. This is directly related to internet connectivity speeds and the amount of content being delivered to the browser. The same principle applies to AR experiences, however, instead of the latency concerns of HTML, AR is concerned about the speed of recognition, the stability of tracking and the download and rendering of immersive content such as 3D models or 360-degree videos.

A critical factor for AR is a reliable and fast wireless network connection. Whilst the current 4G technology does enable us to watch videos and images seamlessly, when it comes to immersive AR experiences, content is much bigger and heavier than standard website content. As such, we eagerly look forward to 5G which aims to revolutionise our world again with quick access to immersive content.

Whilst the promise of 5G is very much a future aspiration, there are strategies today that can be considered when designing and building AR solutions with latency in mind. Can you anticipate and pre-download AR content before the user has asked for it? Can you place content closer to the user to minimise too many hops around the world? Can you break up the content into smaller chunks and stagger how and when it’s presented?

Conclusion

In many respects, we are exposed to information all the time and in different ways. Since the dawn of humanity, we have exchanged information by communicating and interacting with each other. We then became exposed to printed information in the form of books, newspapers and magazines. In more recent times information has emerged in the form of TV and radio. Finally, the invention of the internet and social media has exploded our access to information at our fingertips. We use information all the time to make important decisions at work, school, home and in social settings. Filtering and deciphering this information in a way that is relevant to what we are doing now, has always been and will continue to be a struggle.

AR content is the means to access and view contextually relevant information in our world.

Simon Galanakis is a passionate advocate of effective AR experiences and is currently Appearition’s Platform Architect and Senior Solution Designer.

Young AR creators: Appearition’s workshop for school kids

Industry 4.0 is redefining the future of work. Technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics are changing the future ways of working. For today’s students, it is vital to understand how these technologies work, for they are the future workforce, who are set to engage with these technologies.

We at Appearition believe that it is important to shape the thoughts of these future workers. As a part of our EdTech outreach series, Brendan and Arindam from our team conducted a workshop for school students in partnership with Real Time Learning (RTL). RTL is a social enterprise that provides students with the opportunity to learn from industrial partners.

Brendan and Arindam enabled the students to understand the basics of AR technology and its application in the industry. Using 8AR platform, the students got to create their own AR experience. Luke Kerr, Programme Director of RTL feels it is important for students at a young age to get an appreciation for how quickly things change. ‘Students in school are exploring AR content but very few have the opportunity to develop and create content. With an industry partner, it is so good for students to hear of the different use cases that the companies are partnering with their customers. This helps our students think more creatively on how they could use AR in the future,’ he adds.

Overheard at the workshop, a conversation between 14-year-old Gemma and 12-year old Ethan:

Gemma: ‘I thought AR technology would be like Tony Stark’s visor. This is actually very simple to use.’

Ethan: ‘Look, Gemma. I created my own AR experience using 8AR. Scan this image of my wallpaper and see what happens.’

(Gemma scans)

‘Nice! I wish we can scan all our favourite images to trigger an experience.’

‘If we can augment 3D overlay onto physical things, we can look at an image of an engine and see all the different components of how it works and instructions on how to build all the components into an engine. Using an AR headset, we can see the instructions alongside our actual work in progress in real time.’

Ethan: ‘When Brendan and Arindam showed us some demos, I realised that AR will help train people to do risky things. If they fail, they won’t hurt themselves whilst training!’

Students pick-up the ropes of technology faster than we imagine. Within an hour, Gemma and Ethan understood the enterprise application of the technology and how AR can impact workflow.

Appearition along with EdTech champions like RTL are making students future ready, one step at a time! True to our motto, enabling these students to succeed at creating their own AR experience made our day. We are already looking forward to hosting the next set of students!