Duration: September 2018 - June 2019
Role: Individual Thesis Project
Committee: Axel Roesler, Sang-gyuen Ahn
Tools: After Effects, Cinema 4D, Premiere Pro, Microsoft Maquette, Wood Studio.
My thesis explores the use of a head mounted, line-of-sight Augmented Reality device which supports woodworking tasks in the fabrication process of furniture, such as preparing a layout of parts on a sheet of plywood, generating a cutting list, setting-up a table saw for precise cuts, and previewing the furniture.
The design of a new line of sight application for woodworking is based on observations in the wood shop, try-outs in the form of applying woodworking techniques in the fabrication of a cabinet, and work with expert craftsmen in the shop. Insights into woodworking were combined with a review of the emerging technologies of head-mounted Augmented Reality devices to investigate design requirements for the integration of an AR system into the woodworking setting. The resulting design is presented as a video prototype that illustrates new types of line-of-sight visual support for woodworking.
Over the course of the past year, I have explored Augmented Reality’s potential through the lens of a woodworker. By bridging technology
and craft, I endeavored to understand the importance of context when designing augmented experiences. My thesis reflects my research of Augmented Reality, discussions with master woodworkers, research through design, and the dissection of my augmented experience.
As a designer, it is truly an exciting time to push the boundaries of technology by exploring our opportunities to assist and increase a woodworker’s performance.
In the last 5 years, Augmented Reality (AR) has emerged as an increasingly popular technology allowing users to see virtual images in their real environments (Azuma e al., 2001). In 1995, Milgram et al. established the Reality-Virtuality Continuum. On one end of the continuum is human’s reality – seeing real physical objects – on the opposite, a completely fabricated reality – seeing an entirely new world through a headset – between the two ends is mixed reality or AR. This intersection is where the digital and physical blend together.
Head Mounted Display
Most types of Head mounted displays (HMD) are used for research.
They provide the user with the ability to interact with AR content directly in their line of sight. Microsoft HoloLens is the only device available as a consumer electronic. The Microsoft HoloLens is a revolutionary device that gives consumers the ability to see holograms in their physical environments. Microsoft released the first iteration of this product in 2016 to show that Augmented Reality has a place in the consumer market. The device uses two black and white cameras to identify features in the user’s environment. With this data, it can triangulate its own position relative to the space and use that data to ground holograms accurately in front of you.
In my opinion, HoloLens was no more than a proof of concept device to spark excitement in developers and designers. My thesis builds off the capabilities of a HMD but portrays the technology in the future where it
is practical for woodworkers.
I began researching the implications of applying AR to woodworking in
a wood shop learning from master woodworkers and incorporating Research by Design by building a piece of furniture. The difficulty with applying Augmented Reality to woodworking is that woodworking is extremely complex. There is no right method to create something.
There are best practices and etiquette used around the various heavy machines. However, depending on the project, the order of operations varies tremendously. During my research, I had an opportunity to become familiar with the wood shop tools, while also interacting with woodworkers of diverse backgrounds. These opportunities allowed me
to narrow down the scope of my project and tailor a design specific for the use of the table saw. The Table saw is considered the heart of a wood shop as it provides the woodworker with the ability to achieve various cuts. When operating the machine, efficiency and accuracy are crucial. simply mis-cutting by 1/16th of an inch can make that part unusable for the project.
The purpose of a prototype is to take ideas from a designer’s head and place them on a tangible surface. Prototypes can be done on a device, on paper, or in a 3D environment. Prototypes can range in quality depending on the stage of the process. Prototyping for Augmented Reality is a new challenge that designers are still conceptualizing. AR combines both the physical and digital world. Therefore, it is difficult for a designer to find ways to display digital content spatially situated in their environment. Traditional designer tools like Adobe Illustrator or Sketch, aren’t suitable for AR prototyping because they don’t allow you to position digital information in 3D space. An alternative, low fidelity method, is paper prototype which is physically drawing the experience on paper and placing that experience in the environment. This approach could work, but there is difficulty when there are interactions that are suspended above a surface. My thesis explores an alternative prototyping method using Virtual Reality.
