Scottie Gardonio


5 (and a half) Ways I Would Have Used AR/VR Today…

…but couldn’t.

This morning, I had a moment of want. I was getting ready for my day, adhering to my nearly robotic morning routine while looking in the mirror, and I began to think about how much more productive I could be with the help of some advanced tech. As I thought, I decided to keep a running list in my mind of ways I could have used AR or VR in my everyday, albeit often mundane, life. (Just kidding, my life is kind of awesome.)

When reading the below list, I encourage you to imagine how this could be implemented by augmented/virtual reality startups or existing companies. Eventually, I’d hope all of these functions would become handsfree, but for now, handheld devices may be necessary.

1: Target

Alright, we’ve all been there. In fact, we’ve all been there enough to make it a joke specific to Target, but let’s recap the scenario:

You recently went to make your famous Betty Crocker sugar cookies from a box for the company’s fourth pot-luck this week. But, just as you’re ready to put the very inconsistently-sized balls of dough onto the baking sheets (you even remembered to pre-heat the oven!), you realize you’re out of parchment paper.

Off to Target you go.

As you walk from your car to the store entrance, you repeatedly say to yourself, “I need parchment paper. I need parchment paper. I need parchment paper. I need… ooh… what was that? Was that Mario? Did Mario just speak to me as I entered? Why? Oh, look! A Mario display! Oh, that’s right, the new Nintendo Switch has a new Mario game. I’d better go take a peak at that.”

Ninety-five minutes and…

  • six rolls of discounted St. Patrick’s Day wrapping paper,
  • five cute pairs of baby booties you might need for the upcoming shower of a non-existent-pregnant-friend,
  • four bags of candy you “loved as a kid,”
  • three funny Christmas cards you’ll definitely forget you have until January 13th of the following year,
  • two coffee makers to have as backup, just in case,
  • and, a DVD of a movie you just had to see (but forgot existed until just this moment),

…later, you check out and get back into your car. It’s not until you pull back up to your residence that you brain restates, “I need… parchment paper.”

Yes, we’ve all been there. And, if this amount of text wasn’t enough to exhaust and irritate you, remember that last time you actually did this!

Instead, let’s go to a magical moment in time in the (hopefully) near future. In this moment, we’ve indicated we want parchment paper, and we have our handy-dandy AR device in tow. As we weave our way through the glorious maze of goodness making up each Target store, some sort of alert on our along the lines of a buzz, ping or beep catches our attention just as we pass the aisle housing the parchment paper.

While augmented reality won’t likely keep us from offering our great-great-nephew’s inheritance to the big-box gods, it can at least make sure we remember the one thing we intended to purchase.

2: Driving

Up here in the north, we woke to a not-so-uncommon May 1st snow/rain/sleet-storm. With highs on some days reaching the mid 70s this time of year, the highs on other days reaching barely freezing temperatures confuses and confounds most—especially when that difference can come overnight. I’ve heard it best described as, “the weather is drunk.”

So, as I scuttle out of my bathroom to catch the weather report on the living room TV, I find I’ve missed the part I needed: the road conditions. If you’ve ever lived in a colder climate over a winter period, you know how important those can be: how else do you know how long to plan for your commute. Ice covered? Add on thirty minutes. Snow covered? Maybe add ten if you take the emergency snow routes. Just rain, excellent: have another cup of coffee.

The best I can do this morning is tear myself away from my routine to look up the local road conditions online. These are broad generalizations, though. One sixty-mile stretch might be labeled as “fair,” while the one connecting to it is labeled as “good.” What does that mean? That intersection is the exact moment when the roads change conditions?

This… is not helpful.

What would be better? Interactivity. Perhaps I’m wearing an AR headset, or maybe my car is AR enabled. I indicate that I am concerned about road conditions today, and it customizes the report to me as I travel. Perhaps as I start to make a left turn (let’s face it, Google already knows my way to work, so my AR will definitely know my intended turns), some voice or alert comes on to tell me that particular stretch has had two accidents in a thirty-minute period. Or, maybe it pre-plans the best routes for me based on accident histories over a period of time in similar conditions. Either way, it’d be more efficient than what I’m currently doing, and it’d likely be safer for everyone on the roads.

