What Is AR Wayfinding? The Future of Navigation
Ever been to a festival, theme park, retail precinct, or hospital and got totally lost? There are a number of navigation systems that we can use to travel around a city, or drive from A to B, but for indoor spaces or complex venues, navigation can be more problematic. Firstly, this is because GPS doesn't work particularly well for indoor spaces, and secondly, some environments are inherently complex. Google Maps for example, capture fixed structures such as streets, roads, houses and buildings in an outdoor environment. They collect and combine satellite imagery with aerial photography, street maps and 360-degree street views, and offer users location intelligence via their mobile device. Great for outdoor environments, but these applications don't offer too much support in an indoor or complex location. Fortunately, interactive technologies are perfect for these types of situations.
So, what is AR wayfinding? Augmented reality wayfinding serves as a digital guide to aid navigation. This technology allows us to superimpose digital information into the physical-world in realtime. Using a mobile device, people can navigate their way around complex spaces such as theme parks, zoos, universities, hospitals, airports, and shopping centres. A person can walk into a completely unfamiliar environment with no information about the area, then using their own mobile device, they can take an interactive tour or navigate to their intended destination. The AR system is so precise it can guide users to a ride in a theme park or to baggage claim at a busy airport.
Using AR in this way increases the effectiveness of navigation systems by displaying a variety of visual content such as directions, length of the trip, possible hazards, alternative routes and any other points of interest. Research has also shown that AR significantly reduces the time and cognition load of finding your way in new environments.
As this is a digital experience, the content and creative can be updated in realtime. This is hugely beneficial for indoor spaces and other physical locations, as directions can be updated instantly. If a shopping centre re-locates particular stores or changes the layout of the precinct, the wayfinding can be updated in realtime to reflect this.
Google recently introduced augmented reality into Google Maps, which is now known as Live View. Available for both iOS and Android devices, users can now view walking directions visually displayed via augmented reality on their personal mobile device.
Combining the visual experience with audio prompts can also make wayfinding more convenient for the visually impaired. Integrating audio directions into the mobile content can ensure the visually challenged are able to navigate through physical locations at ease.
American Airlines and Gatwick Airport have utilised AR wayfinding in airports to improve navigation for travellers. At Gatwick travellers can use their app to navigate through the airport. They can easily locate the check-in counter, the nearest restaurant and where to pick up their luggage.
In addition to the functional benefit of the technology, the wayfinding experience also provides a visual delight to users. It's fun, especially if the creative design is exciting. Legoland in Denmark, created an AR wayfinding experience using a digital avatar to help users navigate their way around the park, preview rides and attractions and check real-time information on waiting-lines.
Earlier this year, the VI team collaborated with creative agency Vandal, and Tramsheds shopping centre in Sydney, to deliver a wayfinding experience for shoppers. Using custom codes positioned on the floors throughout the precinct, shoppers are able to access navigational information, local amenities, restaurants and other information simply by using the Tramsheds mobile app.
From community engagement, to libraries, stadiums, precincts, retail complexes, theatres, museums, universities and hospitals, there are many ways AR can help humans find the products and services they need faster. As the technology and hardware continues to develop, the use cases for AR wayfinding will continue to grow allowing these experiences to become even more purposeful.
Apple have been rumoured to be working on an AR headset or "smart glasses" for sometime, with analysts believing that this product will be revealed towards the end of 2019 or early 2020. As AR-enabled wearables start to become mainstream, it will be interesting to see how furthers the growth of AR experiences like digital wayfinding and how they become part of every-day life.
The VI team specialise in augmented reality and creating wayfinding experiences using our own proprietary technology. If you have any upcoming project, campaign or idea you would like to discuss please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org