We all live in a 3D world surrounded by 3D objects. When we create or design those objects (or products) around us, however, we’re relegated to sitting in front of a computer’s flat screen and confined to interact with our digital designs through 2D windows, icons, and menus.
Is there a better way? Two technologies that show promise in providing designers with a more intuitive way to interact with their digital designs are augmented reality (AR), which overlays digital content onto the real world, and virtual reality (VR), which immerses users into a fully virtual world. Both technologies have made headway in recent years, thanks to advances in graphics processing power, high-pixel density, but small, displays, low power/portability, lower costs, and most importantly, the overwhelming declaration from gamers, designers, and engineers to break out of 2D worlds.
For the past two years, UX, research, and neuroscience teams at Meta, an augmented reality hardware and software company, have been hard at work creating design guidelines for AR with the goal of contributing to the larger conversation on how AR can enhance our abilities to create, communicate, and collaborate. These guidelines, coupled with its flagship product, the Meta 2 Development Kit, can be used to create applications and tools that enable design participants to more completely understand the functionality of a proposed product in the context of the space it will be in.
What makes the Meta 2 headsets unique is that they are see-through, so the holographic content in the AR environment is displayed as a dynamic layer over the user’s physical surroundings. As a result, users always feel oriented and visually connected to both the people around them and their environment. The Meta 2’s field of view (coming in at 90-degrees) is also much wider than with other devices, such as the HoloLens, and allows users to experience truly immersive AR without needing to move around to see entire holograms. With the Meta 2, users can use natural hand interactions to intuitively move and manipulate holographic content as if they were interacting with real-world objects, and can create and share their own digital content with others, e.g., during design reviews, whether they are in the same room or miles away.
“The way we see it, the Meta 2 Development Kit, and AR more broadly, will significantly enhance the CAD industry’s ability to help its customers deliver better products faster, and at significantly lower costs – a win-win-and-win for everyone involved,” says Christa Olson, Meta’s Head of Product Marketing. “By using the Meta 2 and the high-resolution holographic 3D models it delivers, designers and engineers will be able to greatly enhance every aspect of their workflows, from shortening design reviews to never losing another creative moment or opportunity for inspiration with clients and colleagues.”
With AR predicted to burgeon into a $94–$122 billion market by 2021, compared to $25 billion for the VR market, it’s clear this is a technology with real promise and that startups like Meta seem to have the passion and commitment to be an important part of creating this new computing platform that could radically change the way designers collaborate and create new products in the future.