This week we received a Mixed Reality device from Aryzon after backing the KickStarter campaign that they launched in May this year. We were particularly excited by this project, enabling a Mixed Reality experience with the same ease of accessibility that Google Cardboard provides was a very attractive prospect. With that in mind, and coupled with the flashy, well produced promotional videos we were persuaded to dig into our pockets.
In this post I’m going to give a brief overview of our impressions so far in the style of an informal review, giving some of our impression and ideas. Aryzon works by reflecting the phone screen up into a slightly frosted perspex screen, overlaying the real world with the AR content on the mobile screen. A clever lofi solution for Mixed Reality.
As the first thing you need to do once you’ve unpackaged your brand new Aryzon Headset is to construct it, it seems like it is only fitting that we cover that first. The construction process involves 10 steps, luckily we aren't left guessing as there is a handy little manual provided in the box. The process was not the easiest to follow but after some fiddling about we eventually got the device built and it felt relatively sturdy.
Next we needed to download the supporting Aryzon app, this includes a number of demo projects put together by the Aryzon team. After watching the promo videos we were super excited to see this first hand. On the first launch of the app we were presented by a black screen, after 5 minutes we had to force quit it and try again. Not a brilliant start. Second time lucky the app loaded up, first impression were that the app was rather clunky and very slow, but we decided to look past this as we hadn’t yet loaded up a Mixed Reality experience.
With an experience loaded we were prompted to plonk our device into the slot of the headset and strap it on. First impression was that this was extremely uncomfortable, despite the foam stickers, sharp bits of cardboard were poking into my eyelids. After placing down the AR marker we waited and… nothing happened, turns out the experience we had chosen was broken, so onto the next. This experience did load up, however it was slightly underwhelming, from the promise of a vivid AR overlayed onto the real world, what we actually got was washed out and very difficult to see. We appreciate that lighting conditions have a big impact on the experience but I felt that in our moodily lit studio we should have been able to see slightly more.
The experience itself was confusing and very low framerate, bearing in mind the device we were using was a very respectable Samsung Galaxy S8. There were prompts for interaction however every time we attempted to interact our hands crossed in front of the AR marker and caused the whole thing to glitch out. The AR tracking itself was very unstable. With the recent release of ARKit and ARCore we are all used to a very solid and stable tracking experience so this highlighted the instability of Aryzon’s tracking solution.
I do feel that with a better tracking solution perhaps utilising ARKit or ARCore the experience may have been slightly more bearable and impressive. However this would not solve the washed out low fidelity visuals on the reflected screen.
To summarize the promise of Aryzon was huge, we were very excited by the prospect and hoped to see a great solution for accessible Mixed Reality. However Aryzon did not deliver. Unfortunately the screen was not up to scratch and the demo app was poor performance just accentuated the problems with Aryzon’s offering. We do respect that this was the first iteration, but feel it’s a long way off beating a purely AR phone screen based experience.