Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Report from Italia - Mixed Reality

The quick and dirty - more notes on Wendy Mackay's lecture:

Virtual reality (VR) creates a simulated and immersive environment; augmented reality (AR) was created in opposition and superimposes the virtual on the real; in mixed reality (MR), people interact with physical objects that are linked to virtual objects. AR includes wearable computing, and MR more specifically "takes physical objects and makes them virtual."

[I'm not sure I really understand the differences between augmented and mixed reality - and this inarticulate use of real and virtual is confusing ...]

Ubiquitous computing is currently focused on context - but the context of technology (eg. location-awareness) NOT of users. When we speak of "augmenting" reality, we may augment the user (wearables), we may augment the environment (smart spaces), and we may augment objects (e-textiles).

The design space for mixed reality technologies involves technical issues like capturing information from an object, presenting information to a user, and registering or tracking an object. Usability issues include how augmenting an object affects the user, and asking the simple question: "Are these technologies even useful?"

When we speak of "invisible" technologies, we may be describing "black-boxed" objects in which technological complexity is completely hidden or we may be describing "transparent" objects where technology is revealed by rendering the walls invisible (note that revealing complexity does not necessarily offer greater understanding of how the machine works).

The real question here though is IF interfaces should be invisible: how will users know what to do or what is being done?

Proposed research strategy: observe people in real settings; brainstorm new ideas with users; design systems grounded in real use. EVOLUTION NOT REVOLUTION.


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