The Trouble with AR/VR Authoring Tools

The lab is going to participate in ISMAR 2018, the premier AR conference in the field, and present a position paper at the “Creativity in Design with & for Mixed Reality” workshop.

Our paper entitled, “The Trouble with AR/VR Authoring Tools”, is essentially a survey of existing AR/VR authoring tools, providing a classification of the tools based on their features, and a discussion of the problems based on our experience with them. Here’s a short summary of the paper from the introduction:

In this position paper, we classify existing authoring tools relevant to AR/VR, identify five classes of tools (Fig. 1), and characterize the main issues we see with how the tool landscape has been evolving. Both authors have a track record of research on interactive technologies with a more recent focus on AR/VR [20, 28–30]. For example, they created ProtoAR [20], a tool designed with the vision of making AR/VR prototyping as easy and versatile as paper prototyping, and GestureWiz [30], a Wizard of Oz gesture prototyping environment. The second author also contributed to the design and development of HoloBuilder [31] from 2015 to 2017. When he joined the company, the original idea was to create a “PowerPoint for AR,” enabling users without specific design and development skills to create AR experiences. For the future, we envision tools as simple yet powerful as PowerPoint or Keynote leveling the playing field for AR/VR.

The paper will be published in the ISMAR 2018 Adjunct proceedings; a pre-print is available here.

Over the past two years, we had multiple students try out several of the tools in our research projects, with mixed success. It seems that the only viable solution to creating AR/VR prototypes is knowing how to use three.js/A-Frame or Unity. Many of the students we work with, however, are not experienced programmers, and struggle with the high learning curve.

Of course, in our own research, we have been addressing this by coming up with useful and effective tools that enable rapid prototyping of AR/VR interfaces without programming–ProtoAR is just the first example of this new stream of our research.

There have always been new tools–one promising one, Halo, unfortunately, is just being closed down. I got the sad news this week, but I’m sure that Dror and Eran will come up with something else and pursue it with the same passion soon — I really enjoyed working with them, and they were very kind and willing to support my new AR/VR course here at Michigan.