We admit it - sometimes eyes glaze over when we talk about our work. Augmented reality - what is it? Virtual reality - what is that? Are they the same thing? No.
I've always said that it's easier to show you than to explain it! So, we put together a very low fidelity video of what it is. Basically, we recorded a screenshot from our app Digital Rangers to show you what happens when we trigger an augmented reality story from an object.
Let's start with a working definition of VR and AR
Virtual Reality (VR) is term used in a variety of ways, but its original meaning refers to immersive virtual reality systems. In this sense, ‘virtual reality’ is a high-end user interface that involves real-time 3D simulations and interactions through position and motion tracking, stereo audio and video, touch and force feedback techniques. The user's personal viewpoint is completely immersed in the virtual world. Virtual reality is more than a traditional medium, since it introduces a new way of interacting with multimedia information. 360 degree videos aren't technically VR.
Augmented Realty (AR) is the opposite of virtual reality: instead of placing the user into a synthesised, purely informational, environment, the goal of AR is to augment the real world with information handling capabilities. An augmented reality system generates a composite view for the user. It is a combination of the real scene viewed by the user and a virtual scene generated by the computer that augments the scene with additional information.
Now for the video of our AR app Digital Rangers ...
So what's happening in the video? I have pointed my Samsung Galaxy Tablet over what is referred to as a marker or trigger. In this case, it's a pandanus nut from the Pandanus spiralis tree in Kakadu World Heritage Area. Traditional custodian Mandy Muir and I chose the pandanus nut because it was a trigger-able element of the pandanus tree associated with her weaving story.
The app turns your mobile device camera into an 'eye' that is looking for the pandanus nut. Once it 'sees' it, the app tells your mobile device which story to play. This story will only ever trigger from this particular nut. This is important for First Nations Peoples' who may only want a particular story told at a particular location, or only for a particular object.
In this case, if your camera can't 'see' the nut, you can always click on the 3D mode within the app to play the story anyway. If you are outside of a specified geolocation however this will not play at the request of Traditional Owners.
Of course, this experience is much better in 'real' life! If you are interested in using Augmented Reality on your Country to tell cultural stories, for profit and purpose, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
We thank Mandy Muir for sharing her story with us for the purposes of demonstrating the app to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and to demonstrate the capabilities of Digital Rangers. Gamuk.