Sketching Application Ideas

An idea starts with inspiration, evolves in one’s head, at first very blurry and undefined. Then, by the time, it gets more concrete. It gets colored and detailed. Everything begins to make sense. It is set into context of an application. You see it. One determines side effects, maybe even benefits, that were not in one’s mind at the beginning. But the idea is still in your head. If the idea is complex, others may even call it crazy when you try to tell them your story.

A picture says more than thousand words. Sketches have been used for thousands of years to explain something complex in a very efficient way. Their objective is to get out someone’s idea in that someone’s head. This is often the only way that does not get others stocked by trying and willing to understand the idea while being affected by the thought that all this is totally crazy and nonsense. People tend to refuse when they do not understand. But people understand when they see things. When seeing it, they begin to believe it. They even get inspired and start riding the wave of innovation. They are tapping their own source of creativity. The small fussy idea suddenly becomes big. The tiny flash of inspiration gets the chance to become a revolution that might wipe away the conventional way of thinking. … Or it turns out to be a flop.

It is not important whether an idea gets a real fact, a product, a service or anything else that the originator of the idea had in mind. It is rather important to detect ways to communicate that idea and to find out whether it is promising or not.

The dream of looking into the body and the organs of humans to better understand the “system of the system” had always been there. Pioneers of anatomy during renaissance and designers of science fiction characters in the early 20th century have paved the ground to put that vision down on paper. Augmented Reality visionaries have incorporated the technical aspects of that dream and embedded their ideas into real world applications.

Image courtesy of Andrei State, The Department of Computer Science, UNC, Chapel Hill, USA

Already some years ago, when trying to find information about Medical Augmented Reality on the internet, very quickly, you came across Andrei State’s amazing sketches and drawings that he has published now on his website. Those drawings show the very first visions of some of the most cited papers in Medical AR from the 90ties of last century published by the group around Henry Fuchs (

I strongly believe that these drawings inspired many people in the medical AR field (including me) since they make a vision visible and understandable for everyone. For this reason, I contacted Andrei State to get some more background info on his artworks.

Image courtesy of Andrei State, The Department of Computer Science, UNC, Chapel Hill, USA

According to Andrei those drawings were created to “secure funding, by illustrating concepts we envision for or must explain in grant proposals” and to “visualize ideas and concepts we are thinking of working towards”. With a few drawing classes and autodidactic learning of drawing techniques, Andrei manages to communicate his and Prof Fuchs’ concepts when they “apply for funding, or later, but generally before implementation”. Andrei further prepares illustrations for the start-up company InnerOptic Technology, Inc. he is part of in order to attract customers. Drawings are a perfect first starting point to make ideas become true and Andrei confirms, that for “some of my medical AR and telepresence sketches we have side-by-side sketch/photo combinations that look quite similar.” However, “sometimes visualizing a concept leads us to think of an improvement, or a new one. I do all my work digitally and in layers these days, so it is easy to reuse and modify small and large fragments of illustrations. ”

Sketches are helpful to bridge a gap between different disciplines, i.e. find a common language between all involved disciplines, e.g. doctors and computer scientists, and engineers. This is true “even between scientists of the same discipline. When AR first emerged, it was not obvious to every computer scientist what exactly it was supposed to be and do.”

Image courtesy of Andrei State, The Department of Computer Science, UNC, Chapel Hill, USA

When deciding to develop a new AR user interface for intra-operative purposes, Andrei suggests to start with following design and development process. „These days I would probably start discussing the features and technologies required. I might be doing simple sketches all along. Once we had a good idea of how to put together a system, I might make a more elaborate illustration, especially if it’s necessary to get more people on board or explain it to a wider group of collaborators. Such an illustration might serve as a rough inspirational guideline during early implementation. Later, as the system evolves, it would progressively be supplanted or replaced by imagery of the real thing.”


Christoph Bichlmeier

Christoph Bichlmeier

Enthusiast of Augmented Reality for Medical Applications.

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