The new reality – AR you ready?

20 September 2017

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Blog written by Robert Poynter, Graduate GIS Consultant at Interpret

Augmented reality is the next big step for location intelligence. Just as basemaps helped define and communicate spatial data on a 2D plane, augmented reality does the same with the world around you. We’re no longer limited to looking down - we can look forward, under, above and through. This is a fast-moving and competitive industry on the edge of a major boom, and we’re excited to be a part of it!

I’ve been trialing a new app called Argis®Lens from a small Colorado start-up, Argis Solutions LLC, to explore and visualise Christchurch’s storm water system. While polygons and lines don’t always look too exciting on a screen, the experience of being inside the layer is more entertaining. Using a feature service on a dev server, I’m able to add layers to my scenes on an iPad and then walk around in them. The interface is simple and intuitive, offering the user a variety of options and inputs – camera height, visibility distance, a grid for referencing, and the ability to navigate across the entire map from an office chair if the weather’s rough.

While augmented reality has previously been associated with expensive car dashboards and geeky glasses, it’s about to become far more common. It might be in your pocket soon. Apple released iOS 11 on September 19th, and with it ARKit, an API which lets you architect your own augmented reality apps, using the camera and motion sensors. Tim Cook recently said that AR has “broad mainstream applicability across education, entertainment interactive gaming, enterprise, and categories we probably haven’t even thought of.” Google too is jumping on the AR train, with its very own ARCore, built for Android devices. Microsoft is bringing out the HoloLens suite, featuring mixed reality ‘smartglasses’, targeted at the developer market. The competition is on!

However, despite the hype and hoolah surrounding these new upcoming apps, the software I’m trialing at Interpret offers more practical solutions to the geospatial industry. Firstly, it reveals what is hidden behind a surface, rather than just projecting onto it. Secondly, the surface doesn’t have to be flat. Roads (particularly in Christchurch), building sites, paddocks, and parks rarely are. That’s where Argis®  Lens has the edge. Apple’s apps are design-driven, ArGIS’s Lens is data-driven. They are occupying very different places in the market at the moment, but imagine the potential when the design and choice of ARKit is coupled with the practical grunt of GIS. 

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I’ve had a heap of fun trialing this software. The best days at work are when imagination and practicality meet. And it’s always nice to have some time away from the desk and get out into the field! As I’ve played with augmented reality over the past few weeks, I can see that the opportunities are boundless. School trips to the museum may involve walking through historic reconstructions. Teenagers might fight zombies down their street rather than staying inside getting subterranean levels of vitamin D. There are already examples of AR apps that help you choose which bench top or curtains suit your living room best. One day I imagine shops will advertise in AR space, revealing their best deals to you as you walk down the street.

This is the next big thing in the world of technology, it’s bound to end up in places no one can yet foresee. Where can you see augmented reality going in the future? What ideas or reservations do you have regarding AR? I’d love to hear your thoughts, flick me an email: robert.poynter@interpret.co.nz

To find out more information about Argis Solutions and the software I’m trialing, visit their website: http://www.argissolutions.com/  

Image above: A Wellpad viewed through the Argis® Lens, courtesy of Argis Solutions

Images below: The view from our Christchurch office, through the Argis®Lens 

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