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Making Augmented Reality more real

Augmented Reality holds a lot of promise, but most examples that exist right now are pretty limited, because it's difficult to interact with virtual objects in a believable way. One of the biggest reasons for this is an inability to handle occlusion: the situation where your hand (or some other real world object) blocks out the view of something virtual.

It's a tricky problem, but AR is a quickly growing field, with technology that's improving rapidly and a ton of unrealized potential. So we decided to get our hands dirty and see if we could prototype what AR might look like if it treated occlusion in a more realistic way.


The biggest issue right now turns out to be sensor and display technology. Knowing when to occlude something means knowing how far away it is, and how far away everything else is too, and that takes detailed depth-sensing--something that's still quite difficult. Depth-sensing IR cameras are still fairly low-resolution, but they're getting better, and so is software that can use color information to infer depth. Put these together, and we may soon get somewhere believable, and maybe even useful.

For now, we're playing around with the design opportunities that more believable AR could offer, like grabbing a virtual object and manipulating it, or even turning it into a menu or tool element. It's still early days, but even this quick round of experiments has opened up possible futures that go way beyond a Snapchat filter.






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Emil Wasberger

Design Technologist

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