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Case Study
May
 
2021
We uncovered how people might use future AR/VR devices for general purpose computing, then designed an entirely new spatial OS built for truly natural human interaction.
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Spatial computing needs a human operating system

An illustration of a bored man wearing AR goggles, interacting with remote mining equipment on a virtual quarry

What if every surface, every space, or every thing could be imbued with an immersive computing experience? Together with one of the largest tech companies in the world, Humanistic embarked on a nearly two year-long journey to uncover and define a holistic, comprehensive, and human-centred spatial computing paradigm. The result is a radically new — yet familiar — spatial computing OS and software ecosystem we believe will underpin the future of computing for many decades to come.

As you’re reading this, there are secret teams across the globe engaging in an intense race to conjure up the next great leap in computing. Most of these R&D teams are betting that the next big thing has something to do with AR/VR, but none have yet been able to articulate a coherent vision of that future. For many, their aspirations appear to be limited and myopic, centring on narrow slices of functionality or “safe” existing markets like communications or gaming.

A redacted image of card-like project deliverable

We discovered something different: a once in a generation opportunity to create a comprehensive and immersive spatial platform whose scale rivals the internet itself. This vision was so bold and transformative that it required us to design an entirely new computing ‘metaphor’ — one which supports how people conceptualize their computing tasks today, while also supporting the more exotic and novel spatial computing activities that will be possible in the future. Essentially, our work furnished a deeper, and more human understanding of what actual people expect (and need) from a future ‘general purpose’ spatial operating system.

A redacted sketch of a matrix chart

To get there, Humanistic researchers conducted an extensive foresight study to uncover fascinating and emergent signals of change, trends, and the forces shaping the world of tomorrow bubbling beneath the surface. In parallel, we reviewed hundreds of peer-reviewed research papers, working closely with scientists and technical experts from a wide variety of fields (Optics, HCI, Semiconductor, ML, etc). This was integral to understanding the state of the art in the field, and to extrapolate it’s possible trajectories based on a number of key dimensions. Furnished with these insights, we layered on multiple rounds of co-creative and in-depth ethnographic research with early adopters, everyday users, and key industry stakeholders at the forefront of the augmented and virtual reality space.

A redacted sketch of different interfaces and writing

A woman wears VR goggles and connected gloves to manipulate a virtual environment with 3D apps and tools in front of her.

The result was a resounding success — our approach was able to commercialize decades of dormant R&D work, produce an exhaustive playbook and guideline for how to build the future as a dominant market leader in spatial computing, and lead to a massive internal shift in our partner’s vision and aspirations for the space. Keep an eye out for some big announcements!

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