I helped my uncle swap out his printer cartridge using this AR video calling app
Sometimes remote technical support involves more than just taking care of your parents’ computer using TeamViewer et al, such as when the laptop just doesn’t turn on or the TV doesn’t turn on. not automatically default to the correct HDMI input. This is where video calls and complicated instructions come in. “Push that button. No, the other one. What do you mean, it didn’t light up? Or “Plug the cable. Into the connector on the left, with the square plug. No, no, not this one!” are just a few conversations too many of us have probably had in our lives, these days more than ever.
TeamViewer seems to recognize this problem and wants to fix it with its new lifeAR application, an AR video calling service for phones that lets you draw and point into someone else’s environment. I used it to help my uncle change his printer cartridges.
What is lifeAR?
lifeAR is essentially FaceTime or Google Duo with rudimentary AR drawing and pointing options. TeamViewer makes it clear that it is not only intended for technical support, but also as an alternative to other video chat platforms. The simple setup process indicates this. You register with your phone number and a nickname. lifeAR taps into your address book to show you who else is using the app, with options to invite people you want or need to talk to.
Once you’ve got everything set up, the interface looks a lot like Google Duo. There is a bottom sheet with your contacts superimposed on a preview of your camera. You can try out the app’s annotation tools for yourself by swiping the panel down, but you can also immediately access calls.
Things get interesting once you look at the side panel on the right which offers a few options for drawing in the viewfinder. You can choose from a pointing arrow, a freeform paint tool, a small selection of emoji, and you can add labels. There is also an undo button and an option to delete all virtual annotations. Once the app has mapped out the environment, you can use all of these to add markers, pointers, and drawings to your or your peers’ screen.
Beyond its AR capabilities, the app also supports the basics: you can switch between the front and rear camera, turn your microphone on and off, make group calls with up to six people, and take calls. screen recordings.
How does it work in real life?
While you might think that the few tools available won’t make much of a difference compared to regular video calling, it turned out to be incredibly handy for me just a few days ago. I helped my uncle replace his printer cartridge via video call, and being able to point or draw a circle around the relevant parts of the device is so much more practical than to limit oneself to descriptions.
I was able to quickly draw a circle around the mechanism that opens the cartridge door, making it very easy to find. While the circle ended up being buggy (he hopped around the screen like crazy), that was enough to illustrate what needed to be done. That left me with a super simple command: “Pull here to open the thing.”
My uncle probably could have done without additional drawings to remove the black ink cartridge itself. I ended up going around the four cartridges and telling him to push the one on the right. It was still reassuring to know that I could point to the exact thing if needed.
The app allows both parties to draw on the screen, so my uncle could react with emoji and add his own drawings and notations, but I think it’s nothing more than a fun addition to show off the tech. – after all, he could just point and gesture with his free hand if necessary.
I still see some issues with the app, however. On the one hand, the arrow tool is not very intuitive or useful. You can only stamp it at a specific location and there is no option to change its orientation. It will point downward, so it’s much easier to just draw circles or even arrows with the drawing tool. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that we really need the 3D emoji in the app. They are fun to play, but any expression made with them is easier to achieve with language or gestures during a one-on-one call.
You also can’t have more than nine annotations visible at a time, with the oldest annotation automatically disappearing once you hit the limit, so if the going gets tough you might end up wishing for more. Not being able to delete individual annotations certainly doesn’t help either. You can only undo the last step or delete all the annotations at once, which may be less than ideal in some circumstances.
Beyond tech support, the app could also come in handy for anything that requires onscreen instructions or reactions. the LifeAR Play Store List gives a few examples, like helping you pick out your outfit with up to six friends – here emoji and pointing tools could be an absolute godsend, because if everyone was talking and commenting at the same time chaos would suddenly erupt sure.
Despite the boring annotation limit and useless arrow tool, I still absolutely love the idea behind the app. It will certainly continue to be of use over the next few months and years. Even with most COVID restrictions lifted in the United States, many families still live several miles from each other, so using an app like lifeAR every now and then can reduce the number of hours spent on tech support. when you visit family members in person.
At present, the use of lifeAR is completely free and there is no advertising, but it remains to be seen if and how TeamViewer wants to monetize the service. The app is available for Android and iOS, and we’ve completed it Mirror APK To download.