21st November 2018

Making augmented reality a Cygnus reality! 

Making augmented reality a Cygnus reality!

Back in June of this year, we attended TechXLR8, London’s Tech Week’s flagship event, aiming to revolutionise business by connecting people and technologies driving transformation, and whilst summer may seem long gone, since then, we’ve been thinking a lot about what we saw there.

AR provides so many possibilities and they really aren't that far away.

It was the VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) Technology on show in particular that was really exciting and whilst we were able to try out some cool VR demos, it’s the latter of these “realities” that has really been our focus since the show.

Today most people know what VR is. You immediately think of huge headsets and terrible 90’s films like Lawnmower Man. AR on the other hand is more vague; you’re probably using AR every day and don’t think about it, or even know it!

AR excites us due to its real-world application and this is why we’ve been looking into how we can develop it as an offering to our clients.

With the growth of wearable tech and smartphones, almost all of us have an AR enabled device in our pockets offering us, as digital developers a fairly low barrier to entry to this new enhanced reality.

Think about the apps and tools you use every day; GPS, Google Maps, Street View; these are all simple and practical AR applications that we take for granted, but that help us avoid bad traffic, get from A to B in the quickest time and generally make our lives easier.

Now take something like Pokémon Go, a mobile game that became an instant viral smash. Using the smartphone camera and GPS the player is able to interact with their immediate surroundings via a virtual map, as characters, stats and land marks are overlayed into the players real world view through their smart phone. 

All of these are incredible examples of AR, that are already part of our everyday. The idea of adding insight and information to everything around us and how it could change how we view our surroundings, with the added ability to manipulate and constantly add to our environment just blows our minds. Just consider how that could be applied to all aspects of life, it provides so many possibilities and really isn’t that far away.

As you can probably tell, we are so excited about this new medium. A medium in which we can create, build and enable our clients to interact with their customers in new and exciting ways, and it’s why we’ve been starting to think about how we could offer these services to our clients, how we facilitate it and exactly how we can deliver such a service.

Back to XLR8, and returning our thoughts to what we heard and the things we learnt, and a lot of the keynotes delivered focused on the enterprise applications of this technology, its implementation and implications for big businesses. An interesting example was given of a parcel distribution centre, where every employee was wearing a Microsoft HoloLens (an AR visor). The visor was used to replace scanners and computer terminals in a logistics centre.

At a whopping £4,500 per device, the Microsoft HoloLens was not exactly a good example for us of a low barrier to entry (https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/hololens/why-hololens) but we loved hearing about its application none the less. What we want to focus on, is the lowest barrier to entry, the smartphone; the item almost every single one of us carries in our pockets daily. It’s this device that offers us a great opportunity.

So, what’s to consider? We need to think about how we build AR experiences, from the tools we use and how a user interacts with them. Many existing implementations of this technology use proprietary applications, an app made by a company, to create a particular experience around their service or to achieve a specific objective for their customers; this is always restrictive. i.e. to experience the AR the user has to go out of their way and download that specific app to do just one thing.

So, too many steps and hurdles in front of the actual experience are something we are thinking hard about in our investigations. This said, if it’s an experience that people want, then they will be willing to go that extra mile to get it. Take this cool IKEA AR application for example. IKEA Place lets you virtually ‘place’ IKEA products in your room giving you an accurate impression of the furniture’s size, design and functionality in your home. We really like this one!


Apps like this one, get us thinking about what we could offer some of our existing clients. What about buying a piece of flatpack furniture, point your phone at it and it gives you real-time instructions and overlaid graphics on how to put it together? A very practical and useful application of AR that as a home owner I know I would take the time to download the app for!

We’ve already started looking into creation tools and reviews on the best software and there are a lot of options out there but none currently stand out as market leaders. We are excited to learn that Adobe is already looking to offer an application that is currently in beta and that works with Photoshop and Dimensions. Called project Aero it supports Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook and will aim to standardise the eco system and file formats. Click the link below to have a read.


We don’t think promotional, interactive or advertising based experiences delivered through our everyday devices will become the norm just yet, not until Apple, Google and Microsoft define their platforms and applications for AR, the tools and dev available to create these experiences and the creation of an AR style web browser is installed on each and every smartphone out of the box.

The good news, if you’re as excited as we are about all of this, is that while it may be a bit of a way off, it is happening. Apple have just launched iOS 12 with a big AR component that they’re working in partnership with Pixar and Adobe on. Meanwhile Google has launched AR Core which provides a variety of dev environments including Android and iOS.

We’re watching this space very closely and will continue to keep our eye quite firmly on the AR ball. It won’t be long until more and more companies will be reaching out to us all in new and amazing ways – we want to be there with them, designing and creating those experiences and making AR a Cygnus reality!


Author: Matthew Hickling


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