Finding space for augmented reality

Augmented reality can be used not only to help people with a problematic printer and find their skis at the mountain-top cabin: it can also be used to challenge social norms. This is shown by the first group of master’s design students working with visual media.

Hanna Nordenö, Ola Karlsson and Lovisa HasslerHanna Nordenö, Ola Karlsson and Lovisa Hassler Photo credit: Jonas LöwgrenSeven of the students taking the master’s programme in Design chose the Visual Media track. Together with a master’s student in civil engineering specialising in media technology, they were given the task of exploring the space between the virtual world and real life. The result was five widely diverse design ideas in the field of augmented reality. The “Augmented Information Spaces” course held its final exhibition on Campus Norrköping last week.

Find your skis

Just imagine a simple transmitter attached to your skis, sending a signal to your ski goggles. This would enable you to find your pair quickly after lunch, or after having lost a ski when skiing across deep snow. Put the googles in place, press a button, and – voilà – you see the tiny symbol that shows you just where your ski is.

Hanna Nordenö, Ola Karlsson and Lovisa Hassler all like skiing, and decided to solve a concrete problem. In a thorough exploration of the problem, they have tested different signalling technologies and carried out user tests. Incorporating the “Find My Skis" service into the goggles rather than in a mobile phone was a deliberate choice.

“Everyone wears ski goggles, and with the service in the goggles you can use it even when the weather’s cold out and you’re wearing gloves,” Lovisa Hassler explains.

Yin HeYin He Photo credit: Jonas LöwgrenYin He took on the problem of a troublesome printer.

“I wanted to do something for ordinary people so that they can get rapid help,” she says, and created “Remote Troubleshooting Assistance”.

Her idea will work equally well with any technical gadget or system. After establishing contact with a service engineer, the user can switch on a camera. The engineer can then easily provide guidance in the image, over the internet. By dipping a finger into red digital ink, for example, and then painting on his or her own screen, the engineer can show you where to press or what to pull, in order to get the machine working again. A projector in the ceiling can project a red dot onto the real-life printer showing a particular location or fitting.

Challenging social norms

Meike Remiger and Sarah Glassner challenge social norms about appearance in a project they call “Exploration Kenzie – Any Body is a Great Body”. They constructed a changing room of the type used in clothes stores in which different statements of current norms about the appearance of the ideal body are displayed on the curtain behind you as you try on clothes.

Sarah Glassner, Meike Remiger and Yin HeSarah Glassner, Meike Remiger and Yin He Photo credit: Monica Westman“You never enter a changing room alone: you always take with you all of society’s social norms. It may be the idea that you look too childlike, or too old, or too fat... We carry with us all of this,” says Meike Remiger.

“We wanted to start a movement against this fixation with body appearance, and have taken inspiration from blogger Kenzie Brenna,” says Sarah Glassner.

Natasha Azam has developed the idea of a storyboard wall with interactive images, intended to be used by interaction designers who need to test out different designs with users. Point your mobile or the VR headset towards the storyboard and more information appears. You can interact with what you see and then give feedback to the designer.

3D sculpture

Evan Palangio in turn became curious about moving images and started to experiment with using light to build a 3D Evan PalangioEvan Palangio Photo credit: Monica Westmansculpture with music he composed himself. A three-dimensional pattern of light grows in the room as we watch.

Jonas Löwgren, professor of interaction and information design, is satisfied with the accomplishments of the students. They have incorporated both social and technical aspects.

“Augmenting reality is not about the technology in itself, but about creating meaningful human contexts. As designer, you mustn’t allow yourself to be limited by today’s technology, but you can’t let your fantasy run completely free,” he says.

The students are well aware of this balance.

“If we can think it, we believe that it can be realised in one way or another. Working out the exact details is not part of this course,” says Sarah Glassner.

Jonas Löwgren agrees:
“It’s our intention to prepare the students to collaborate with specialists in other fields. My dream is that every new technology-based company should be founded by three equal partners: a designer, an engineer, and an entrepreneur. If this was done, I’m sure we would see more successful start-ups and more useful products and services in the market,” he says.

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Yin He has produced a cartoon, demonstrating the principle Remote Troubleshooting Assistance

A film about Exploration Kenzie can be seen here.

More information is also available at the Augmented Information Spaces website:

Translation George Farrants

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