Maquette is a tool developed by Microsoft. Although Maquette is in the early stages of development and lacks some prototyping features, it is
a Virtual Reality (VR) tool with a blank canvas. Creating an Augmented Reality experience with a virtual reality tool initially proved difficult because I had to create the environment from scratch. Yet speed is essential for prototyping to quickly visualize ideas and gain feedback. Abstracting the environment was the best course of action, allowing me to remove the distractions and focus on the interaction. I worked with a sheet of plywood, and a table saw model and constructed User Interface (UI) elements on top. The results of the program allowed me to share my ideas with my peers for valuable feedback.
My design is established in a short video prototype, depicting a demonstration of key moments in the interaction experience sequence.
In the video I highlight six design concepts. Each concept is elaborated below with my rationale behind the design. I also establish which parts have been speculated and why those speculations are necessary for an ideal user experience. The first speculation is that an AR device is small, no larger than current safety glasses.
Hand Off — label allows AR to see
This concept focuses on a way for the head mounted display to know
that a sheet of plywood contains data. The smart label would contain
an Augmented Reality QR code allowing the device to scan and project
the associated contents. The woodworker would fixate the label directly onto their material.
Projection — visualize the parts
One of the most difficult things to grasp as a novice woodworker is the amount of material to purchase in relation to the parts needed. When
I was making the wine cabinet, I over purchased my plywood by one and
a half sheets. AR can solve this error by allowing the woodworker to visualize the various pieces directly on the material. The AR device would display the parts directly on the material to maximize the yield of the board. This reduces the amount of waste by creating larger scrap pieces for future use.
Tutorial — preview the cuts
To maximize efficiency at the table saw, it is important to know the order in which the parts will be cut. If I have a list of six parts all with the same dimension, it would be unwise of me to set the fence to that first dimension, move it to another dimension, and back.
Currently, a woodworker must make this mental leap on their own and keep track of the various parts and what parts are completed or not. AR has the ability give the woodworker a visual representation directly on their material prior to approaching the table saw. It allows them to step through the order of operations to understand the various movements. This will remove any guess work while at the table saw, allowing them to focus on the cut. By focusing more attention on the planning phase and removing the guesswork, woodworkers can now become more efficient and focus their attention on the problem solving rather than the basic measurements.
Virtual Model — understand the context
Abstracting parts onto a sheet of material can become confusing as to how those shapes are related to the final furniture piece. In the past two scenarios, the AR projections have been flat on the surface of the plywood. That method is good when dealing with flat stock but eventually those parts will be assembled into a three-dimensional form.
As previously mentioned, visual aesthetics of the wood grain is important. This design allows the woodworker to move parts to accommodate more pleasing wood grain. But this feature is only useful if the part is external facing. There are instances where parts are contained within the piece and the surface will never be seen by someone. In this case, adjusting for the wood grain is not necessary.
One unique feature of augmented reality is its ability to project holograms in the physical world. These holograms can be placed on surfaces, scaled large, grounded to the floor, etc. Now, a woodworker can understand the proportions of parts on their furniture piece. They can touch the projected part on the plywood and a virtual model will appear with the part highlighted in 3D space. They can quickly understand how that cut relates to the final model and if the wood grain truly matters.
Visualize — setting up the cut
This scenario gives the ability to see the cut list directly on the table saw bed. The information is directly in the view of the operator and easy to access. When selecting this first cut, lines are projected to adjust the fence. One line is shown aligned with the blade and the second is shown where the fence should be to establish the dimension. The operator simply adjusts the fence to line up with the line and the AR unit will confirm when it is in the correct position. As the woodworker moves through the cuts, the cut list will keep track of their progress and project new measurement lines as needed.
Focus — AR hides when working
The use of AR can provide another layer of distraction to the woodworker while operating heavy machinery. Although the user interface I have designed is minimal, it could provide a point of focus when engaging in a cut. To combat this problem, I have designed a simple solution (Fig 35) to hide the AR as soon as the machine is turned on. The audio queue from the table saw indicates when the UI should hide and turn on. At this point, the woodworker’s focus should be directly on the cut itself and not on the cut list or measurements.
Our thesis work was featured in the Henry Art Gallery on University of Washington’s campus.
I designed and installed an exhibit that allowed the viewers to gain a sense of what augmented reality could be like.
This exhibit was up for 1 month and received positive responses.