Reimagining the workplace through augmented reality

Grad student transforms the ubiquitous whiteboard

heng li

Graduate student Heng Li presents his prototype at the NYC Media Lab Demo Day.

With augmented reality (AR) becoming more prevalent outside of the tech world, many researchers are exploring the role it could play in the workplace, from streamlining collaborative teamwork to interactive data and documents. NYC Media Lab, the consortium of New York-based companies and universities including New York University, challenged a group of student fellows to design and prototype tools that reimagine the business and office environments through an AR lens. Through a partnership with Bloomberg and the augmented reality startup Lampix, which developed an AR ‘lamp’ and platform that transforms a surface into an interactive workspace, NYC Media Lab created a rapid prototyping fellowship that awarded student fellows $5,000 each to research and explore the intersections of technology and enterprise.

Over the intensive six-week program, fellow and NYU Tandon computer science graduate student Zhongheng (Heng) Li discovered how to implement Lampix’s AR platform to innovate within the areas of:

  • Team collaboration
  • Reduction of workflow friction
  • Document processing
  • Data analysis
  • Display and markup of digital documents

Inspired by the whiteboard’s ubiquity in classrooms and businesses, Li embarked on his design process with a goal to find new ways for people to engage with information. Li’s project explores AR’s capability of transforming a static image into an editable digital format, with the ability to create, edit and save physical diagrams into interactive and digital diagrams. “Leveraging image construction and Lampix’s AR platform, I created a tactile experience that lets users draw diagrams with markers and instantly convert diagrams into an editable digital form. The AR platform allows users to remotely edit or add to graphs or diagrams,” Li said. “This can help us accelerate the design process and increase interactive collaboration to generate new innovations.”

On May 15, Li presented and demoed his prototype alongside other NYU fellows to Bloomberg and Lampix executives and industry professionals. Li, who will assist associate professor Edward Wong this summer on an image recognition project, hopes to continue developing his prototype — potentially incorporating machine learning techniques like voice recognition or AI. He envisions his tool benefitting software engineers, solution architects, or multifaceted companies like Bloomberg.

Alexis Avedisian, Communications Manager at NYC Media Lab, emphasized that the group’s prototyping projects and fellowships — which range from topics in data science, virtual reality, and user experience — encourage students to think, design, and transform their ideas outside of the classroom. “Our rapid prototyping projects help NYC Media Lab's member companies explore new trends in emerging technologies and allow our fellows to experiment with their ideas,” Avedisian said.

For information on the NYC Media Lab & Bloomberg AR fellowship and upcoming prototyping opportunities, visit NYC Media Lab’s open calls.

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018