The Use of Augmented Reality in Contracts

Use of AR in Contracts, by Anne Wong and Sarah Tan, for Contract NerdsStatus quo: Contracts are hard to read and understand.

It’s about time to challenge the status quo. As other industries have successfully evolved their products and services by making them more user-friendly or streamlined, we’ve started to expect the same in law. Consider the advancements of online banking and online shopping – why does it feel like legal services are years behind?

This triggered us to think about how we could inspire legal professionals to simplify their technically brilliant outputs (e.g., contracts) for their clients. So, we came up with an idea (which sounded far-fetched at the time)-to create virtual plain-language annotations within contracts viewable in Augmented Reality (AR) to make contracts more user-friendly and interactive.

Logically, we started with the most standard form contract in Victoria – the ‘Contract of Sale of Real Estate’.  Like most other contracts, it was not easy to navigate through the content. One particular frustration was having to look up certain definitions in the Sale of Land Act 1962 (Vic) that were not included within the document itself.

By using AR technology in our prototype, home-buyers can now view virtual plain-language notes and guidance instead of having to search the web for the relevant sections and legislation.  Check out this video to see how it works.

To test the feasibility of our idea, we used Facebook’s AR development program, SparkAR, to rapidly create a prototype which is accessible on the Instagram or Facebook app. This means that most users will not need to download a separate app to access the AR annotations, hence removing friction.

Our building process was simple.

It’s important to note that the real impact starts from simplifying the language.  There’s not much point in creating virtual legal jargon.

Process for creating AR for contracts

So… what is AR?

It’s a technology that superimposes digital information such as text, images and audio into the user’s real-world view. AR can be accessed using smartphones, AR headsets or AR glasses. These products are currently being further developed by tech giants like Apple and Microsoft to seamlessly blend the digital and real-world together.

According to ThreeKit, with 83.1 million consumers in the US using AR monthly, usership is expected to grow to 17% by 2022. It’s currently most used in retail (e.g. Ikea), gaming (e.g. Pokémon GO) and advertising industries.

What about the legal industry?

Interestingly, there’s been some recent news around:

  • Using virtual and augmented reality to create virtual courtrooms in the US, making it easier for all participants including witnesses and jurors to engage in the trial from their choice of location; and
  • Using AR to communicate digital intelligence and content (e.g. through holograms) in client pitch documents in Australia.

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Although the use-case of the technology is still very much in its infancy, it will be exciting to see how AR can play a part in the digital transformation journey in contracts in particular. With this project, we hope to inspire other legal professionals to be bold and challenge the status quo with us.

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