Like web, open source, and mobile before it, Portland has taken a real affinity to virtual reality and augmented reality. We just really seem to love that technology that hasn’t quite become a market yet. Call us early adopters. Or just call us curious.
That’s why it was really nice that the folks at Torch took the time to document their learnings for 2018 as they built an app for AR. It’s a great milemarker on the journey to AR becoming a thriving market.
Most of what has been published to date about augmented reality (AR) is speculative fiction. Instead of learning how users relate to and think about AR, we are served device counts and screen resolution stats. Until very recently, it’s all been conjecture: use cases, market sizes, ROI–all of it has fallen short. For this reason, neither of the year-end-tropes (the “it’s finally taking off” call to arms or the “it’s an over-hyped disaster” harangue) captured what we at Torch learned in 2018, and neither will get close to what we expect to find in 2019.
Along with our community, we learned that a lot of the AR use cases people had previously speculated on just didn’t make sense. The worst use cases we found use AR for the sake of being different without adding value to the end user. If you can’t honestly answer “yes” to the question, “Is the user’s experience in some way improved by AR?” then it’s probably a bad idea.
And yet, people rarely asked that question. Take for example a quick start guide for a physical product. Just taking what would have been printed on a piece of paper and sticking it in 3D, and requiring an app to view it, is a worse experience than just giving the user a piece of paper in the product package.
Through our conversations with augmented reality early-adopters, it became clear that companies wanted something that wasn’t yet in the market–a clear path from ideation through production. The first inklings we would need to expand beyond our prototyping tool came even before we launched in September. Canny beta users, already seeing the potential, asked about export formats and how to share their Torch projects.