Augmented Reality at PlanIT Geo™

By Clayton Steneroden

 

Augmented Reality (AR) enhances our experience of what is around us, allowing us to see and interact with information about things in the physical world.  As the short videos of our AR beta feature show, you can hold up a mobile device and view nearby trees through the TreePlotter™ app to see information about them.  While this AR feature is just a toy at the moment, it is simply a matter of time before you will be able to update information about what you see in AR by moving your hands to identify and select the virtual representation of trees and other objects, and by speaking out loud into a tablet, phone, or AR-equipped glasses.

 

This technology is part of a dramatic change in the world on the scale of the internet, self-driving cars, and AI.  Like Virtual Reality (VR), AR is already rapidly changing education, medicine, entertainment, and almost any industry you can imagine, including ours, tree care and green infrastructure management.  While it has been around for years, AR is about to be everywhere.

Some technologists emphasize that AR will give us more time in the day through its efficiencies and advantages.  Using AR to identify and change tree information will be simpler and less error-prone than using a top-down map on a tablet as our arborist do, let alone using pencil and paper.  We and our clients will use TreePlotter to conduct tree inventories and perform tree maintenance better, faster, and easier with AR.

 

Others emphasize the ways in which AR allows you to experience past, present, and future at the same time.  TreePlotter users will walk up to a tree in a park, or along a downtown street, and view the history of the tree while looking at it in a virtual display like that shown in the video.  They will see when the tree was planted and its history including watering, treatments for pests, and pruning in an interactive interface. They will also see future scheduled maintenance on the tree, and be able to schedule maintenance on the spot.  They will be able to see what another replacement tree will look like in the same place using a 3d overlay.

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TreePlotter is used by nonprofits across the country for volunteer-based tree planting events.  AR will be used to show a volunteer exactly where to plant each seedling, or which trees to water or mulch, and where to properly place hardware.  Students of all ages will use TreePlotter to explore trees that have been identified and annotated in their neighborhoods and schools. Potential uses are manifold and exciting.

 

AR is fascinating when you experience it for the first time.  We hope you enjoy our AR preview and invite you to try AR by using your iPhone or iPad to view TreePlotter’s AR beta in our demo app.  

 

A Little History of our AR Beta

 

We began our journey into AR three years ago in 2016.  Jake Andrus developed the first version of a browser-based AR app with me when he was a 17-year old high school intern at PlanIT Geo™, using older technology that is now defunct.  That first semi-working version was completed in the summer of 2016. Even though the trees didn’t appear where they were supposed to, and they jumped around, and there were other bugs, it blew us all away – we knew we had something.  Three weeks later, Pokemon Go came out and we looked down over the park outside our office windows, astonished, as groups of people wandered around with their mobile phones fighting Pikachus and other creatures for the remainder of the summer.   It was the biggest video game hit of 2016 and has since earned three billion dollars. That’s when we knew our AR feature had significance beyond our present ideas, so we stuck with it as a background project.

 

Jake went on to a full scholarship at ASU in Computer Science and came back each summer to work more on the AR app.  He joined us last fall as a part-time employee to finish the beta and to help us with other projects. Jake is now a Junior at the University of Colorado and works here part-time as a software developer on our TreePlotter™ JOBS and TreePlotter™ INVENTORY products.

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