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Spatial Augmented Reality as a Key for co-creativity

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SPARK (Spatial Augmented Reality as a Key for co-creativity)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2018-12-31

Co-design, meant as the active involvement of customers, end-users and other relevant stakeholders in a collaborative design session, is gaining more and more attention both in academic research and in industrial practice. However, whoever has participated in a collaborative design session recognizes that the communication among design actors, with significantly different background and competencies, cannot be managed with the same approach and modelling tools typically used by expert practitioners.
The SPARK project ( aimed at realizing an ICT platform that exploits the potential of Spatial Augmented Reality (SAR). The platform supports and fosters collaborative creative thinking in the design process as it allows creating, visualizing, interpreting, assessing and modifying design concepts since the earliest stages of a design process by means projections, which represent superficial features of a design object on a 3D tangible real-scale mixed prototype, in real time (Figure 1).
This empowers the conception of new ideas, especially in the fields of product interface and packaging design, where the need to reduce the realization of physical prototypes is strongly felt. The project aimed also at validating the effectiveness and efficiency of the SPARK platform on a real operational environment and at fostering its deployment by the SME creative industries.
The consortium in the 3 years of the project observed designers and stakeholders in real operational environment to gather requirements (WP1 – Figure 2) and developed the elementary modules (WP2) which are now integrated into the current version of the SPARK platform (and WP3), whose main features are:
• a friendly user interface that allows co-designers to design directly onto the prototype, through the support of interaction devices (Fig 4), which leverage hand gestures as well as more traditional point-and-click interaction;
• multiple projectors which enable the mixed prototype to be covered more completely by projections, so that co-creative design session can be participated by a larger number of co-creative designers (design professionals, decision-makers, company executives, end consumers…);
• a tracking system which enables any of the co-creative designers to manipulate the physical prototype, so that the projection gets constantly updated and provided exactly onto the prototype surface, independently from its position in the work area.
• A web-based Information Management System that makes the SPARK platform accessible from any place in the world, to visualize ubiquitously the various and frequent changes introduced in the prototype, as its versions change along the co-creative design process (Fig 5, lower right).
Before the end of the project, the SPARK consortium equipped two labs (at universities) and three fully operating prototype rooms (at end users’ premises) with the SPARK platform across Europe (Italy, France, Spain and Belgium). A prototype of a portable SPARK apparatus is also available in UK.
After testing in relevant environments (WP4), the design agencies of the consortium organized co-creative design sessions with the SPARK platform at their premises, without the direct support of the platform developers, thus in real operational environments (WP5). These sessions involved real customers of the design agencies and they worked on real case studies. The results of these activities showed that the SPARK platform is effective to foster creativity, as every session which used Spatial Augmented Reality enabled co-designers to propose and evaluate hundreds of ideas, displayed as a real-like prototype. This, on the one hand, allows the SPARK platform users to slash down prototyping costs (one blank physical prototype enables visualizing a large variety of concepts). On the other hand, SPARK also reduces the time to market, as the co-creative design sessions supported by the platform enables companies to come up with the final concept at least two times faster, as the co-creative reduces the need of design iterations and/or refinements.
Consistently with the business plan developed along the project, some of the consortium partners plan to turn this technological solution into an innovation through several business initiatives to face the market.
For the whole duration of the project, the consortium organized and/or participated in several initiatives for the dissemination and communication of the results (WP7). More in detail:
• Scientific publications (12 contributions presented in 8 conferences, 1 issued journal paper, 2 submitted and others in progress);
• Participation, organization and planning of workshop sessions and conferences (Figure 6);
• Introduction of SPARK contents into BS and MS courses (2/3 classes per academic partner); is continuously updated;
• 5 channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube & LinkedIn;
• Press notes and communication to magazines;
• Webinar on the objectives and partial outcomes of the project.
The whole consortium met every month for the project management and it benefited by the activity of the Management Board and the Steering Committee, both with representatives from all the partners (WP6). Invited professionals (not participating in the consortium) participated in the Innovation Management Board to support the business exploitation of project achievements. Potentially relevant stakeholders available to provide feedback both on the functionalities/features of the SPARK User Interface and on the co-design workflow supported by the SPARK platform gathered in the End Users and Stakeholders Board (ESB), that got regularly updated on the latest developments through webinars, demos, presentations or technical reports. This helped the consortium to shorten the path to turn the SPARK solution into an innovation.
SPARK delivered a high potential, easy to use, innovative platform, which creative industries could deploy to start introducing co-creation and the co-design paradigm in the early phases of their product development process. Co-creative design leads to many socio-economic effects as it impacts on the development of innovations. The win-win approach between companies and customers leads to more sources for new ideas in innovation and fosters cross-fertilisation and idea generation through knowledge and experience sharing. Some of the innovation results, as witnessed, are:
• Reduced time to market;
• Lower costs (e.g. for prototyping and HR);
• Increased product quality;
• Reduced risk of innovation efforts not meeting customer needs.
Other several indirect or intangible results, which derive from this approach, are:
• Increased attitudinal loyalty of customers to service providers;
• Increased perceived value of, and likelihood of participation in future co-creation;
• Increased chances of positive word-of-mouth C2C communication.
The high potential of SPARK led the consortium to plan further business initiatives: the SPARK network of laboratories and rooms is the ecosystem to spread the SPARK project outcomes across Europe and involve customers interested in accessing the platform as a product or as a service.
The intrinsic transdisciplinary nature of the project also allows the development and the creation of brand new knowledge in the following fields:
• Spatial Augmented Reality;
• Collaborative Design;
• Design Creativity;
• Human Behaviour in Design (HBiD).