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October 2013

Pushing the boundaries of digital media technology

Digital media technology is an area of development that can only be described as exponential; a novel technology developed by Divani films’ AWE Company Ltd. is the perfect example of this. The media content production company is taking the 3D experience forward by placing users in a 3D augmented reality to allow for exploration, learning and interaction with characters in a depicted story.

AWE Company is currently using the technology to take tourists back in time to the Canadian historical site of Fort York, the birthplace of Toronto’s urban center, which served as the city’s primary defense from the mid 1700s to late 1800s.

The Time Tablet™ utilizes a camera to blend virtual objects with real environments providing users with the unique experience of being virtually transported to Fort York in its prime.

Though the technology itself is well underway, the challenge lies in determining the quality of user experience. Enter Ryerson University masters student Jennifer James, under the supervision of Professor Charles Davis from the Faculty of Communications and Design, who collaborated with AWE Company to address the issue.

Jennifer developed a research protocol for testing the user experience of augmented reality, which measured the user experience from all angles, through observation of users’ reactions, to focus groups and individualized questions, for a qualitative understanding of how participants felt about the technology.

“We knew we would need a new methodology to help further develop this cutting edge technology,” says Srinivas Kirshna, CEO of Divani films. “Jennifer provided us with a theoretical approach for asking the right questions, and a mechanism to be able to quantify answers.”

The information gathered through Jennifer’s research has provided AWE Company with the framework to understand the Time Tablet™ user experience, which has allowed them to improve and advance the technology.

 “People need to feel comfortable with the technology before they can truly engage in the experience of an augmented reality. As of yet, there are no established social norms for the way that people interact with one another while simultaneously experiencing the product,” says Jennifer.

Srinivas sums up his and his company’s overall experience with Mitacs-Accelerate: “It was a very collaborative and fruitful experience for both Jennifer and us. It really helped to have Jennifer hone in and focus on a specific challenge. We got a lot out of our investment. I would recommend Mitacs-Accelerate to other companies without hesitation.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewanand Research Manitoba.

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities: