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How Will Your Digital Content Become Augmented Reality Experiences?

bio_gallon Standard Deviation is a column all about standards—a subject that affects most of our lives, but that we seldom think about. As the title implies, I want to keep the conversation lively and engaging. I’m always looking for guest columnists, and we welcome feedback with comments or requests for standards-related topics to cover. Email me at rgallon4stc@culturecom.net.

By Christine Perey | Guest Columnist

This issue’s guest columnist is Christine Perey, a specialist in augmented reality and its use in enterprises. Christine and Ray both sit on the OASIS ARIP (Augmented Reality in Information Products) Technical Committee.

Augmented reality (AR) has enormous potential to impact our lives and businesses in positive ways. I’m firmly convinced that to reach that potential, it must be open and AR systems must interoperate. To promote this set of values I’m leading a grassroots community of people—the AR Community—dedicated to advancing open and interoperable augmented reality (www.perey.com/ARStandards).

It’s taken over a decade for our content development processes and enterprise content management systems to transition from their prior focus on print as the medium for delivery to today’s digital delivery systems.

The journey from print to digital has been slow and rocky. Technology silos for content can be inexpensive to implement but are known to introduce barriers to growth and evolution. In response to these barriers, standards for digital content preparation, publishing, and navigation have emerged. Once adopted, content standards reduce interoperability issues with different CMS, operating systems, and screen types (e.g., laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.). But there remain many proprietary systems in use. Working around and between these systems to produce the best user experience are part of the technical communicator’s special “sauce.”

The Sauce Needs to Evolve

Nothing stays constant. How will our existing systems produce content for augmented reality experiences and deliver digital content in context? How will digital content in your existing CMS appear perfectly synchronized and overlaid on the physical world? How will the latest work instructions and troubleshooting guides be available without you or the user needing to do anything special in advance?

The short answer is augmented reality, but its use to present information in context is going to require significant effort for everyone in the near term. It will require developing new processes and learning the features of all these new delivery devices. Before digital enterprise content can flow to an array of smart glasses and other form factors (e.g., smart helmets) in AR formats, your special sauce is going to need many new ingredients.

Standards Are One Ingredient

As with digital content delivery today, standards can reduce interoperability barriers for augmented reality. They are a means to an end: the goal is to lower barriers to making digital content available, thus improving productivity.

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We must avoid altogether or, if they are necessary to get started, reduce reliance on proprietary technology silos for augmented reality. In the AR community, we share a set of principles—a school of thought—that seeks to identify and to adopt alternatives to proprietary formats and interfaces for augmented reality.

The Role of Standards for Content in AR Experiences

Some of those alternatives to proprietary systems are going to be based on international standards. For five years the community members have been monitoring the evolution of all kinds of standards relevant to AR (www.perey.com/ARStandards/existing-standards). Since augmented reality involves both software and hardware, we are tracking the standards for how components fit together physically (e.g., the MIPI standards for camera and sensor connectivity), and the APIs for accelerating sophisticated algorithms with semiconductors (e.g., the Khronos Group APIs).

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There are also existing and new standards for AR content presentation. For example, the Open Geospatial Consortium publishes the ARML 2.0 standard, an XML-based data format, targeted for mobile AR applications (www.opengeospatial.org/projects/groups/arml2.0swg). The Motion Picture Experts Group publishes the AR Application Format (ARAF) now in its second version (http://mpeg.chiariglione.org/standards/mpeg-a/augmented-reality-application-format/wd-30-araf-2nd-edition). There is also the work of the IEEE AR Learning Experiences Model (ARLEM) that is developing schemas and concepts for how to describe the physical world and the actions of people in AR (http://arlem.kmi.open.ac.uk/). The OASIS AR in Information Products Technical Committee is also studying where standards can support technical communicators (www.oasis-open.org/committees/arip).

The standards and technologies are going to come from many different places and groups. This complexity is somewhat less daunting to understand once you have studied and are able to use the Mixed and Augmented Reality Reference Model that an ISO/IEC JTC 1 Joint Ad Hoc group has developed (www.perey.com/ARStandards/MAR-Reference-Model-March-22-2016.docx).

When you embark on your new sauce for digital content preparation, learn and choose those options most suitable for your existing authoring workflows and the use cases for which you aim to create augmented reality support. Some of those options will need you to develop a new approach, and perhaps your special sauce will, one day, become a standard for those who follow.

CHRISTINE PEREY is an industry analyst and active leader of new technology industry initiatives. In 1991, she saw that it would be possible to improve human communication on personal computing devices with audio and video. She became the editor and publisher of the QuickTime Forum, the first publication for QuickTime developers. She worked as a consultant to the videoconferencing and streaming media industries for over a decade until, in 2006, realized that the future would lead to augmented reality. She has started and led many communities of interest. She is an advocate for interoperable augmented reality and serves on numerous standards working groups including as co-chair of the IEEE P1589, Augmented Reality Learning Experience Model (ARLEM). She is founder and currently the executive director of the AR for Enterprise Alliance (AREA), the only global member-based organization accelerating AR adoption in enterprise. When not traveling, Christine lives and works in Montreux, Switzerland.

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