At first it just looks like a plain old Web page — a Wikipedia article about the history of the space suit. Then, Reza Ali scrolls down, and something incredible happens.
The user experience (UX) engineer with Google’s Daydream team is speaking at the recent Flash In The Can (FITC) conference in Toronto, and the screen he’s showing the audience moves from a regular image of a space suit to a 3D model that can be seen from every possible angle, much like the 360-degree images many of us take with our smartphones today.
It doesn’t stop there, though. In another clip, Ali shows how the same image of a space suit can be projected and manipulated in almost any enivorment by using augmented reality to project it through a smartphone screen.
This, Ali suggests, is where those studying web development or web design — a journey that can begin on CourseCompare — might end up spending more of their time as the technology matures and the best practices get figured out.
“In some ways, the future of augmented reality sounds a lot like the Web,” he told the FITC crowd, “accessing massive amounts of information that is geo-located and delivered in real-time. Hopefully there will be some kind of use agent or operating system to understand what your intentions are and where you’re going, and (will) give you the information that’s most relevant.”
The space suit demo is an example of WebAR-Article, a 3D model viewer that Ali said took about a month to design and implement. Many of the tools the Daydream WebXR team is using, such as WebAonARCore and WebARonARKit aren’t meant to be permanent, but were built to showcase what kind of content in AR is possible and why it will be compelling.
“The web is kind of notorious for its jank,” he said, referring to problematic blocking of a software application’s user interface due to slow operations or poor interface design.
Many of today’s Web API’s have “a lot of garbage,” he added, and are cluttered with different frameworks. That’s why he prefers “stupidly simple” off the shelf libraries in much of his work. “I like tools that enable me to flow and do what I’m doing.”
Technologies like AR will force those studying and working in web design and web development to think beyond the screen, Ali said. That’s because using things like WebAR-Article will mean ensuring you have a clear floor to project a 3D image, for example, or that there are seamless transitions between traditional Web experiences and those like the ones he was demonstrating.
Besides wrestling with APIs and the right technical resources, future web designers will be entering the workforce as the world tries to figure out the right open standards to govern how AR and similar experiences make their way into the world, Ali said.
“We need some thing to keep us safe and to respect our personal space,” he said. “We don’t want to be bombarded by ads all the time.”