I just read this interesting article about visual AR from Jeremiah Alexander which summarizes and categorizes 6 of the most important (in his opinion) capabilities of visual AR. He walks through how to consider these features for a project you may be considering and I think there are useful analogies to the audio AR world.
I encourage you to read the original article on Medium:
AR Superpowers: An intuitive design framework for generating Augmented Reality ideas.
but here are my thoughts on how these apply to audio AR specifically.
Clearly audio AR isn’t holography, but the notion that bringing digital content into the physical world to see how it might interact or using those digital artifacts to help tell a story is certainly a superpower of audio AR.
Audio is wonderfully immersive, so “dimensional hearing” would be redundant. However, the idea of gaining access to hidden layers of content and experience that are pinned directly to the physical world is something that I would argue audio AR does better than visual AR because of the simple fact that audio AR doesn’t require your eyes to ingest content. Audio AR is AR you can use without running into things.
Audio AR is AR you can use without running into things.
Providing instructions and advice to facilitate the task at hand is surely more robust with visual AR, but having an expert in your ear to provide contextual advice can be very useful and even life-changing in certain situations such as AIRA, which provides real-time spoken advice blind people navigating the world.
I suppose the audio AR version of shape-shifting would be DSP application to our voices. It can certainly be fun to sound more like James Earl Jones or Gollum, though I have a hard time considering this actually audio AR.
This one is near and dear to my heart and I have explored it on many occasions in my work. The idea of recording two physical locations, say two national parks, and then mapping the sounds from one onto the other can be quite effective and is no doubt a vastly easier way to “teleport” than using visuals.
I would argue that teleportation using your ears can be way more compelling than using your eyes because of the immersive power of audio. Not to mention that creating an immersive audio environment is way more feasible with current technologies than doing the same with a visual environment.
3D teleportation is great, but audio AR can be very effective at teleporting through time as well. I did this in my Tributaries project, bringing listeners back 100 years in time to World War I in northern England.
We are well into the world of voice user interfaces (VUI) with Alexa, Siri, Google Home etc. and it is pretty handy to be able to bark out commands that are actually acted upon, especially if you are a parent(!). I’d never really thought of this as audio AR, but maybe it is? Visual controls that appear in space via your phone’s magic window certainly are visual AR, but not all analogs hold up.
Thank you Jeremiah and the folks at UX Collective for these insights and inspiration to apply them to audio AR.