What would augment my reality?

Augmented reality

While I can see a fully immersive VR experience getting serious traction in gaming and entertainment, it’s too isolating an experience to hold much appeal for me. What interests me is Augmented Reality or AR; where a computer-generated image displays over a user’s view of the real world through glasses or a lens.

Luke Wroblewski recently posted on the ‘value to pain’ ratio of wearing an AR headset to establish at which point the headset’s value outweighed the pain of charging and wearing one.

What would augment reality? Source: Luke Wroblewski

Twitter responded with some interesting suggestions for AR prompts. Some of the suggestions would add real value to my day:

Others just made me laugh (I love you internets):

This got me thinking about my day-to-day life. What would augment reality enough to make it worthwhile for me to wear an AR headset?

The problem I would like to solve is accessing information safely and easily while on the move. Liberating the internet from our desks was an exciting development but in doing so we have inadvertently created a terrible form of human-computer interaction. Phones were designed to hold to your ear and to speak into, not for inputting a 50 character password with your finger while walking down the street. Thousands die each year distracted by their smartphone, yet our generation of compulsive over-sharers seem completely accepting of the awkward exchange between human and screen.

Throughout the day I extract my phone from my bag to read emails and messages, check my calendar, locate things and navigate around town. This typically involves me rummaging through my giant work bag, locating my phone, unlocking it and then trying to read from the small screen while walking. Living in central London I’ve fallen over countless times and had three theft attempts by the guys on mopeds who ride onto the pavement and make a grab for your phone (try harder next time, losers).

If this information could be displayed in front of my face it would improve my safety, my work-life and my commute.

So AR has some potentially exciting uses. This mind-map provided a good starting point for my thinking:

How we might use Augmented Reality

How we might use Augmented Reality (click to enlarge). Source: Mogens Skjold

With this in mind, here are the things I would be willing to wear an AR headset for:

  1. Email/Whatsapp/calendar notifications. These could either disappear after a couple of seconds or display full text when promoted by a tap or voice command.
  2. Contextual commute notifications telling me my tube station is closed or suggesting a faster route.
  3. Location-based prompts that tell me to do something at a particular place (ie. buy milk when I’m standing outside the shop).
  4. Estimated waiting time/availability in cafes/restaurants. Then reviews to help me choose which to eat at.
  5. Product reviews and price comparisons while buying from high street stores. I regularly pull out my phone in shops and check Amazon reviews before purchasing in-store and to check if something is potentially cheaper online and if it’s favourably rated.
  6. Finding where you need to go in a crowd, whether your seat on the plane, in the theatre or your friends at a festival.
  7. Where is the nearest empty car parking space? Then, can I park here? Parking signs in London are borough specific and sometimes confusing.

Would I look stupid?

To cross the ‘value to pain’ barrier, an AR headset would need to look like a regular pair of glasses for me to wear and to attract your early adopting consumer. I’ve tried on various AR headsets and they’re currently very bulky and cumbersome. I’m excited to see a number of VR glasses currently in development, (though these are the only pair I’ve seen so far that don’t make you look like a glasshole).

What would prove compelling enough a reason for you to charge, store and wear AR glasses?

Mocking up a ‘day in my life’ with AR would be a fun side exercise – I might add this to my side project list!