Plus this… would be helpful.

2.5: Driving (again)

I also flew past my normal lunch spot as I drove today. Whistling along to a new favorite song, I was rocking out in my car to the amusement (or horror) of onlookers. I won’t pretend it wouldn’t have been nice to have a small reminder to turn.

Image credit goes to Moulay Elmenouar.

Yes, from map apps and GPS, we can program in unknown areas to get places easily, but who ever does that for their regular haunts? I don’t want a turn-by-turn navigation every day, but sometimes it’d be nice.

Before the chastising comes (yes, we should all pay better attention when driving), who here can’t say they remember a time thinking, “I know there was a stop sign back there. Did I stop? I can’t remember. I must have.”

From time to time, we get so used to the roads we’re on—the ones we use so frequently the car practically knows the way—that we zone out just a bit. Or, perhaps, something draws our attention away. Maybe it’s a driver dangerously trying to push in front of you. Perhaps it’s your dream car, in your dream color, driving at you and you can’t help but spend a moment in fantasy. Or, maybe it’s a squirrel dressed as a mime doing a high-wire act while juggling blueberry muffins as gerbil-driven mini UFOs do a choreographed air dance as a backdrop.

Who knows what distracts us that little bit to make us miss normally instinctive turns/stops. All I’m saying is that a small reminder comes in handy from time to time.

3: Redecorating

Perhaps it’s the springtime weather… No, that’s not right.

Perhaps it’s the nothing-like-spring weather littered with very spring-like, making-me-think-it’s-summer commercials, but I’ve had a redecorating bug in my ear for a few weeks now.

I’m a person who embraces and loves change, and my apartment sees the brunt of my needs. Family and friends joke that my kitchen walls are probably held up by the seven-plus coats of paint I’ve put on them over only nine years. Still, I have to do it. Up for grabs now, with the kitchen in it’s final stages: the bedroom and the living room.

As I dream of color changes and some rearranging, I want to test out some of my ideas before implementation. Time and money are always a factor, so anything allowing a more streamlined process is welcomed!

Imagine, for a moment, you could stand in a space in your house. You could look around, and as you do, assign colors to certain areas. The walls over there: white. That one behind the couch? Let’s make that gray. What about that bookcase? Change it to a lighter wood color to get the idea of what a new fixture might do for the color scheme of the room.

Thankfully, Home Depot came out with an app allowing these things to happen. Take a photo of a room, and change the colors. Sounds great, right? Well, as it turns out, it’s only great in theory right now.

First off, the app doesn’t work terribly well. Perhaps I’m expecting too much at this time. As a graphic designer, I’m already used to taking photos of my spaces and digitally changing the colors in Photoshop. I don’t want to do it that way (it’s pretty time consuming), and those who don’t use Photoshop can’t do it that way. So, the Home Depot app sounds like gold. While it can only do as well as technology allows right now, it is unable to give seamless color changes. Plus, it only allows you to change one color at a time. If you change the wall color, you have to imagine different colored bookcases. If you change the bookcase color, then you have to imagine the wall color. Your brain has to put the two images together, and this allows for a high degree of error.

Secondly, it can only allow you to see the image through your phone. Again, you’re required to show some imagination. Your eyes can see beyond the phone to the actual room, so it’s not as transformative an experience as one might want.

Instead, imagine a headset allowing you to see the color changes in real time, as you move around your space. Not from a distance in a handheld object, where you can see past to the actual coloring — as though you are within the space that is done the way it’d look if you’d already taken the time to paint. For this one, I imagine a virtual reality app would work best.

4: To-Do Lists

Ok, we all have them. If you‘re like me, maybe you have two written ones — one for work and one for home — along with twelve electronic ones in addition to ones dedicated for each day of the week. (No, really, I have that many. And… they make me happy.)

However, I do not like adding things to them. Why? Because, I have to stop whatever I’m doing to locate the list and either type or write something additional. While the act takes a fraction of a moment, it’s still a pause in the task at hand, and that slows things down.

Instead, imagine being able to either say or look at something and having it added to the appropriate list.

Sure, Amazon’s Echo has a function allowing this to happen, but it doesn’t work quite as efficiently as I’d like, and it won’t organize the tasks the way I want. Say to Alexa, “Alexa, add Ferrari-red, pinstripe winter gloves to my list,” and she’ll do it. But, can she differentiate between a duty I have to complete by the end of the day or one that I have a month to do? Not well.

(This is the closest I could find to Ferrari-red, pinstripe winter gloves on Google images.)

I want something so smart, that if I look at a grapefruit and say, “add,” it already knows the item is food and must go on the grocery list.

5: Plant Care

Not to harp on this weather or anything, but the doom and gloom after six months of snow and sleet has me wanting to see some green. Sure, Mr. Sun will likely soon return for more than twenty minutes every three days, but my patience is waining.

In the meantime, these months have been cruel to my houseplants. Some are gifts, but most remain as heirlooms from my green-thumbed grandmother. It didn’t seem to matter what she did—every plant she looked at twice grew beyond compare.

Me? Well, her ivy struggles each year to grow another two leaves. I had four recently, but a random bout of cloudy weather killed tw0 of those off nicely.

I’m a bit obsessive with the plants in my house. Most are touched and spoken to daily (I’m not crazy — I’m trying to do that carbon dioxide 
deal-io). For the ones I know, they get watered on schedules recommended by experts with environmental exceptions taken into consideration.

Seriously, does anyone know what this is?

However, I don’t actually know what all of them are. Those are the ones that can suffer the most.

I’ve asked some people, done reverse Google image searches, and still, some remain a mystery. One particular plant flourished for four years. Two months ago, it took a turn and suddenly it’s only clinging to life. Not knowing what it is, makes it hard to know the proper watering amount, types and amount of sunlight to provide, possible diseases to watch for, etc.

My recent venture to SXSW in Austin had me briefly excited about AR in plant care. Leafly had a booth at the trade show promoting MARI. Initially, I thought it was a way to identify plants, figure out individual plant needs, and discover possible health causes/solutions. After going back on a second day (they were very busy on the first) to learn more for the head gardener where I work, I was saddened to hear it only works on cannabis.

I get it, though. With cannabis being a wealthy industry (specifically where it’s legal), they have the capital to roll out this technology earlier than many other industries.

In short order, I can imagine being able to look at my plants, and with a passing glance, get the following information:

  • Watering recommendations
  • Disease / pest alerts
  • Sun exposure needs
  • Temperature needs
  • Recommendations on soil (repotting, acidity, etc.)

All would be useful, save time, and make for happier plants. Of course, if AR/VR technology is too far out, perhaps we can look into reincarnation tech. I know my gram would have all these plants resettled in the blink of an eye.

So, how would YOU use AR or VR to make your life easier and more streamlined?

It’s worth noting, I am likely not the first to have imagined any one of these AR/VR scenarios. Many visionaries have grand ideas of how these technologies will work within our futures. But, if people have already dreamt of days such as these, why are we not further along? Part of the holdup, as is the case for technology in nearly every field, is the infrastructure. An extensive database must be created for each and every one of these scenarios to work. Moreover, our physical lives must match (i.e. the roads I see in my AR-enabled car must match what I’m on, where the plows have been, etc.).

My theory is that the ideas we all push for the most, the ones we, as consumers, express interest in, will be those first available. Perhaps that’s false, but I’m willing to give the theory a try.

Layman’s Tech: a guide to new gadgets, products, and fun — for those who don’t have a degree in computer science.

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