3D or More 3D...That's the Question

Posted by Taylor Haney on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

Another great post this week from Karthik V Narayan, Sr. Experience Designer at Isobar. Karthik looks to the future of mobile and the role 3D will play. Interested in contributing to the MITX blog? Email taylor [at] mitx [dot] org.

Karthik V NarayanKarthik V Narayan (@karthikvn) is a Sr. Experience Designer at Isobar and a former researcher at the Changing places group MIT media lab. Karthik’s research includes parametric design, strategy and innovation with a keen interest in IOT both on a micro and macro scale.

There are many directions that mobile could move towards in the coming years and speculations are quite haywire. That said, the two biggest trends I’m tracking are 3D gesture technologies and 3D projection mapping.

3D gesture tools – think Tony Stark’s technology – are very cool, but will we really need them? If so, what interactions make sense? Certainly some tasks should remain as screen interactions, rather than gesture-based, simply for efficiency’s sake. I envision it being useful in specific areas of research like education, where a science teacher explain cell structure or anatomy more dynamically, or the medical industry where a doctor can practice before a complex surgery. Waving your hands for everything sounds exciting, but it’s best use cases are actually quite discrete.

Another sector that could be impacted by 3D gesture and mapping is industrial design. 3D interfaces could make it easier to test and interact with parts that have been designed, but not yet produced or constructed. Imagine designing a transmission in a CAD program – like AutoCAD or even Google SketchUp – and then manipulating the final assembly in real space to make sure that it works correctly before sending it off for production.

Finally, I think 3D interfaces could be useful for doodling or ideation, or even just remembering your daily tasks. People typically keep to-do lists on their phones, tablets or post-it notes. The limitation of these options is that they’re all in two dimensions, which forces its own constraints and can make things appear cluttered if not thoroughly organized. Manipulating ideas in the space around you could be a drastic improvement.

Isobar blogAnother leap in mobile is the impending deployment of LTE and cellular technology all around the world. Accessibility to Web-based and cloud-based services will increase and ubiquitous computing starts to get real. We will move towards creating a “Digital Aura,” or better pervasive computing, where everyday objects can recognize our needs and react to them in an intelligent manner. Ubiquitous computing would just become a part of our daily lives.

Miniaturization and image-projection technologies, coupled with previously mentioned 3D gesture technologies, allow mobile devices to be wearable components that combine wirelessly with each other and other nearby devices to provide a less obtrusive mobile computing environment.

My colleague Cory Chapman – another data and mobile geek like myself – believes that projection mapping is an interesting space to watch, but it’s still quite nascent. Cory believes that not too many big players will take the leap-of-faith necessary to properly implement a monetizable solution in a short time frame. Projection mapping comes across to end users as a stopgap between 2D screens and holograms/augmented reality, and to some degree, I think they're right. Again, there are niche use cases, like blood flow visualization for athletes and 3D data visualizations on solid objects, which are certainly useful in their fields but not generally applicable. Cory expects projection mapping to get pushed aside as an interesting technological toy once more immersive AR and VR arrive in the consumer space.

Mobile is already a central part of our lives today, but it’s going to become even more integral to us. I expect mobile to tell us right from wrong in the near future, and we’ll look back at the smartphones of today and see them as useless.

Topics: MITX, mobile