Augmented Reality: view more with less

Photo by Eric Didier on Unsplash

What if you could take your phone or tablet and use it to peek at more info than we designers can fit on these tiny screens? What if Augmented Reality (AR) is a solution for this… a better one than anything else we’ve tried so far? I recently started looking at AR more seriously when Apple folded it into iOS 11—making it something that many apps can potentially tap into for unique purposes. After trying a bunch of them I’m finding that they’re basically all being made in the mindset of:

“Let’s put 3d stuff if your room. Impressed?”

That’s nice but what about other types of apps? Can this be useful for things that aren’t inherently 3d in nature? I think the answer is yes. It can be used to skim between larger amounts of info than we can usually shove at mobile devices. Here’s how:

Solution: Image gallery (gif)
Solution: Image gallery (video)

Take that easy way to look between many and one, then add in the ability to tap on things and you can apply them to more solutions…

Solution: Results grid or table
Solution: Mixed info (comparison, pinned list, map)
Solution: Map info
Solution: Topic overview
Solution: Data visualization

Why to try AR / MR for this

Web sites and apps often face serious problems when the amount of information to show far exceeds what can be shown on tiny screens. Everything has to be reduced, tucked away, or just removed. Navigation, text, lists, comparisons, charts, galleries, search results. Making it fit and discoverable is frequently difficult to impossible. It’s a knowing about knowing paradox and it’s something I as a designer have to consider nearly every day.

For example a site might have 8 items of something important (global nav areas, sections of a page, filter or sort options) but can only show you 3 at a time. The other 5 items? Most people never discover them behind a tap or swipe. People are more likely to scroll than in years past but they need to see something compelling to do so. Some people might say, “We have lots of compelling thingies! Arrows, triangles, hamburger menus, ellipses, peeks, and fadeouts!” But the trouble is, those are not reasons. They’re indicators. Indicators of what? People have no way of telling what lies beyond. Augmented/Mixed reality now has the potential to change the way we see with our devices in a fundamentally different—and simpler—way.

These displays might work well for what I do at RealSelf and anywhere else that would like to enable richer mobile displays of information.