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Augmented Reality Alternate Interface – House Elf

Most interfaces to current augmented reality prototypes are pretty basic. Floating tags and other similar elements. They’re a lot like current desktop interfaces. Following the limitations of more or less static 2D environments.

But they don’t have to. Not on the platforms with more sophisticated graphics capabilities. Since there are real, live 3D environments to work with, why can’t the interfaces be 3D animated? And if you’re going that far, why not animated characters?

Imagine a “house elf” AR app (with apologies to Ms. Rowling). Once it properly learned your home, it could serve as an assistant in locating items or managing devices. It could remember where your car keys were, if you remember to tell it (or locate them via rfid someday). Find DVDs on your shelf, monitor energy usage, provide reminders.

Oh sure, traditional handeld apps could do much of that, and basic AR interfaces could do more. But wouldn’t it all be a lot more fun (and thus appealing) if a character were attached to it? It’s easy to see licensed characters in the role.

Imagine a Rowling house elf padding around your home on your AR screen, directing you to a particular item. Or a vocal reminder the lawn sprinklers are about to activate. Or just providing entertainment via idle loops.

Better yet, imagine Clippy asking “It looks like you are trying to replace a live electrical fuse, would you like some help?” Ok, maybe not that one.

In any case, AR offers an opportunity to put personality into interfaces. It’s not hard to imagine expanding the concept to other arenas- city tour guides, car elves than monitor an auto’s systems, etc. Theme parks are ideal breeding grounds for this sort of thing. And eventually generic template characters could be developed for mass-marketing to small business such as shops or bars.

Some of this could happen today, some in a few years. It’s worth looking at now to see how the AR interface can be moved beyond the desktop idioms.

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