Augmented reality devices "in your eye" will change how we see the world

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers: augmented reality technology will revolutionise the way we navigate cities, says Andy Millns of 3D production company Inition in the second part of our interview.

Andy Millns of Inition portrait
Andy Millns of Inition. Copyright: Dezeen

Augmented reality devices that are tiny enough to "sit in your eye" will soon add layers of digital information over the real world, says Millns.

Users will be able to see whole cities with information layered on top of them via tiny devices placed in the eye, completely changing their urban experience, he claims.

"When we can track natural features in the city we can [then] bring in all sorts of information layered on to the urban view." This could include information related to travel, shopping, the proximity of friends and so on.

Inition augmented reality architecture installation
This augmented reality app in an iPad tracks the printed pattern on the podium to generate a 3D architectural model

The adoption of this technology will be helped by the second major development Millns predicts.

"Most augmented reality so far [works] using a two-dimensional flat marker," says Millns, referring to 2D-printed marker patterns that interface with digital models on devices like iPads to render augmented reality views.

This tracking method limits augmented reality to fairly rudimentary usages – but not for long.

Inition augmented reality architecture installation for Zaha Hadid
One of Zaha Hadid Architects' models tracked by an augmented reality app

"In the future we won’t need [to use] two-dimensional specific markers, the augmented reality app will just track the natural environment", he says.

Couple this with more sophisticated viewing technologies, and the use of augmented reality will soar, Millns claims: "When we have devices that just sit in your eye and it’s not obvious you are wearing them – that's when augmented reality will really take off."

Inition augmented reality architecture installation for Zaha Hadid
Augmented reality rendering of Zaha Hadid Architects' model

Today's augmented reality relies on an intermediary device such as a smartphone or tablet, on which the user sees an "augmented" version of the world.

“One example of using augmented reality that people might be familiar with is using a tablet,” says Millns. "We use a live image via the camera and we layer on objects to make them appear as if they are really there."

Inition augmented reality architecture installation for Zaha Hadid
Augmented reality rendering of Zaha Hadid Architects' model, showing wind-flow diagrams

This technology is used at Dezeen’s Imagine Shop at Selfridges that features two installations developed by Inition, an augmented-reality watch store and a walkaround digital model of Zaha Hadid’s £300 million superyacht.

The augmented reality Dezeen Watch Store pop-up allows customers to virtually try on a range of watches. By wrapping a paper "marker" around their wrist and looking at a screen, customers can see the watches modelled on their wrists in real time.

Augmented-reality- demonstration-at-Dezeens-Imagine-Shop- for-Selfridges-644x362
The Dezeen Watch Store pop-up at Selfridges' Festival of Imagination

Customers can also explore an augmented reality scale model of Zaha Hadid Architects’ 90-metre Jazz superyacht using a tablet computer.

By pointing an iPad at a printed marker resting on a platform, they can view and walk round the yacht as if it was really there.

Inition medical augmented reality installation
Augmented reality models are used for medical research and teaching

Based in Shoreditch, east London, Inition specialises in using new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality to create a range of experiences and installations.

Inition has built augmented reality models for several developers to help promote their buildings as well as architects, including Zaha Hadid for whom they developed a model which explored the effects of different airflows and lighting on the building.

We interviewed Andy Millns in Inition's Shoreditch studio. The music featured in the movie is a track by Floyd Lavine. You can listen to Lavine's music on Dezeen Music Project.

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers