Getting immersed in your own world without losing contact with reality is the ideal of any augmented reality enthusiast and AR developer. But how far are we from achieving this with only a handful of AR applications that are struggling to meet consumers’ high expectations and which are more focused on corporate objectives than on the final user experience? Surprisingly, the technology is already here.
A walk around Basel’s St. Johann Park in Switzerland can transform into an exciting surrealistic experience if you are wearing the equipment developed by Jan Torpus for the Life Clipper 3 project. A space-looking helmet with a camera mounted on top and an astronaut-like backpack will take you to a parallel universe with ghostly glowing grass, giant fish chasing beetles or massive green worms. If these were not enough, what else makes this project one of the best AR developments to this date?
Between reality and virtuality
Similar to Star Trek’s Holodeck, Life Clipper 3 can ‘transport’ people into another reality while being confined within the park’s borders. Having different physical and cultural rules, these new realities make users question their perceptions of reality and can sometimes even affect their feeling of safety.
If most AR developments concentrate so far only on a visual alteration of reality, Life Clipper 3 introduces virtual sounds. These are often attributed to the virtual creatures that populate the new reality and are also a part of the whole background experience. They allow users to hear different noises and even music depending on their location (in the park) and on the interaction between the five elements that create this world – terrain, cosmos, climate, atmosphere and creatures. For all who would like to learn more about these elements see Life Clipper 3’s script.
To create a more interactive AR experience, Jan Torpus has added a chest belt to Life Clipper equipment which measures a visitor’s breathing and directly influences the cosmos (what you see as the skies). This complements the terrain’s reaction to user interaction as well as virtual creatures and makes everything more real.
With several completely different areas to explore such as Fogland or Grassland, St. Johann Park becomes a massive video game-like plateau where the main character (the user) will always find something new, unique and very different from the reality they are used to. Beyond these augmented reality areas, you can also explore a complete virtual reality world which no longer coincides with the park surroundings but which still includes references to the real world to allow navigation.
Personal and unique experience
Creating worlds similar to Independence Day or Avatar (according to the project’s members), Life Clipper 3 manages to generate something unique in the AR ecosystem and extremely personal. The user interaction elements combined with a narrative and sensory immersion are challenging what each of us is taking for granted (such as gravity or the notions of time and space) and give us the opportunity to experience other dimensions.
Using equipment widely available ‘off the shelf’ such a bulky laptop, GPS sensor or a head mounted display with camera, headphones and microphone, Life Clipper 3 shows that new AR developments do not have to cost the earth. Started in 2003, the project brought together artists and scientists in the quest of mind-challenging sensations and new ideas for mobile phone apps, electronic maps and smarter websites. So how can an augmented reality project like this become an intrinsic part of our daily lives? Here are three potential mainstream uses of Life Clipper 3.
Meditation and relaxation
What better way to unwind and even meditate after a long working day than to immerse yourself in an augmented reality world in the park near you or why not even in your own home?! Having your own Life Clipper equipment with new ‘worlds’ available to experience in the same way as you load video games on your gaming console can certainly become the must-have of the overly-stressed and always on the run modern person.
However, providing a more immersive experience than any video game, Life Clipper has the potential of becoming health-threatening when users chose to spend more time in their AR world than in their real one.
Following on the ideas shared by one of our readers in the comments of a previous post, Life Clipper can become a very useful tool for construction companies who will be able to provide a more real-life representation of how the end development will look like.
According to our reader Harish, his company’s project was “planning to use battery powered GPS tracking technology to locate your position on the planed building site and then overlay the VR image, so you would actually see the virtual view of the proposed development in augmented reality from the position you were standing. This would enable you to walk around the new home before construction, seeing the view through a window before a brick had even been placed.”
Unfortunately, Harish’s plan has been shelved due to rising costs that no company was willing to pay, despite a high interest in the project. However, with Life Clipper all of these could become possible again.
Tourism and sight-seeing
Participating in Aztec rituals in today’s Mexico, experiencing the Jurassic period in North America or walking through London 100 years ago could all become possible in the not-so-far future. Using Life Clipper to immerse visitors in past times can revamp many historic tourist attractions which are now competing with modern entertainment.
Imagine going into a museum and instead of receiving an audio guide you get a Life Clipper equipment and as soon as you enter the Da Vinci room you immerse yourself into a new world where you see Leonardo painting his master pieces and where you can even interact with his disciples.
Having such a great power in diluting our reality perceptions, Life Clipper 3 project can also become dangerous if used for the wrong purposes. Manipulating the perceived reality and psychological abuse are only a few of the potential negative uses of this technology. Or is this just conspiracy theory…?
What other potential uses do you think we will see in the near future for Life Clipper 3? How do you think Life Clipper 3 will influence the new augmented reality developments from the big AR companies? Please leave your answers and opinions in the comments section below.