Blog post

AR Post: 3 companies create positioning and tracking solutions for advanced AR

AR Post: 3 companies create positioning and tracking solutions for advanced AR

Gillian Smith

Posted on April 26, 2022

AR Post: 3 companies create positioning and tracking solutions for advanced AR

Multi-user AR and location-based AR require a tricky technical chore: positioning.

Things like display, graphics, and rendering tend to get a lot of love in AR. An underestimated technical skill? Positioning. Accurate positioning helps ensure that AR assets appear convincingly in the world. It also helps ensure that assets tied to a specific geographic location show up where they’re supposed to. Finally, it makes or breaks multi-user experiences.

This article will take a look at some of the companies that are rethinking their positioning. We will also explore some of the technologies enabling these advances and the augmented reality experiences these advances enable.

Some technical information

It is important to understand from the outset that positioning and location are not the same thing as “location”. Location and positioning is all about understanding where a user is in the world. Localization is the compelling placement of a virtual asset within a user’s physical environment.

Many AR apps don’t need positioning or location at all – they don’t care where you are in the world, but they need to be able to understand the world around you in order to place things. On the other hand, many non-AR apps don’t need to know what the world around you is like to help a delivery driver find you or help you find your next location.

However, some advanced AR apps need both. This is the case for AR activations that are tied to physical locations on the planet. It is also an approach to multi-user AR experiences.

NextNav

Currently, most tracking systems work on the Global Positioning System – GPS. GPS can locate a device with reasonable accuracy for most use cases, but it has a catch – GPS is flat. Humans, especially in urban areas, tend not to be confined to the ground. We stack.

“I’m sure we’ve all been through this, opening up Google Maps and there’s just this big blue dot,” Dan Hight said. “In the urban market, it’s important to understand your vertical location.”

Hight is vice president of business development and partnerships at NextNav. NextNav is a navigation company “elevating geolocation” by giving positioning data a “third axis”. You probably know your phone has GPS, but NextNav uses a lesser known sensor – the barometric pressure sensor which measures atmospheric pressure.

The higher you go, the lower the barometric pressure. Barometric pressure also changes over time. So, NextNav uses information from a network of pressure stations, combined with information from your device’s barometric pressure sensor. The difference allows the system to determine your altitude.

“If we know your location,” Hight said, “and we know the pressure, we can calculate your vertical position with ground-level accuracy.”

The AR connection

NextNav was founded to work with emergency response – which is what GPS was designed for in the first place. And they partner with emergency response groups across the country. But, they also recognize the benefits of their solution for consumer applications, especially in augmented reality.

“AR, fundamentally, today resolves around recognition of the physical world,” Hight said. “AR is going to be greatly improved with metadata provided by better geolocation.”

Additionally, earlier this year, NextNav announced a partnership with echo3D. echo3D is a cloud platform for managing and delivering immersive experiences. Through this partnership, creators could create things like location-based AR experiences that are different on each floor of the same building.

“Precise location capabilities, including the vertical dimension, are fundamental to the future of the immersive mixed reality experience,” echo3D co-founder and CEO Alon Grinshpoon said in a blog post announcing the partnership. “Alongside NextNav, we will continue to provide creators with the capabilities to realize the promise of augmented reality, virtual reality, and the metaverse.”

Read the full article in AR Post.