In 2016, augmented reality became a trending news topic when Pokemon Go, an augmented reality mobile game, reached 45 million daily users soon after launch, and hit 750 million downloads within a year. The game, which drew players outdoors in such high numbers that libraries hosted workshops, communities released safety tips, and the press — from school papers to the WSJ — released how-to guides.
The demand for Pokemon Go was so high, in fact, that users shared tips on how to gain access before the game was officially released globally. Two years later, while the company is still releasing updates, the early fervor has passed.
What Pokemon Go proved, however, was that augmented reality could do more than just capture users’ imagination. It could also engage viewers with their own environment, offering them a completely new way of experiencing the world around them.
Developing AR Technology
The same year that Pokemon Go was released, a number of other companies also released new immersive technology options. Oculus released the Rift headset for Virtual Reality (VR) gaming, Sony sold nearly one million VR headsets for the PlayStation within four months of release, and Google released the affordable Daydream for VR games and movies.
The technology that made those games and headsets possible began to be developed fifty years earlier, when computer scientists began to imagine ways to create and share a “mathematical wonderland,” a view that could so fully immerse viewers that it felt like “a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked.”
Today, advances in augmented reality (AR) technology mean that designers and creators can share with viewers an immersive experience that not only feels as visually engaging as Alice’s Wonderland but one that also is so precisely accurate that it can help solve practical, real-life design problems.
In fact, the potential for AR to help engage viewers and solve complex problems means that, as the technology for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality has advanced, so too has the market: Goldman Sachs has estimated that AR and VR will “grow into a $95 billion market by 2025.”
Growing the Augmented Reality Market
As large as the AR market is expected to become, its potential is most clearly seen in creative industries. Popular video games and apps alike make use of AR to engage users. In July 2017, for example, Snap released a dancing hot dog filter for Snapchat that, by August, had been viewed 1.5 billion times, leading Snap’s CEO to call it “the world’s first augmented reality superstar.”
While Pokemon Go and Snapchat’s AR filters have both proven popular, other attempts to share immersive technology have not always proven quite as successful.
Snap’s own limited-release “video sunglasses” are still a far cry from the augmented-reality glasses that its patents suggest are in the works. Google Glass not only didn’t catch on, but it also lost many of its enthusiastic early adopters: “it was not very useful for very much,” said one such user, “and it tended to disturb people around me that I have this thing.” While Google “hoped that software developers would come up with killer applications,” in fact Google Glass failed because of perceived “lack of utility”: “no one could understand why you’d want to have that thing on your face,” especially when no such “killer applications” yet existed.
While Goldman Sachs expects early demand to come primarily from “creative” industries like video games and entertainment, the technology that makes both VR and AR so engaging is not limited to games, movies, or short video clips.
In fact, AR’s potential for tremendous growth reveals an excellent opportunity for pool and landscape designers to incorporate AR experiences into their design and sales process.
Solving Design Problems
Even the most talented designers presenting the most exceptional designs often find that homeowners struggle to understand exactly how a project will really work in their own outdoor living space.
Because most homeowners dedicate three to six months to planning projects that take another three to six months to complete, being able to fully grasp both the details and the potential of a project helps reduce some of the uncertainty and risk in undertaking a large-scale renovation project.
With the benefit of new advances in AR technology, pool and landscape designers are able to take advantage of a far more immersive new way to share project plans with homeowners.
Not only does AR make it possible for viewers to see reality from a new, more immersive perspective. It also creates an interactive display that users can engage with easily, whether they are finding Pokemon, choosing photo filters, or exploring pool and landscape design plans.
Being able to explore designs in detail, at scale, in real time, on their own property is an especially welcome experience for homeowners who often invest considerable time and money in outdoor renovations.
More importantly, AR helps homeowners feel like the design plans that they are exploring are truly personalized for them, since designers can use AR to build design elements — like a freeform pool, outdoor kitchen, or fire pit — right on the homeowner’s lawn, choosing the right placement and the right options in just seconds.
It’s a remarkably easy way to solve the most common design challenges — as well as the most unique ones. Fully one third of homeowners undertaking outdoor renovation projects say that their goal is to make their space feel like their own, and nearly as many identify “poor use of space” as the top challenge they want to solve. Augmented reality makes it easy to show exactly how a design will both update a mundane yard and make the best use of the existing space.
Immersing Homeowners in Future Designs
Augmented Reality offers more than just that looking-glass into what computer scientists, decades ago, imagined as a “mathematical wonderland.”
Structured Studios is developing a new app called YARD. With the YARD app and an iPad Pro, pool and landscape designers can create that mesmerizing Wonderland that welcomes homeowners to see their future outdoor living space, while also engaging homeowners in the planning process, reducing costly change requests, and minimizing the risk that the finished product will not match what the homeowner imagined.
Here’s how YARD by Structured Studios works:
By presenting design ideas to homeowners with YARD, designers eliminate the problem of explaining how 2D plans will become 3D reality. Instead, they use YARD to transform the homeowner’s lawn into an interactive sketchpad, one that is easy to navigate with simple gestures already familiar to most smartphone and tablet users.
The homeowner can see, right in front of them, exactly how their new outdoor kitchen or swimming pool will look simply by dragging and dropping, pinching and zooming. Together, the designer and the homeowner can drag the spa to the other side of the pool, pivot the entire outdoor kitchen to see what it looks like from the other side of the lawn, and zoom in to feel like they’re walking straight into the pool, ready to relax and enjoy the view at true scale.
Exploring augmented reality through a iPad Pro screen also helps make the experience feel more familiar: instead of asking viewers to don a headset, enter an immersive “theater” like Morton Heilig created in the 1950s, or even attempt to navigate an app like Snapchat that older users often initially describe as “confusing,” homeowners can simply walk around their own lawn with nothing more than an everyday tablet in hand and see their future outdoor living space instantly come to life.
Now that AR displays are within easy reach of pool and landscape designers — requiring nothing more than an app and a tablet — it’s easier than ever before to share the most excitingly interactive and truly immersive presentations with homeowners.