Mainstream AR: Overcoming the Challenges



Innovation can be dismissed unnecessarily if the human factor isn’t front and center.

At the recent AR in Action Augmented Reality Summit at MIT Media Labs, I offered five simple rules to help innovators in AR overcome the challenges in achieving mainstream adoption.”[1]

Kopin Corporation, launched as a spinoff of MIT in 1985, kicked off its efforts to deliver wearable technologies on a special request from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to improve situational awareness for soldiers. Building on that experience, Kopin has since become the leading supplier for U.S. military pilot helmet head-mounted displays, including those used in the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. Kopin also provides its microdisplays and optics to wearable headsets for customers in military (Rockwell Collins, Elbit, Thales, and DRS), enterprise (Vuzix, Motorola, Fujitsu, Lenovo New Vision, and RealWear) and consumer (Intel/Recon, Garmin, Google, Solos and more).

As a company which has been creating augmented reality technology since long before the term even existed, we’ve learned many lessons, and I am often asked for my advice on how companies can succeed with AR. I created these five rules to help them do exactly that.

Five Rules for Doing AR Right

  1. Humans First Humans do not generally want to wear devices on their heads. If users are uncomfortable, they will reject innovation. Prioritize human ergonomics first, technology second.All technology must serve human needs and respond to human instincts. In creating AR, technology is combining the physical world and the digital world. But users are always a person first. We have to give them a reason to put something on and keep it on. In other words, it has to have value.Common examples of this is the use of eyeglasses to correct vision, or helmets to provide protection. But without those needs, humans would not choose wear something on their head. The benefit has to overwhelm the instinct to take it off.
  2. Physical World First Too much virtual content can easily overwhelm the brain. Deliver AR overlays in small, controlled bursts.Don’t confuse the user. It’s tempting to provide a lot of technology, because we can. But if you overwhelm a user with data, they won’t understand. Even within the digital space, they are still human.

  1. Maintain Situational Awareness When people become claustrophobic they react predictably. The AR experience must preserve contact to the real world by not obstructing our five senses.The digital world is broader than the physical world, so it’s important to provide a safe space within AR. Similar to people craving, and protecting, their personal space in reality, each user wants their own digital space in augmented reality.

  1. Voice is the New Touch Keyboards and touch screens require compromise. In AR, as in the real world, audio is the most effective and proven channel for command/control as well as transmitting and receiving information.In the physical world, vision and sound are the senses we rely on most. In the virtual world, it’s the same thing, which is why, at Kopin, we focus our efforts on display and audio.

  

  1. Balance Design with Benefits Do not overdesign by adding unnecessary features but design for clear, specific benefits to motivate adoption of AR.

It’s always important to remember that technology serves the physical world, not the other way around. One example of a product which follows the above rules is Kopin’s first consumer product, SOLOS AR glasses, which work with Bluetooth to transmit data and include an inexpensive, high-resolution AR display. We started with sunglasses, something that people want to use for cycling or running, then we put technology into it.


Dr. John C.C. Fan is the CEO and co-founder of a leading developer of Kopin Corporation, a provider of innovative wearable technologies and critical components for integration into wearable computing systems for military, industrial and consumer products. The Kopin CEO is well-positioned to provide guidance to AR innovators. Since starting Kopin with a group of MIT engineers and scientists, Dr. Fan has authored about 200 publications, edited three books and has over 50 issued patents. Importantly, he was an early advocate of wearable computer headsets with an early patent issued on this technology in 1998.

Kopin’s technology portfolio includes ultra-small displays, optics, speech enhancement technology, voice-interface and hands-free control software, low-power ASICs, and ergonomically designed smart headset reference systems. Kopin’s proprietary components and technology are protected by more than 300 global patents and patents pending. For more information, please visit Kopin’s website at www.kopin.com.

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[1] Dr. Fan’s full presentation is  here.

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