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Augmented Reality in COMPAIR: Scoping the Field to Push the State-of-the-Art

One of the aims of COMPAIR is to allow citizens to monitor air pollution in their community, to understand its impact on health and the environment, and to initiate changes in behaviour and policies that can lead to more sustainable choices. To this end, we are going to use the latest advances in interactive technologies in the field of Augmented Reality (AR).


Although AR is heavily used in the industrial and medical domain, there are only a few widespread consumer applications, such as the well-known game PokemonGo. However, this technology is currently not very well exploited in citizen science and even less so in combination with environmental challenges. In the coming weeks we will utilise our blog channel to set out our AR approach and introduce the Dynamic Exposure Visualisation App, or DEVA.


This first blog in the series prepares the groundwork for this by reviewing AR concepts and applications, first in popular domains and then in areas of direct relevance to COMPAIR i.e. air quality and traffic monitoring.


AR is one step in the well-known Reality-Virtuality Continuum defined by Paul Milgram in 1994 (Milgram 1994). As depicted in Figure 1 below, AR is about augmenting the perception of the real environment with virtual elements by mixing in real-time spatially-registered digital content with the real world. This is achieved by using displays with see-through capability such as smartphones, tablets or glasses.

chart showing different types of AR

Figure 1: Extended Reality Scheme (courtesy of https://xr4all.eu/xr/)


AR is heavily used in many application domains such as in industry for training, assembly, maintenance, as well as in logistics and health (see Figure 2 and Figure 3). Thanks to the AR-capabilities of modern smartphones, AR technology enters the consumer market. Good examples are the IKEA app (Sokhanych 2022) (Figure 3 right) and Pokemon Go (Figure 4).


Example of industry AR

Figure 2: AR examples for maintenance and logistics


Example of medical AR

Figure 3: AR examples for health and furniture, IKEA app (right)


Phone showing Pokemon Go in action

Figure 4: Most popular AR app in the games sector - Pokemon Go


COMPAIR wants to leverage the latest advances in AR technology to enhance the quality of citizen science experience for participants. With DEVA, COMPAIR aims to attract and engage people to take part in measurement campaigns in four pilot areas: Athens, Berlin, Flanders, Plovdiv, Sofia. The main idea is to enable people to explore their surroundings via their smartphone or tablet, so they can see a visual overlay of environmental information such as air quality or traffic information. The envisaged AR app will be the link between citizen science environmental sensors provided by the project, public environmental data, CS experiments and the users. In the long-term, DEVA may be used by the wider public to investigate environmental conditions in an easy and appealing way with the aim to foster change in policy and community, as well as on a personal level.


In general, there is no doubt that AR has a great potential to improve education and learning. Several surveys are available that discuss this (Vargas 2020, Patel 2020, Khanchandani 2021). However, visualising environmental data in an AR application is not very well investigated. There are only a few published AR applications that focus on visualisation of air pollution data for mobile devices, including the two detailed below. To the best of our knowledge, there is no AR app available that provides augmented visualisation of traffic data.


Torres and Campbell presented in 2019 an AR app (Torres and Campbell 2019) visualising main pollutants from the World Air Quality Index Project (WAQI 2019) (see Figure 5, left). Mathews et al. presented AiR, which is available for Android devices (Mathews et al. 2021) (see Figure 5, middle and right). In both applications, pollutants are displayed with flying dots and depending on the severity of the pollution, the number of objects increases. Additional functionalities are provided such as access and visualisation of historical data.


Example of air quality AR

Figure 5: AIRE - AR App by Torres et al. (left), AiR app by Matthews (middle, right)


Conclusion

The current State-of-the-Art demonstrates that there is a need to develop an appealing AR application for environmental data and we notice a lot of potential to research, investigate and test novel visualisation concepts. The visualisation of environmental data such as air pollution or traffic data in AR is a completely new domain. Just two example applications have been published in the last two years with very limited and simple visualisation capabilities. The good news is that the current development frameworks for AR such as Unity3D offer a wide range of possibilities for interaction and visualisation. We will discuss them together with an overall DEVA concept in the next blog. Stay tuned!


References

Khanchandani, K., Shah, M., Shah, K., & Panchal, V. (2021). A Review on Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Education, Int. Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (IRJET), Vol.8, Issue 2, February 2021, https://doi.org/10.1186/s13173019-0084-8.


Mathews, N.S., Chimalakonda, S., & Jain, S. (2021). AiR: An Augmented Reality Application for Visualizing Air Pollution. 2021 IEEE Visualization Conference (VIS), 146-150.


Milgram, P., Takemura, H., Utsumi, A., Kishino, F. (1994). Augmented Reality: A class of displays on the reality-virtuality continuum, Proc. SPIE vol. 2351, Telemanipulator and Telepresence Technologies, pp. 2351–34, 1994.


Patel, S., Panchotiya, B., Patel, A., & Aishwariya Budharani, S.R. (2020). A Survey: Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality in Education. International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology, Vol. 9, Issue 5, May 2020.


Sokhanych, O., (2022). 14 best Augmented Reality furniture apps.

https://thinkmobiles.com/blog/best-ar-furniture-apps/


Torres, N.G., Campbell, P.E. (2019). Aire: visualize air quality. In ACM SIGGRAPH 2019 Appy Hour (SIGGRAPH '19). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 1, 1–2. https://doi.org/10.1145/3305365.3329869


Vargas, J.C.G., Fabregat, R., Carrillo-Ramos, A., Jové, T. (2020). Survey: Using Augmented Reality to Improve Learning Motivation in Cultural Heritage Studies. Applied Sciences. 10. 897. 10.3390/app10030897.


The World Air Quality Index - WAQI. 2019. Air Pollution in the World: Frequently Asked Questions. http://aqicn.org/faq/

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